Saturday, November 14, 2009

Royal Crown's Tortano

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This recipe is from Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking, but, luckily for me, Rose put the recipe on her website just a month or so ago, and I don't have to type it out. Also, it got the RLB Seal of Approval, so you know it's good.
Tortano and casatiello seem to be used interchangeably, and they refer to a round-shaped Italian holiday loaf which, in its full glory, contains lard, salami, and cheese and also has four raw eggs, still in their shells, which are placed atop the unbaked bread and cook while the bread bakes. This version looks like a full-meal bread and then some, but the version I made has no lard, no salami, no cheese, and no eggs, raw or otherwise. It takes a long time to make, but is otherwise not particularly difficult. In fact, although Glezer lists it as a bread requiring "intermeditate," rather than "beginning" skills, I think the only reason for the upgrade is that the dough is wet and sticky. Don't let that deter you from making this delicious bread--if you soldier through, you'll be impressed with yourself when you realized you turned out this artisan bread from your own kitchen.

It takes just a wisp of yeast to make this bread--a quarter-teaspoon dissolved in a cup of water; only 1/3 cup of this yeast water is used, making a total amount of about 1 1/2 teaspoon of yeast. I was doubtful that this would work and was tempted to cheat by adding a little more, but I didn't. I mixed this pre-ferment up on Tuesday at about 5:00 in the afternoon. When I got up on Wednesday morning, it had bubbled up and grown enough that it was clear that it was working. (I had a chance to bake on Wednesday because it was Veterans' Day, and government workers get that day off).

The dough is made with the pre-ferment, more flour and water, some honey, and about a quarter-cup of potato puree. I used half a leftover baked potato, but you could also use a boiled potato. It takes about 10 minutes to turn this mixture into a smooth, silky dough--very moist and sticky, but not a problem to handle if you flour your hands.
It needs another four or five hours to rise, and you can't just walk away and leave it. For the first 80 minutes, it requires tending every 20 minutes, when you take it out of the bowl, flatten it, and fold it.

The dough scraper is a fine invention. If you didn't have it, you'd really fight with the dough when you were folding it because it would want to stick to the counter.
Finally, after about five hours, you get to punch a hole in the center of the round loaf that you've shaped. (This is the shape that makes it a tortano). With your hands, you enlarge the hole. You should enlarge it more than I did, because when you bake it, the loaf gets quite a bit bigger, and you can end up losing most of the doughnut shape.

Here is the bread just as I'm about to make four slashes in the top and put it in the oven.
Below is as it comes out of the oven, 40 minutes later.

The bread is supposed to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is a "very dark brown." After a half-hour, it seemed brown enough, but I let it go another 10 minutes, by which time it was indeed very dark.

It had taken so long for the two risings that the bread didn't come out of the oven until after 6:00, so there was no time to sample it before we went to Gigi's for our usual Wednesday pizza and bottle of wine. When we came home, we had to have bread for dessert. Seriously. If you live in fear of carbs, the idea of bread after pizza should make you tremble.
This is probably not the ideal way to appreciate this bread, but I'm glad we had some the same day it was baked. The only down side to this tortano, aside from its taking its sweet old time to get ready, is that its life span of perfect freshness is not that long. 24 hours later, it was still good, but not as spectacular. Its crust is crusty, the holes are, as promised, as big as radishes. The bread itself demands savoring--with every bite you can taste the earthiness of the potato and the slight sweetness of the honey.
Every ingredient counts in this wonderful bread, and you are again reminded that the simplest, homiest ingredients can result in something spectacular.


Anonymous said...

Another lovely bread Marie, you make them all so very tempting! Jeannette

Michelle said...

I fear no carb!

doughadear said...

I remember seeing this bread on Rose's site but I did not see the recipe for it and I've just gone back to the site and can't seem to locate the recipe. All I see is the photo of the bread and the write up. I'd really like the recipe and if you can steer me in the right direction I'll be forever grateful.
Your bread turned out beautifully and it looks just like those rustic breads you find in Italian bakeries.
This week I've made the Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah which was quite nice and as I'm am writing this I have the Peppered Cheese Bread in the oven. The latter should be quite a hit with hubby as he loves heat in his food and the pepper and chilis in this bread should should hit the spot.

Melinda said...

When I was in Italy I saw this bread with the whole egg in it. It kind of made me lose interest in trying it. I think it was close to Easter time there.
I like the sound of it sans whole egg perched on it!
It always amazes me when just a little of the yeast makes such a big poof in the bread. (laugh at that, if you like!)
Your bread looks great. But I probably would have eaten it before the pizza!
I like it that you and Jim have a regular date night out. So sweet.

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks you, but it would be hard to make this bread not look tempting--it really does look like the kind of bread you see piled in a wicker basket in a very good bakery.

Good for you!

Rats--you're right. I was so sure she had the recipe. I thought I was going to have to type it up after all, but it turns out that the Bread Baking Babes did this bread at one time, so there are many recipes floating around on the internet. Here's one--
Let me know what you think of the peppered cheese bread.

Yes, it's an Easter bread. I was not too impressed with the raw egg in the shell on top myself, partly because it didn't look that appetizing and partly because I would fear an exploding egg in my oven.
I don't know if I'd call it a regular date night, since we are often accompanied by a single woman friend of mine. In fact, when it's just the two of us, the people at Gigi's look disappointed. I think they believe we have some kind of elderly menage a trois going on.

doughadear said...

I've just had a slice of the wonderful Peppered Cheese Bread and it was given a unanimous eight thumbs up. By the way I added about 60 grams of old stiff sourdough I had and it didn’t do it any harm.

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful bread. I know, i always say that, but you always bake beautiful breads. I love coming over here(and the cake blog)to see what you've baked.

If you generously flour the outside of an inverted cereal bowl it does a pretty good job of keeping the holes from closing up in these types of breads as they rise. Remove it before baking, obviously.


breadbasketcase said...

I'm glad the peppered cheese bread got all those thumbs up! Adding a little sourdough starter never does seem to do any harm, does it? I almost added some to this tortano, but then I decided just to let it be.

I'm always glad when you drop by.
Thanks for the tip--I hope I remember that one; it seems very useful. It was the oven spring that made the hole close up this time, though--it was still wide enough when I put it in the oven.

evil cake lady said...

I am intrigued by a bread with whole eggs (in the shell!) baked atop a bread that contains lard, salami and cheese...what people won't think of. I'm not sure I would eat it, but I would love to watch someone else eat it!

Can I just say one more time how amazed I am that you find the time to bake bread and a cake every week? Holy smokes!

breadbasketcase said...

It helps to be OCD. I don't get a bread done every week any more, and I miss it.
On Monday morning when I go to work, if someone asks me how my weekend was, I say, "Oh, fine. I baked cake. And bread." It's pathetic.

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Anonymous said...

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abby jenkins said...

Yum, that is one beautiful loaf!

Karine said...

This sounds delicious! thanks for sharing :)