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.