Early 2014 Baking
First off I'd like to wish everyone at TFL a very Happy (belated) New Year and the best of health and successful baking for 2014 to all. So many fine looking breads, along with a wealth of informative discussion being posted it's hard to keep up with it all but I can see the year is already off to a great start. Although I have been doing quite a bit of home baking since the new year began, finding the time to actually write about it has, as always, been a challenge. This post is an effort at trying to rectify that situation.
To begin my 2014 baking year I thought I'd make a couple of breads that I've never made before and one that I have made previously but with a savoury addition thrown in.
Pane di Terni - Adapted from Carol Field's “ The Italian Baker”
Carol Field's “ The Italian Baker” is a book I've had and enjoyed for close to twenty years now, and though I don't refer to it as often these days as I do Hamelman's “Bread” or Suas' Advanced Bread & Pastry, it still comes off the shelf several times a year for a look through. The idea I had in mind when I thumbed through it recently was to find a simple, rustic type bread to accompany a smoked pork sausage I wanted to make. The bread I finally settled on, Pane di Terni is one I'm sure I've flipped through dozens of times but had never paid it much attention. The flour mix is pretty basic, with 64% AP and 36% whole wheat flour in the final mix, but with a whopping amount of yeasted biga, using 750 grams of it to the 500 grams of flour in the final mix. Since I'd already decided to use a natural leaven in whatever it was I chose to make, the idea of using it at 150% wasn't going to happen, but I did think I could go maybe 70-80% without it being too strong for my tastes. Instead of using white flour for the biga naturale I substituted whole wheat instead, bumping the overall ratio of flours to 44.92% white and 53.68 whole wheat + 1.4% rye from the starter. The changes I eventually made to Ms Field's original formula may have made this bread something other than what a Pane di Terni is supposed to be like but I can live with that considering the exceptional flavour this formula has delivered both times I've made it. When I had my first taste of the bread I fully expected it to be very tangy and was quite surprised at how understated the level of sour actually was for a mix with such a high percentage of mature, sour leaven in it.
Oh, and that smoked sausage I mentioned earlier, well I think it's one of the better ones I've managed to make so far for flavour, texture, fat and moisture content.
A couple of slices of sausage to go on top of the bread with some peperoncini on the side have made for some simple but savoury lunches that week.
Lavash- A Ciril Hitz Formula
Recently I found an article by Ciril Hitz on Lavash in a (2013- Volume 7 Issue 1) copy of Pastry & Baking North America  that my friend breadsong  had thoughtfully sent along to me in the mail to have a look at. It interested me because Lavash is something I've never tried, either eating or baking. I've tried a variety of flat-breads from different regions over the years but for some reason Lavash was never one of them. I scaled the formula:
down to a small test batch of 600 grams just in case Lavash wasn't my thing. The mix itself is quite stiff but it doubles up nicely over three hours and then once the dough is divided and relaxed for 15 minutes it easily stretches over the back of an oiled cookie sheet. On my first taste I discovered that Lavash is most certainly my thing. Crunchy and toasty, with a little zing from the sesame and poppy seed topping combined with sea salt, black pepper, chili powder, paprika and cumin, it's just as Hitz describes it, “addictive” and very tasty indeed. For anyone who has a copy of Advanced Bread & Pastry by Suas, his formula and procedure are very similar to the one given by Hitz in the magazine.
Francese with Guanciale- Adapted from Michel Suas' Advanced Bread & Pastry
During a visit to Vancouver just before the New Year to see a hockey game, Marie and I had a few hours to kill before game time and decided to pay a visit to the Granville Island Market in False Creek. While there I picked up a nice piece of guanciale,
a type of bacon made from pork jowl that I found at Oyama Sausage Company , one of the markets more popular vendors judging by the crowd surrounding their stand.
My original intention was to use the guanciale to make the famous Roman pasta dish of Spaghetti Carbonara  but thought it could be used in a bread of some type as well. Of what kind I wasn't sure at the time but knew I'd find something suitable to use it in eventually. When we got back home I started going through some of my books looking for something appropriate, finally settling on the Francese from Advanced Bread & Pastry, a type of Italian baguette. I've made the Francese once before and liked it, but thought that some cured and slightly smoky pork wouldn't hurt it either. For anyone who loves bacon and bread this is one that combines the two in a wonderfully savoury and delicious way. Before the final mix was started the guanciale was cut into 1/4 inch batons and lightly browned in a pan then left to cool before folding into the dough once it had been mixed. The roughly shaped dough was fermented overnight in the fridge, then given a short final proof of 30 minutes... give or take, followed by a 25 minute bake at 485F with steam for the first 10 minutes.
After 4 hours of cooling on a rack I sliced it open and was happy to find lots of nooks and crannies of various sizes with some containing pieces of guanciale tucked inside.
The crumb was moist and soft, owing not only to the dough's hydration but as well to the small amount of pork fat rendered out during baking. The crust had a lovely crunch to it, providing the wheaty, nutty flavours one expects from these high crust to crumb ratio type of breads. The bread had a mild to medium sour note from the 12 hour fermented stiff leaven or biga naturale, and the 20% whole wheat flour in the final mix added a subtle whole grain flavour to the bread. This left plenty of room for the guanciale to show off it's smoky , peppery richness in the final overall flavour as I'd hoped it would.
At the time I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy this bread than with a few slices of ripe tomato. Come to think of it I still can't, but some dry aged provolone cheese is a great second choice for this as well.
To end on a sweet note after all this savoury content, a torte that was made the week before last for a family dinner and get-together.
The torte is composed of a lemon mousse, fresh raspberries, 2 layers of almond sponge cake, and a layer of almond Dacquoise, decorated with stabilized whipped cream and a few sugar dusted raspberries to top. I wish I had a photo of the slices to show, my apologies, but it sliced neatly and disappeared quickly, making a nice finish to a splendid family dinner that Marie had made for all of us that day.
All the best,