Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pane di Como

Sunday, June 3, 2007
My wonderful sister-in-law, Betty, gave me a gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma for Christmas. It took me five months to decide what I wanted--out of so many possibilities--but I finally settled on a French banneton. I'd been making any recipes that required a banneton with a makeshift combination of a plastic colander, a cotton towel, and a piece of cardboard cut to fit the bottom of the colander. It worked fine, but it didn't make the lovely decorative rings of flour that you get with an authentic banneton.
After I bought the Williams-Sonoma banntton, Jim decided that a banneton was just what I needed for my birthday, so suddenly I went from no bannetons to two. I was going to return one, but then I happened on a recipe for Pane di Como, from The Italian Baker, which made two loaves of bread, each requiring its own banntton. Well, there you go. Kismet.
My first foray into the banneton world had mixed results. The bread was awfully good, but the shape didn't meet my expectations or satisfy my hopes. The dough was supposed to be "elastic but still slightly sticky," when the kneading was done, and mine was probably still too sticky. It raised beautifully, up to the top of the banetton, just as it was supposed to do, but when I turned it over on the hot baking stone (not an easy feat for someone who was told in the eighth grade that her fine motor skills were sub-par and her vocational choices might be limited), it sank into a limp puddle. But it was a limp puddle with distinctive banneton markings.

Although the directions said that both loaves could be baked on the stone at the same time, this was clearly not going to work if the loaves both spread out, as they did, so I baked them separately, which is why one loaf is darker than the other. And I'm pretty sure they're not supposed to crack on top, but they did. I might feel unhappier with the result if the taste hadn't been so good. And I still think they're cute.


Melinda said...

I think they are cute too. Taste is important. I think it turned out a winner!

Doughadear said...

In the last few months I have purchased about eight new cookbooks. The Italian Baker is one I’ve been eyeing and since I’m in a bread cookbook buying frenzy would love your opinion if I should purchase it as well. I would really value your comments.
The Pane di Como looks wonderful. I think the split gives it character.

breadchick said...

I second Doughadear's question. I too have been eyeing but promised MBH no more new cookbooks until I've cooked something out of the last 36 I bought. In regards to your banneton experience, I too had trouble for the first few loaves I made. Then a friend from France gave me a tip. She kneads the dough until you think it is ready, let's it rest about 10 minutes to absorb flour and relax. Then comes back and kneads again, adding flour as needed to get it to the just sticky mode, let's it rest again for about 5 minutes and if it is still at the same just sticky placed puts it into the banneton. I found that while it was a bit more work it was worth it in in regards to having the loaf keep it's shape. Another trick I have adapted for flipping mine is to flip onto a prepared with baking spray/corn meal cookie sheet with no edges (cookie sheet on top, banneton still in place), open oven door, pull off benneton, and gently slide the loaf onto my hot quarry tiles. Seems to give the loaf less time to flatten out before the oven spring comes into play. Let us know how your next batch comes out, because you are right, no matter how they look it is how they taste that matters and yours are lovely.

Chubbypanda said...

Something just made my Christmas list.

breadbasketcase said...

I'm not unhappy with them, but I am a perfectionist and would like to try to improve their looks. Besides, a not-perfect result makes for a better story.

I really like The Italian Bread Baker. I've had it for years, and it always looked too complicated when I looked at it, so I never made much use of it. Her recipes are really shortened (much shortened) versions of many of Rose's techniques, so after you understand those techniques, it's easy to use. I toyed with the idea of baking my way through the entire book, but it's got more recipes than TBB.

Thanks for the hints! They sound really valuable.

The banneton or the book?

Doughadear said...

Thank you Marie, I really value your opinion. The Italian Bread Baker will be my next purchase. When I first flipped through the BB I thought it was too complicated but after baking about a third of the recipes it really isn't complicated at all and have learned more from that book than any other cookbook I have. It's great to try a recipe which requires more technique with confidence.

Melinda said...

Are you referring to my recent brioche as a 'not perfect result' Marie? It is funny.

breadbasketcase said...

I wasn't thinking of your brioche, but I guess I could have been. You may well be the only person on earth who has ever compared a perfectly lovely loaf of bread to a scrotum.