Sunday, May 03, 2009

Nick Malgieri's Italian Bread Ring

Saturday, May 3, 2009
When I said I was making this bread, my friend Karen said, "Why is it Italian?" I said, "I don't know." Jim said, "Why is it a circle?" I said, "I don't know." I know nothing! (as Sgt. Schultz would say).
I know nothing, but I had high hopes for this bread, and it was great fun to make, what with the hyperactive dough and making the giant hole in the bread. Sad to say, it did not live up to its promise. It was okay, but definitely a disappointment.

I'm usually very fond of breads that begin with a sponge and sit around over night, because they generally develop a lot of flavor. This is an unusual sponge because it makes up about 90% of the final dough: the sponge contains all of the yeast, all of the water, and most of the flour. After being kneaded in the KitchenAid for about five minutes, it's elastic to the point of being almost gummy.

The sponge is supposed to rise until doubled--about an hour. We were watching Doubt on video (overrated in my opinion, although Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams give praiseworthy performances) while the sponge was rising, and it was in its bowl for more than an hour.

Yikes! The bread sponge that ate Minneapolis! I moved it to a bigger bowl and quickly stuck it in the refrigerator to calm its raging hormones. I was a little afraid to open the refrigerator in the morning because I envisioned a scene in a horror movie, with me as the hapless victim, being attacked by a woman-eating bread dough.

But no; it had cooled down, although it had developed gluten like crazy, and had a mutant blob-like consistency.
But the dough was actually quite easy to work with, as I shaped it into a disk, rounded it, and then began to make the hole in the middle.

The hole was supposed to be 6 inches in diameter. That's actually a pretty big hole.

The directions in the recipe are confusing. Well, they're just wrong. In one place, he tells you to shape the bread on a prepared pan. Then he tells you to move the already-shaped bread to the prepared pan. I mentally went through both methods, and decided it made more sense to shape the bread and then move it, which worked pretty well.

The directions were to slash the bread in five places--which five it didn't say, and I couldn't really visualize what it was supposed to look like, so I just hoped. I don't think this is what it's supposed to look like.

If I had just showed you a closeup, however, it would look better.

It tasted pretty good Saturday afternoon, although the texture was not what I was expecting--I was hoping for more of a baguette-like result.

Instead, it was softer and more even--almost like a sandwich bread, although the crust was nice and crusty. Sunday morning I planned to have a slice or two for breakfast, but it was already stale. No problem, I though, I'll just toast it. These wedge-shaped pieces of bread don't do well in the toaster, however--the thin side burns and the fat side doesn't want to go into the toaster slot. So even as toast, this bread was second-rate. (Unlike the Portuguese sweet bread, by the way, which made delicious toast).
Because of my lukewarm review of this bread, I'm not including the recipe, although I'll be happy to send it to anyone who wants to make the bread. One variation included adding rosemary, which certainly would have given it some oomph, but still not worth making. I'll try another bread or two from Malgieri's How to Bake before I'm ready to give up on the bread chapter, but I'm not impressed so far.


Melinda said...

I love the walking sponge!
Oh, so sad you were not happy with the taste. Home made baked bread should never disappoint!
You know, it was probably because you didn't follow the confusing directions. If you had done what he instructed, I am sure it would have been absolutely lovely.
Rules and instructions are there for a reason. lol!
It looks very pretty. I am glad the hole was precisely measured. Because I don't like it when the hole is too small or too big.
lol, again.
Can I have the recipe? I want you to type it out for me. I hope it is a really, really long recipe. lol, yet again!
Cheers xx

breadbasketcase said...

Oh well, not every bread can be a superstar. And it might have had something to do with the baker. (I suppose anything's possible). It's a long, long recipe, but I would type it out for you! Except you are LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marie-

You definitely get an A for effort here. It's disappointing that the recipe was so ambiguous. Also, the odd sponge, lack of flavor, how quickly it dried out, and poor toasting options make this bread recipe....useless? I am having a hard time deciding where this bread would be a good option. Also, do you think the slashes were even necessary? It's not a super-holey bread, so...hmmm.

I think you saved others from trying a dud recipe. My dear, you took one for the team. :-)

Hope you have a nice week and your next project treats you better. By the way, last week's sweet bread looks very nice. Gorgeous color!

Smiles from Manhattan, Marie.

Laura NYC

Anonymous said...

Hi, Marie, I think you are getting very hard to please after trying out so many loaves! Your bread, as ever, LOOKS great and I;m sorry you were disappointed with it, but you know now not to make it again! I think the problem with making bread, although it is very satisfying when it turns out good, you feel you've wasted a whole day when it doesn't turn out so well. I didn't waste yesterday , however, as I made the PSB, which you made last week. Although it took some time and I wasn't convinced it was going to be a success, it was! Lovely, i fact Tom is just having a slice as toast for breakfast and extolling its' virtues! Now I'm going for mine. Jeannette.

Doughadear said...

It is disappointing when a recipe doesn't live up to your expectations and I am sorry that this one didn't. It does look pretty nice in your photos though.

breadbasketcase said...

Hmm. When you put it that way, there doesn't seem to be any good reason to make it except that it's fun to shape. Actually, I think I have discovered a use for it--bread crumbs. I put the rest of it in the food processor this morning, and will let the crumbs dry out and then freeze them. I may end up being very happy that I have homemade bread crumbs.

The sweet bread does give you a nice feeling of accomplishment, doesn't it? Are you going to send photos to Melinda so she can post them? I hope so.

Oh, that Jim--he can make a silk purse out of a cow's ear. I also think it might make a pretty good muffuletta sandwich. Too bad I didn't think of that Saturday night.

Anonymous said...

It's me again! If you'd like to see my PSB it is on Melinda's blog under her last entry. She has kindly put up the picture I sent her of my bread rolls I made from Richard Bertinet's book which I was very pleased with.
Starting to get more confident with bread doughs now!

breadbasketcase said...

Your bread looks splendid! This really is a lovely loaf of bread that has come out right for everyone. A good recommendation. Your Bertinet rolls look good too. Do you recommend his book?

Anonymous said...

I really DO recommend RB"s book and his courses. He recommends fresh yeast and for his recipes I've used it each time and they have always worked well for me. I made croissants and pain au chocolat for over Easter and they were fantastic, my grand-daughters were very complimentary. I've even made dough-nuts, TWICE! because they were so nice! If you are tempted to get it I don't think you will be disappointed but I don't think you need it really. You could start your own bread-making school! Jeannette

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Your bread looks fabulous. I'm sorry the bread taste disappointed, though. I like the ring shape - it's fun and different.

evil cake lady said...

Marie, too bad the bread wasn't so fantastic, and that you spent so much time on it. I do like the photo of the sponge taking over your kitchen! I like what Laura said, about you taking one for the team.

breadbasketcase said...

Doughnuts! Croissants! Really, Jeannette, you are going to have to have your own blog.

Cookie Baker Lynn,
Thanks. I loved the idea of making this shape and it was fun to do, but... I wonder whether making it with bread flour instead of A-P might have made a difference, but I guess I don't wonder enough to try it again.

It's funny, but I don't begrudge the time I spend on a loaf of bread, even when it's a little sub-par because the process is so enjoyable. Even when the sponge threatens my kitchen.

AWR said...

i love your blog. Great photos. I am a home cheesemaker and am now getting more into bread. I am looking for a good mixer - what do you use?
I just finished making my own sourdough starter which worked!
i'm blogging at

doggybloggy said...

I have one more why for you - why isnt this on my plate?

breadbasketcase said...

Your cheese looks amazing. I can't believe that it's possible to make your own cheese--how fabulous would that be--to have homemade bread and homemade cheese?
I have a KitchenAid, and I pooh-poohed big stand mixers for many years, but now I don't think I could bake without it.

I'll send it right out to your plate, but it may be a little stale when it arrives.

pinknest said...

Damn you, bread!! How could you betray us?!

breadbasketcase said...

How can you make me laugh in just 8 words?