Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pane di Genzano

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I'm a sucker for anything Italian because it always sounds so wonderful. Doesn't pane di Genzano sound better than bread from Genzano? And much better than "bread from a small town about 20 miles from Rome"? Although I believe that part of my soul may be Italian, that doesn't extend to my ability (none) to speak Italian. So I just have to satisfy myself with the occasional loaf of bread from Carol Field's The Italian Baker. My mother always told me that when I was a toddler, I charmed the Italian ladies in our Chicago neighborhood by eating the butter off the bread they gave me, and handing the de-buttered bread back, saying, "More." Today I eat both the butter and the bread before I say, "More," and I'm pretty sure it was cuter when I was two than it is now.
As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned, we were disappointed in the bread in Italy when we travelled there, every bread I've made from Carol Field's book has been better than good. When Jim tasted the pane di Genzano, he said, "Why is this bread so good?" It was almost like he wanted to know, "Why don't you always make this bread and quit messing around with lesser loaves?"
I think there are a couple of reasons this bread is extraordinary. First, it's a wet dough.

As Carol Field says, "The wetter the dough, the better the bread." This may or may not be an old Italian saying. Second, the bread has a long, slow rise. Its first rise is three to five hours in a 70-degree kitchen; fortunately, this is the first day in a long time where the outside temperature was below 70 when I started my bread-baking, so the kitchen was the perfect temperature. Third, Genzano bakers are known to use an especially soft flour.
Now, I really should just stop after this sentence because it sounds like I know what I'm talking about. "Ah, yes, the soft flour effect," you might be saying to yourself. If you are, I wish you'd explain it to me because I don't understand why bread flour is hard, but in this case, bread is better because of soft flour. I used, as the recipe specifies, three cups of all-purpose flour and one cup of pastry (soft) flour. If I were a food scientist, I'd explain it, but it would probably be a boring explanation anyway, so it's just as well.
The other thing that makes this bread unique is that it's covered in wheat bran. After the first rise, you shape the bread into a boule, and put it in a pie pan in which you've spread about a quarter cup of wheat bran. Then you gently dab another quarter-cup of wheat bran onto the top and sides. Besides adding taste, the idea is that the bran makes an especially golden, even mahogany, crust.

I baked this loaf in La Cloche, and when I took the top off, it wasn't mahogany, or even golden. It was barely beige. Even after another 20 minutes of baking, it still wasn't magnificently dark, but it was done.

Aside from its habit of shedding wheat bran whenever it's touched, it's at its best when it's sliced and eaten.

We had some for a mid-afternoon snack, and we had more with dinner. It's supposed to have other virtues, such as keeping well and making good toast. I'll test both of those hypotheses tomorrow morning.

Pane di Genzano
--adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field
1 t. instant yeast
1 2/3 cups minus 1 T water
3 cups (400 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (100 grams) pastry flour
2 t. (10 grams) salt
1/2 cup bran

Mix yeast, water, flours and salt and mix in stand mixture with paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes. Change to dough hook and knead for 3 minutes at low speed and another three minutes at medium speed. Pour the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cool room for 3 to 5 hours.
Oil pie pan and coat the bottom with 1/4 cup of bran.
On a floured surface, pour dough and shape into a round loaf. Place the dough in the pie plate and pat on the remaining bran so that the dough is covered. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
If you have a Sassafras LaCloche, preheat that in the oven at 425 degrees F. Otherwise place pie pan on pre-heated baking stone. Bake for about 1/2 hour and remove top of LaCloche, if using. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes (about 45 minutes all told). Turn loaf out of the pie pan onto a rack to cool.

8 comments:

Melinda said...

Oh, isn't it a handsome boule of bread! It does look like it tastes good too.
I've heard other people say they didn't have good bread when they were in Italy. But I have to say, I have had wonderful bread when I have been there. Some breads are made without salt which really does affect the flavour. My sister said this was due to a tax put on salt in the olden days. So, the baker's stop using salt in bread. I guess the Italians got use to the taste and just carried on. I got totally suckered by that story and haven't questioned it so it may be false. I am not 100% sure!
My little sister lived for a long time in Italy and Sicily. All the bread I have had with her was excellent! I suppose knowing where to get it is everything!
I am not sure why this bread uses soft wheat. I would make a guess it is because the gluten needs to be slow for the long rise... yes? We should ask Queen Rose. She knows everything.
As usual, I enjoyed the write up and the thought of you as a grown up or a child, licking the bread and handing it back really tickles me!

Anonymous said...

Your bread looks great as usual! And I just love to read your blog, so entertaining! Jeannette

Doughadear said...

This bread looks wonderful and I can only imagine how good it is. When I see bread like this I’m thinking of a large platter of antipasto and nibbling for hours. I think there may be some truth about the salt story Melinda mentioned. I remember back in the 60’s visiting my grandmother in Italy my father mentioning that the bread wasn’t very good because it was missing salt. I couldn’t imagine Italians not making tasty bread so it probably was because of a salt tax.

Marie I honestly thought you had some Italian in you with all the Italian dishes and breads you have prepared that I am kind of surprised that you don’t. I have no doubt that it is in your soul and you would make any Italian proud
Oriana

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda,
I'm sure you're right about the salt tax. Or at least I'm sure that I've read that too. For some reason, it's mostly in Tuscany where the salt-free tradition lives on. Carol Field has some recipes for salt-free bread too, but I'm not biting on that. Are you making that up about the gluten being slow for the long rise? Because it sounds very knowledgeable.

Jeannette,
Yes, the bread was very delicious. And I hate to break this to you, but you may be too easily entertained.

Oriana,
As far as I know, there is not a single bit of Italian in me, but I certainly do like the idea of having an Italian soul. I'm actually almost entirely German, but I'd much rather make (and eat) Italian food and bread.

evil cake lady said...

BBC, this bread looks soo good, and it looks like it would be even better with a nice layer of butter on top. I could really go for a snack like that right now.

I think this post is one of your more entertaining in the recent months! Maybe this means I'm just as easily entertained as Jeanette.

breadbasketcase said...

ECL,
I'm afraid that anyone who reads my blog and finds it entertaining may be easily entertained, but I don't really object. When I talk to my friends (?) about my blog, they generally just roll their eyes.

Jude said...

That looks so nice... Charming story about the debuttered bread :)

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks Jude,
That story really used to embarrass me when my mother told it, but now that I'm so many years away from that little girl, I think it's a cute story.