01 February 2008

Épi Loaves, for something a bit different

BreadBakingDay #6Bread is one of my more favorite things to make, which is good since I live with one of the most voracious bread consumers I have ever known. He has calmed down a bit from when I first met him when he put away almost a loaf every day, not to mention the 3 gelatos a day to boot. Lucky him that he has high metabolism to make short work of his daily bread. Most Italians in general can put the bread away, a fact I noticed when I first arrived in Italy and worked in a small "osteria", that catered to a wide variety of nationalities. When there were Italian diners, keeping the bread topped up or face some very long faces, kept me running to keep up. Italians tend to use bread as a utensil and an edible plate cleaner. Americans tend to eat bread as a course in itself, often as an appetizer till the main course arrives, as long as it's fresh, warm and comes with something to slather on it or dip it in. Broad sweeping generalization, I know, but.... I enjoyed making a "no knead bread" for Zorra's World Bread Day 07 and this months theme of Bread Baking Day was shaped bread. That very much appealed to me. So I decided to try and get in gear to add this to this months event hosted by Eva from Sweet Sins, who has some very perfectly looking pretzels on offer over at her site. Have a look at some of the past 5 events for some bread inspiration if you short of any.
I tend to make a lot of daily bread, simple hearty fare usually with my starter that I made from fermenting flour and water with grapes from the art schools terrace in Tuscany I worked for when I first arrived in Italy. It tends to have a holding power and complexity of flavor that I find useful when trying to make sure we always have the staff of life on hand. So for Bread Baking day I decided to make a "Pain de Compagne" or "Pane di Compagna". I used Peter Reinhart's recipe from his definitive "The Bread Bakers Apprentice". I do recommend his book as it is very informative and covers the gamut of slow ferment breads, which for me, is the tastiest type of simple bread. I am only putting a bare bones recipe here and I recommend referring to the recipe for complete details. This is a 2 day method and the results are delicious. It's an excellent bread for making a variety of different shapes. I find it is best served fresh out of the oven to enjoy it at its crispiest. I think to make the round loaf next time I would make the cuts on the long loaf and then stretch it into a circle. I think it deflated too much when cutting in a circle. I might try this recipe again using my starter to make the pâte fermenteé to see if it stays fresh a bit longer, but then, it was so delicious fresh out of the oven, is hardly made it to the second day.

Pain de Campagne /Pane di Compagne

1st day

1 1/8 c (5 oz) all purpose flour
1 1/8 c (5 oz) bread flour
3/4 tsp (.19oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055) instant yeast
3/4 c to 3/4 c plus 2 Tb (6-7 oz) water, room temperature

Stir the dry ingredients together by hand or in a mixer stand bowl. Add the water slowly till it all comes together.
Turn out onto a floured table and knead till smooth.
Place in lightly oiled bowl. Turn to lightly coat dough ball.
Cover and let rise for at least an hour till double.
Knead lightly to degas, return to bowl. cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight or p to 3 days.

2nd Day

3 c (16oz) pâte fermentée, taken from the refrigerator one hour before making the dough to take the chill off.
Cut it into 10 pieces and put the pieces into the mixer bowl and cover while it sets for an hour to come to room temperature.

1 3/4 c (8 oz) bread flour
1/3 c (1.5 oz) rye of whole wheat flour (I used rye)
3/4 tsp (.19 oz) salt
1 tsp (.11oz) instant yeast
3/4 c 6 oz) water, lukewarm

Add the dry ingredients to the pâte fermentée , start mixing and adding the water till all is incorporated into a coarse ball.
Knead the ball on a floured table top till smooth and pliable adding a few more drops of water if needed to make it come together.
Place in lightly oiled bowl, turning dough to oil and cover to let rise for about 2 hours till it has double in size. Your timing may vary depending on the temperature of your room and the dough itself.
Remove from bowl and try not to deflate the dough as little as possible.
Divide into 3 pieces and shape as desired. The long sheaf, also called Épi, is a fun shape and easy to keep the gases in your dough. Cut the pieces from the top of the long loaf with scissors, somewhat at a slight angle to the direction that you wish the piece to lie, alternating directions
I only made 2 loaves, and I think that the 3 would have made a better, albeit smaller, more crispy loaf.
Place shaped loaves on baking trays with baking paper or silicon mats that have been dusted with semolina flour, to help keep the dough from sticking.
Cover loosely and let rise at least 1 hour till the loaf is filled up and ready to bake.

Bake in a preheated 450° oven, that has a pan of water in the bottom, which helps make a crispy crust. Using a spray bottle mist the inside of the oven just before sliding the loaves in. Spray the interior 2 times during the first 5 minutes of baking. Try to do this as quickly as possible to retain as much internal oven heat and humidity as possible. Let the loaves continue baking for another 15 minutes or so depending again on your oven and how brown your loaves are getting. Rotate your loaves if need be for even browning. Loaves should be golden brown. I would err on the side of brown, mine in the picture are a bit light. We use to laughingly refer to very brown pastries that were borderline burnt in the bakery as the Euro browned look. It is true, that generally speaking, Europeans preferred dark, well cooked bread, where Americans usually go for lighter under baked pastries and such. Broad sweeping generalization, again, I know, but with a grain of truth in it.

As with most bread recipes, I find if I make them a couple of times in a row, then the results tend to improve with understanding.

Source: Peter Reinhart's recipe for Pain de Compagne from The Bread Baker's Apprentice


Rowena said...

Beautiful bread (and your husband is a lucky man!). I agree about going with a natural starter--it is all that! Why I haven't yet gotten on the ball and made one myself is probably due to my laziness with the availability of fresh loaves from the bakeries here. We are spoiled in Italy! Or perhaps that should read, they are the spoiled ones!

Eva said...

Your epi looks wonderful! One more thing on my to-try-list as I'm better with scissors than a knife when slashing my loaves. Thanks for participating!

Bella Baita Marla said...

Rowena or maybe it should read, "it's spoiling to live in Italy"..... I fianlly have time to bake regularly.
Eva, thanks for stopping by and hosting this months event...

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Beautiful loaves! I tend to overdo the bread when they bring the bowl around..then there is no room for the meal.

african vanielje said...

I love the fact that you take time to not only do a two day bread but to shape it into an epi. It looks gorgeous. I sometimes bemoan the fact that I live with two minimal bread consumers. When I go on a baking frenzy there is never anyone to eat it.

Bella Baita Marla said...

I tend to over do the bread consumption also, but thankfully I have another eater in the house to consume the rest! Thanks for everyone stopping by and commenting, as it is always appreciated.

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