My current BBA Challenge bread is Italian bread. I’ve made lots of Italian bread (mind you, not as many as some of my Italian friends, but for an Irish-Cherokee boy from the Midwest, quite a few), so I was interested to see how Peter Reinhart‘s recipe would stack up to the rest. I needn’t have wondered. As always, the recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is excellent. Perhaps the best Italian bread I’ve ever eaten, let alone baked.
Peter’s recipe starts with a biga, which is a form of prefermented dough. In this case, it consists of flour, water, and yeast at about 67% hydration.
After mixing up and kneading the biga, I let it ferment on the counter for about three hours, at which point it looked like this:
A second quick knead,
then I covered it with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it had risen several times in size.
I took the biga out and cut it into pieces, then let it sit for several hours to come to room temperature. PR recommends an hour, but I have found that it takes several hours to really get the chill off refrigerated dough. I also tend to increase the temperature of my liquid to make up for the chilled dough.
After letting the biga pieces warm up for a few hours, I proceeded to mix up and knead the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer. This was a really nice dough, supple and just barely tacky. It rose faster than the recipe said it would.
After about and hour-and-a-half of fermenting, I weighed out the dough into 4-ounce pieces, and preshaped them into rolls.
After a five minute rest, I shaped the dough into torpedoes.
The final proofing also went faster than the recipe said it might. I baked the rolls with steam in a reducing oven, and they came out beautifully.
As I mentioned above, this may be the best Italian bread I have ever tasted. We had sandwiches on them for dinner tonight, and my family all agreed: another winning recipe from Peter Reinhart.