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.