Saturday, October 28, 2006

Low-Salt Tuscan Bread


Saturday, October 28, 2006
Since the last bread I made was (unintentionally) salt-free, I figured that I might just as well move on to intentional low-salt bread. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of many Italian breads. We have had fabulous foods in Italy, and found that you can stop in almost any restaurant or cafe, no matter how modest (even a highway rest stop!), and get something superb to eat. That high quality didn't extend to their breads. When I got home from my first trip to Italy, I did a little research and discovered that the problem, from my perspective, was that traditional breads often didn't use salt because, thousands of years ago, salt was too expensive to waste on ordinary bread. Then, when salt became as common as dirt, apparently Italian palates had grown to adjust to rather tasteless bread. This bread isn't totally saltless, but has just a half-teaspoon.
As I read the recipe, I realized that this is one of the very few in Rose's book that doesn't give alternative instructions for mixing by machine and mixing by hand. But I had already decided that this was the next bread on my list, and I was not going to change just because hand-kneading might not work. What about all those Italian ladies from the 15th century who didn't have KitchenAids? Surely they still made bread! I vowed to follow in their footsteps.
I decided that I would try my hand mixer to see what happened. It is soon very clear that this is not going to work. The dough just wound its way up the beaters and became a mass at the top of them. I scraped every bit of dough off, and started kneading. Hmm. This is very sticky dough. After five minutes of kneading, trying not to add much more flour, the dough is about one-fourth stuck to the counter and three-fourths stuck to my hands. I carefully pull it off both places and let it rest. After a 20-minute nap, it's much more tractable.
I love how you shape this bread! You just dump it from its rising bowl onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. I wonder why you can't do this with all breads because it's the easiest thing ever. It bakes into a nice round disk, and, although I have no idea how it's supposed to look, it looks fine to me.

And, as it turns out, it tastes fine too. We shared it with some neighbors, and served it with some excellent wine that Elizabeth bought Jim for Christmas, as well as with olive oil, Maytag blue cheese, and Tuscan salami. The bread was chewy and crusty, and excellent with each accompaniment. After tasting the bread with cheese, salami, and oil, I tasted it alone. Even without a bold-tasting partner, the bread is flavorful and delicious--it did not taste as if it was missing something at all, so perhaps this small amount of salt is all that's necessary to make it taste like bread, and not baked flour. I recommend this bread highly--it's simple to make, it's tasty, and it's attractive. It is the Italian equivalent of a baguette, except it's much easier to make.

9 comments:

Chubbypanda said...

Hooray! That was the very first bread I ever baked out of Rose's book. I love that sucker. I don't usually bake bread, since I tend to eat too much of it the first few days, and can never finish it before it becomes moldy. However, this bread is remarkably resistant to mold, keeps well in the fridge, and toasts up nicely. I make it about one every month or two.

- Chubbypanda

kneadtobake said...

You did it again, and without the help of your kitchenaid. I have not made the low-salt tuscan bread yet, but now I plan to make it soon, you made it sound so delicious.
I was happy to hear you will continue your blog after you finish your project, I always look forward to your blog every week, I love your sense of humor as well as your committment to your bread baking.

breadbasketcase said...

CP,
I had some toasted for breakfast this morning, and, you're right--it makes great toast. I eat too much bread when it's fresh out of the oven, but it's so good! Then I freeze the rest of it. That works pretty well, but nothing compares to the first fresh slice.

breadbasketcase said...

KTB,
Thank you! Do try the low-salt bread, and let me know how you liked it.

yiuma said...

Dear Marie,
I tried msking this yesterday. The crust is hard and the crunb chewy. But this mornign ,the crust gets really hardthat it may hurt the lips. What could be the problem?
Yiuma

breadbasketcase said...

Yiuma,
That's a puzzle. How were you storing the bread? The crust on next-day bread usually gets softer, not harder (at least at my house). I've started freezing any bread that I don't eat the first day because it seems to last longer.

yiuma said...

Dear Marie,
I put it covered by a cloth and I think it may be due to the dry weather here(40% rel. hunidity). Actually the crust really was softer than when it was just from the oven but but after toasting ,it is hard rather than crunchy, Anyway ,I could only eat the top ,the bottom crust got really hard. I remember similar encounter when I last baked Baguette or bread with a lean dough. it is really a bad experience and I am getting more apprehensive with it. Could it be due to the flour ? I used a 10% protein plain flour .
Yiuma

suzanne Pancrazi said...

I made this bread last year and it really tasted authentically like the bread in Tuscany - which I don't really care for....

i was surprised as well when I first went to Italy that most of the bread was not as good as some Italian bread that could be found in the US. Thanks for the history lesson.

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