The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Italian Bread

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Sourdough Italian Bread

Sourdough Italian Bread

Sourdough Italian Bread

Sourdough Italian Bread crumb

Sourdough Italian Bread crumb

This bread is based on the Italian Bread formula in Peter Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice." The only change I made was to substitute a biga naturale (sourdough starter) for the biga made with instant yeast in Reinhart's formula. I still added the instant yeast to the final dough.

I also employed the "stretch and knead in the bowl" technique during bulk fermentation, even though I used a KitchenAid mixer for mixing beforehand.

Intermediate starter (Biga naturale)

3 oz. Active starter

9 oz. Water

12 oz. KAF Bread flour

Final Dough

18 oz. Biga naturale (Note: save the remaining 6 oz. for another bread.)

11.25 oz. KAF Bread flour

o.41 oz. (1-2/3 tsp) Salt

0.5 oz. (1 T) Sugar

0.11 oz (1 tsp) Instant yeast

0.17 oz. (1 tsp) Diastatic barley malt powder

0.5 oz (1 T) olive oil

7 oz (¾ cup) Water at 80F

Sesame seeds for coating.

Semolina to dust the parchment paper.

Mix and ferment the biga.

Mix the biga naturale the evening before baking. Dissolve the starter in the water in a medium sized bowl, then add the flour and mix thoroughly to hydrate the flour and distribute the starter. Cover the bowl tightly and allow to ferment for 3-6 hours, until it doubles in volume. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the biga from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up for an hour or so.

Mix the dough

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and malt powder in a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer. Add the biga in pieces, olive oil and ¾ cups of tepid water and mix thoroughly. Adjust the dough consistency by adding small amounts of water or flour as necessary. The dough should be very slack at this point.

I mixed the dough with the dough hook in the KA mixer for 10 minutes then transferred it to an 8 cup/2 liter glass pitcher that had been lightly oiled.

Fermentation

I stretched and folded the dough in the pitcher with a rubber spatula then covered it tightly. I repeated the stretch and fold again 20 and 40 minutes later. I then left the dough to ferment until it was double the original volume. This took about 60 minutes. (Approximately 2 hours total bulk fermentation.)

Divide and form

Divide into 2 pieces and pre-form as logs. Allow the dough to rest 5 minutes or more, then form into bâtards. If desired, spray or brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Prepare a couche – either a floured piece of baker's linen or parchment paper sprinkled with semolina.

Pre-heat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the middle shelf. Make preparations for steaming the oven.

Place the loaves in the couche, cover with plastic or a towel and allow to proof until 1-1/2 times their original size.

Baking

Score the loaves and transfer them to the baking stone. Bake with steam, using your favorite method. After loading the loaves and steaming, turn the over down to 450F and bake until done (about 20 minutes). If you want a thicker crust, use a lower temperature and bake for longer.

Cooling

Allow to cool before slicing, if you can.

Enjoy!

David

Comments

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Italian bread is one of my favorite breads.  I very much like the crumb of your bread.  It looks very tastey and I like your crust.  Though I like the sesame seeds...I always hesitate to put them sometimes...after what a Dr. once said...that's another story!   

I have a question...maybe you can help.  Before I made the Italian bread I made Mike Avery's French Bread.  MA French bread had sooo much flavor....I loved it and would just eat it plain....I expected the Italian to have a similar flavor...to my surprise even with all the extra ingredients in it.  It was not nearly as tastey as the French....I used the PR recipe with milk...I mean I was really very disappointed that the flavors  seemed so much more suttle for a lack of better words.  What do you think caused this?  I can only think that it's something to do with the fermenting times.  I would like my Italian to taste as good or better than the French bread recipe!  Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.  I think your bread baking is wonderful.

Sylvia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I've not made Mike's French Bread, so I really cannot compare the Italian Bread to it. And this is the first time I've made PR's Italian Bread, so I cannot compare his original formula's taste with mine.

That said, the bread I made tastes good. When tasted as soon as it had cooled, it had a nice wheaty taste with a mild but definite sourdough tang. It was no flavor bomb. It had less complexity than my usual sourdoughs, in spite of the large proportion of biga. I think I've become accustomed to the flavors contributed by some whole wheat and/or rye to most of my breads. Note that I didn't add milk. That would have changed the crumb. I'm not sure how much impact it would have on flavor.

The closest bread to this one I've made before is from Marcela Hazan's "More Classic Italian Cooking," and it is very different. It is much crustier and has a denser crumb. It also has proportionately more olive oil. It is more flavorful, as I recall. (I haven't made it in many years.)

BTW, PR also recommends his Italian Bread formula for sandwich rolls. I think it would make a great roll for subs/hoagies.


David

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

David, thanks for sharing your version of PR's Italian bread, I think. Now I will HAVE to try it with starter, darn it. Have to share my tale of woe with my latest attempt. I was thrilled with the dough and handled it with care to avoid degassing. I put the batards to proof on my new brown parchment paper and used the back of a cookie sheet as my peel. I preheated another heavy sheet at 500* and had my roaster all rinsed with hot water ready to cover the loaves. As I began to slide loaves and parchment onto the  (very) hot sheet the first one rolled off and landed face down! The parchment and the second loaf stayed with the "peel" and I had to grab both loaves and manhandle them into position so that the roaster would cover them. Amazingly they survived and the crumb was more open than my first ones, but one had a very strange crust. Didn't affect the flavor and somehow I didn't burn my hands. I am not thrilled with the brown parchment paper which I bought in hopes of being more environmentally correct, but it was probably my clumsiness that caused the near disaster, not the parchment. A.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Annie.

I've been there. I bet we have all had accidents like yours. The only thing to do is to keep going.


David

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

David, this may be a really silly question, but did you knead the biga or was it too wet? I carefully kneaded the yeasted biga and again to de-gas it before the ovenight chilling as PR instructs. Both times the biga was "rampant" by next morning. I was nervous about incorporating it into the dough so I used the Bosch, then did some stretch and folds. As I said, the dough was delightful and easy to shape. All the more reason to try again? A.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Annie.

I think my biga naturale was a bit wetter than the biga would have been. I did not knead it on the bench. Rather, I did the stretch and fold in the bowl until it looked like the flour was hydrated and gluten had started to develop.

The biga doubled in 3-4 hours but did not expand further once it was in the refrigerator.

It was not solid enough to cut into pieces, so I spooned it into the flour mixture in 3-4 oz portions and coated each with flour to keep the biga from sticking to itself. Then I mixed for a couple of minutes with the mixer paddle before switching to the dough hook.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

AnnieT,
Fret not my friend. I dropped a loaf off the back of the stone while trying to re position the dough. What a mess it was. Smoke everywhere as the dough burned lying on the top of the heat coils in the way back. I was frantically trying to save the remaining dough while I removed the stone and that shelf so I could pluck the burning inferno out with tongs. What a day that was!

Since that day, I always bake those large loaves usually in pairs, on a sheet pan with parchment. No chance of a repeat performance. Been there done that.

Eric 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Wow, that really WAS a disaster! Did it set off the smoke detectors? Quick thinking on your part - I don't know where I could have put a hot stone and shelf. I think you might have missed my question about the biga. I wondered whether you found it as ebullient as mine, and in fact whether it is even a problem? Could I have cut back on the yeast? I really want to try David's biga naturale version so will see if that is different, A.

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Thanks David,

It sounds like your Italian had a lot more flavor than mine.  My next attempt I will try my sourdough starter and water...my crumb was a little denser.  I like the way yours looks just right.  I don't like to much tang and hope my sourdough works out.  They will be hoagie rolls...."looking for a really good hoagie recipe" I have been wanting some every since I made my hamburger and hotdog buns with potato in the dough....these were great with fish and shredded cabbage in the hamburger buns.  The Italian hoagie is better for my  italian  sausage and roasted pepper sandwiches.

If you find Marcela H. recipe please post it.

Sylvia

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

By this morning, the sourdough tang was essentially gone. Interesting.

I looked at Marcela's recipe last night. It uses a biga in which half the flour, water and yeast ferment for 3 hours, then the rest is added with salt and ferments another 3 hours before forming. There is almost no proofing before baking. She uses a lot more yeast than we would, presumably to speed up the process.

If you are really interested, I can transcribe the recipe latter, but I myself would want to think about modifying it, given all I've learned about how to get the flavor out of the wheat since hanging out around TFL.


David

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Thank you for taking the time to find the recipe.  I think the recipe we are using seems to be the best for now...and it's nice there are so many ways to modify it to our own tastes.

Sylvia

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

We must be communicating subliminally. The last time I made PR's Italian (last week) I was pondering how a biga naturale would work. I see you backed off the malt percentage a bit also. I love the color of this bread when it's right. It's just a picture perfect loaf.

Another thing I think I'll do is roast the seeds next time. They don't really get toasted while baking in my oven. I see a few of yours look slightly caramel colored. Are you using convection?

Do you have an explanation for PR's suggestion for using "milk if you're making Torpedoes"? I have been using milk in every mix and like the crumb it produces but I don't understand the suggestion.

Very nice SD implementation David.

Eric 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

It was your blog on PR's Italian Bread that inspired me. I like it with a biga naturale and expect I'll stick with it. If you do try it, I'd be interested in the differences you find from the original method.

I keep sesame seeds in the freezer. I toast them if they are to go in the dough. They always toast nicely if on the loaf surface. I did use convection baking for the first half of this bake.

I assume PR's recommendation to use milk for rolls is to get a more tender crumb for sandwiches. I may do rolls next time. I can't recall every using milk with a sourdough formula before. I think milk would make it less chewy, and I like the chewiness you get with sourdough.


David

Eli's picture
Eli

David, you make some truly beautiful bread! Fantastic crumb. Would the milk make the crumb tighter?

 

Eli

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I don't know about making the crumb "tighter." I have very little experience with enriched breads and have never made a sourdough with milk. From what I've read, milk makes the crumb more "tender," which I take to mean less chewy. I don't know what effect it would have on the crumb structure.

Looking at Eric's photos, his crumb (using milk) had a more open structure than mine, actually.

Maybe some one who has more experience with this will share it.


David

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I love the color, it looks just right. I can't remember if you made PR Italian Bread with biga. You and Eric do so much baking, I've lost track. If you did, how did the taste compare? If you didn't, will you be giving it a try?

 

Great job, as usual.                                                 weavershouse

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

This is my first time making PR's Italian Bread. I don't know if I will be making it without sourdough, but Eric sounds like he is going to make it with sourdough, so we should stay tuned for his comparison.

When I tasted the bread 2 hours after baking it, there was a definite but mild sourdough tang. This morning, I had some toasted. I am not sure I would identify it as a sourdough now in a blind tasting.

Actually, I am less tempted to do it again without sourdough than I am to do it again as a "pure" sourdough, without the added yeast.


David

SherryZ's picture
SherryZ

I made a wonderful whole wheat starter two weeks ago. It is very well developed. I made Italian sourdough bread recipe I found and I think I may have learned a couple things. My question is does it matter if I use 100% whole wheat starter in any recipe or is hundred percent organic whole wheat starter only used for certain whole wheat bread recipes? My reason for asking this is my bread came out harder than a rock I was so disappointed. Now after thinking this through I am not sure if my starter was at its peak when I used it or if it was just using it during a stage not so active, also maybe I used too much flour. My recipe called for over 5 cups of flour probably 5 3/4 cups of flour and 1 and 1/5non-chlorinated water. 1 teaspoon of honey and 3 teaspoons of marine salt I mixed it up keeping the salt from the yeast starter you know and let it rest for two hours put it in the refrigerator for 12 hours Took it out at room temperature for two hours shaped it put it in a towel covered with whole wheat flour covered it with the towel nicely over the bread and waited three hours for it to double I never really thought it double but I baked it on a baking stone the oven with heated to 525° and as soon as I put the bread in the oven on the stone I reduced the temperature to 355 degree. Any help with this recipe would be very appreciated or if you have a recipe or if you can give me any advice I would so appreciate it thank you. I will eagerly waiting for some help as soon as someone can. Thanks again ,Sherry

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Welcome to TFL!

I don't have a complete picture of your recipe from what you told me, but, even so, I see many, many problems with what you did.

To answer your first question, you can certainly use a WW starter. The bread will be different, of course, but, if it tastes good to you, that's all that matters.

My first piece of advice is to get a kitchen scale and start weighing your ingredients rather than measuring them by volume. Weight is much more accurate and reproducible. 

Second, if you need to learn more about the care and feeding of sourdough starters, do that next.

Third, find some recipes that give you enough specific instructions to give you confidence you understand exactly what to do. If you want to make a sourdough italian-style bread, look at this one: Italian-San Joaquin Sourdough  My only hesitancy in recommending it is that it is a wet dough that requires really good gluten development. Alternatively, use the recipe in this topic. It's a bit easier to make, although I personally prefer the other.

Good luck!

David

 

RuthieG's picture
RuthieG

just never fails me...We have a recycle group in our little town and my starter is so good right now because I have been working with it daily after a 2 and 1/2 month sit in the refrigerator while we were rving and I have 7 give aways sitting on my counter of powerful stuff waiting for pick up....The only bread that I thought was a failure, a bit dense, my husband bragged about so I will just keep plugging away...last nights batch overflowed onto the counter that's just how good it is...I keep asking myself what did I do to deserve this beauty....

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Happy baking!

David