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.
Posted by Marie at 1:48 PM