Sunday, March 30, 2008

Crocodile Bread

Sunday, March 30, 2008
This Coccodrillo, from Carol Field's The Italian Baker, was highly recommended by a woman at the Edesia cookbook panel in February. I tried it once before, and it didn't turn out too well--I didn't even blog about it--but I was determined to make it work this time.
It's a three-day process, and I rushed a few steps the first time. This time, I started on Friday night so I'd have plenty of time.
The Friday night step was just making a starter out of yeast, water, durum flour, and bread flour.

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, I made the second starter: more yeast, water, durum flour, and bread flour, plus the first starter:

I know. It looks a lot like the first starter. I let both of them bubble away for about 18 hours--36 hours of bubbling in all. This was one of several steps that I tried to fit into less than a day the first time I tried it.
The next step was mixing the second starter with more flours and some salt. I decreased the recommended 25 grams to about 18 grams because the first time I made it I thought it was too salty. Before I started baking bread, it really never occurred to me that bread was something that could be either too salty or not salty enough. Then it has to rise for four or five hours, being turned in the bowl every hour or so. One more step that I hurried through the first time I tried it.
I never could have made this bread successfully if I hadn't made Rose's focaccia. Like the focaccia, this is a very wet dough that doesn't come together easily. The first time, I followed the directions and mixed it in the KitchenAid on low speed for 20 minutes. I ended up with something that was a sloppy mess. This time, I mixed it on a slightly higher speed for a good half-hour until it finally came together--that stage that looks like melted mozzarella.

At this point, the dough acts almost as if it's alive. It's roiling and full of bubbles--like some alien thing in a 1950's outer-space movie. I half expected it to take over my kitchen.

Before it could, I shoved it in the oven, which tamed it quite nicely. My only complaint at this point is that the expensive all-natural parchment paper I bought at Whole Foods stuck to the bread. What's the point of using parchment if it sticks? After 35 minutes in the oven, the bread looked beautiful, even though I broke a couple of the pretty air bubbles on top of the loaves trying to peel back the parchment.

We couldn't wait for it to cool off before we sliced it.

As you can see, a little bit crushed, but still wonderfully hole-y and with a marvelous crisp crust.
Why is it called crocodile bread? Sarah claimed that she could see a marked resemblance to crocodiles. I don't see it myself, but I may just be lacking in imagination.
According to the book, the bread was "dreamed up by Gianfranco Anelli," a Roman baker. People supposedly come from all over the city to buy it. I wouldn't go to Rome to buy it, but I would certainly go to a bakery in Minneapolis. Fortunately, I don't have to. I just have to remember to start it a couple of days before I want it.


Astrid said...

This looks like absolutely delicious bread. Is it very moist inside? Do you know if the recipe can be found online anywhere?

Melinda said...

It looks delicious, Marie.
Why didn't you just put the parchment paper in the oven? It doesn't burn.
It still gives an excellent crust on the bottom too.

Breadchick said...


How ironic! The Bread Baking Babes just did this bread this month too. Some of us had quite a time wrestling this particular croc. The recipe is posted on quite a few of our blogs.

I'd fly to MSP for a slice of yours though!

breadbasketcase said...

You're in luck! See Breadchick's comment about The Bread Baking Babes--there are a number of very interesting blog reports about this bread, and a number of them contain the recipe. I am too lazy to repeat recipes, especially if they're kind of complicated, so I'm very appreciative of people who do.
Yes, it's very moist and chewy inside.

I did put the parchment paper in the oven--just like I always do! The bread always slides right off the parchment paper--until I got this accursed "natural" parchment paper. It was probably about twice as expensive as normal, unnatural parchment paper.

I just read about The Bread Baking Babes--you babes are inspirational! What's your next project?
It's not an easy bread to handle, is it? Did you also feel that it had certain alien qualities?

Tiney said...

Hey! Your blog is great! I really enjoy all of your pictures. I recently started my own blog: Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

jini said...

it's a beautiful loaf marie. i gotta try this stuff, don't i???? how's the menu plan coming? the time is drawing near!

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks--my husband is my photographer. He's always on call. I love your pictures of your tiny chocolate cupcakes--so pretty!

Yes, you definitely have to try it.
Well, I'm in a panic. I've planned--and rejected--about 50 different menus. I can't even think any more. Any ideas? The only requirements--must be simple, but delicious.

Doughadear said...

Your bread looks so delicious! I just read an article about a Belgian baker who is opening a bakery cafe "Le Pain Quotidien" here in Toronto whose bread is compared to the famous Poilanes in Paris and costs $12 a loaf. His starter is fed for 11 days so by comparison 3 days doesn't sound so bad for great bread.

breadbasketcase said...

It really was delicious! I've never eaten a $12 loaf of bread--I hope you go and check it out. Have I ever mentioned that Toronto is one of my favorite cities?

jini said...

i'm still thinking of that special caponata and then going from there with a flat bread and other mediterranean fare. simple is the best plan i agree. call me if you want to consult. :) always full of advice. hah!

breadbasketcase said...

I knew I should have bought that cookbook! That was exceptionally good caponata, wasn't it?

jini said...

i have made caponata several times over the years, but that one was unique. the list of ingredients was unusual, and which made the tastes and textures so satisfying. i didn't buy it either! ;(

Doughadear said...

Glad to hear you like Toronto. It's a pretty special place and I feel fortunate to live here. Should you ever come here it would be my pleasure to meet you.

Chubbypanda said...

Bubblicious! =)

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

breadbasketcase said...

It's great to know that I have a bread friend in Toronto!

No need to apologize--it was bubblicious.

Rivet said...

This was some of the best tasting bread I have evermade, although it came out looking LIKE NOTHING it was supposed to. Any ideas why? I'm open to suggestions. I have another poolish rising on day 2 and will be making another stab at it tomorrow.
You can see my attempt at it here:

John said...

Well today's attempt is looking much, much better so far. Same 3 day affair, but using "softer" American bleached AP flour (that's still 9 to 11 % protein which is high compared to European flours).
The fermenting dough looks alien and alive!
Will begin baking in a few hours. For pics, you can follow the link I posted above, later today.