Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Loaf of Bread (Sourdough Pagnotta), A Jug of Wine, A Book of Verse And Thou...

...Beside Me, Singing In The Wilderness ~Omar Khayyam

You know what happens when serendipity meets innovation? I don’t always know the answer to that either but sometimes, it results in an incredible loaf of sourdough bread! I recently experienced a most excellent outcome as the result of combining techniques described in two recipes for bread; Sourdough Pagnotta and the so called, New York Times No Knead Bread, so popular today among many home cooks.

My good friend, at another site, kindly amended a recipe for Sourdough Pagnotta that has quickly become B’s and my favorite bread of all time. The pagnotta has a rich, creamy texture, also known as crumb, while the crust is thinner and crispy. It’s the perfect
thickness. Thick enough for crunch and thin enough that it won’t send you to the dentist for bridge work while you are eating it. That’s got to be great news, right?

The pagnotta is a very dense bread and the holes in it aren’t quite as open as other artisan loafs, at least mine aren’t. But, you just can’t beat this bread for having an easy recipe. It takes precious little effort to mix and prepare the dough and tastes delicious and flavorful. It’s great artisan bread for only pennies on the loaf. It’s also a versatile bread, taking well to variants like asiago pagnotta, roasted garlic pagnotta and black olive pagnotta. I have even done a really awesome tasting apple, smoked bacon and caramelized onion pagnotta bread that turned out so well!

It’s a high hydration loaf. This means that it has a higher percentage of water than other sourdough recipes. I believe a standard sourdough has around a 60-65% hydration and this is closer to 85% or 90% hydration. Scary to work with the first time but once you know the ropes about working with wet dough; it’s a piece of cake. Hmm, maybe not a piece of cake but it surely is a great piece of bread!

I had wanted to bring you the history or origins of this bread. But what I found is pagnotta is the Italian word for bread! So essentially this is one of many recipes for a loaf of sourdough Italian bread! Here are a few other words for bread from other countries.

bread in Afrikaans is brood
bread in Dutch is mik, brood
bread in French is pain
bread in German is Brot, Brot, panieren
bread in Italian is pagnotta
bread in Latin is crustum, panis
bread in Spanish is pan

And here is your bread quote for today!

There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much.

~ Mother Teresa

This bread is perfect for sharing with your special someone. B, my best friend and partner in crime and I love to eat it dipped in olive oil seasoned with a touch of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, fresh ground black pepper, shaved parmesan, and a touch of basil. A wonderful, full bodied cabernet or other rich wine and a few roasted olives or grape tomatoes dipped in olive oil and salt make a great accompaniment to it as well. Add a slice or two of dried aged salami and a couple of black seedless grapes and you have a romantic picnic for two! The pagnotta is also wonderful as a bread accompaniment to any kind of meal you can imagine, roasted meat to casserole and everything in between! Mangia!

Sourdough Pagnotta
By Bill Wraith
Yield: 1 Large Loaf or 2 smaller Loaves

400 grams fresh 100% hydration starter (my starter was taken out of the
refrigerator after having been refreshed 3 days earlier. I probably should
have used more recently refreshed and vigorous starter) (14.5 Ounces)
650 grams water (22.831 Ounces)
700 grams KA Organic AP (24.587 Ounces)
50 grams KA rye blend (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or
other) (1.756 Ounces)
50 grams Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour (optional - substitute white
flour, whole wheat, or other) (1.756 Ounces)
18 grams salt (1.264 Tbsp)
300 grams pitted halved olives (I used calamata olives) - this is an optional
ingredient. (10.537 Ounces)

Method for making bread:
Mix ingredients until well integrated and there is some resistance to stirring.
Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
(Bill’s Note: I think there was slightly too much water for my choice of flours and maybe because of the olives, which made the dough harder to handle. This was very slack dough. I would use a little less water next time, but I'm reporting this as I actually did it.)

Fold and Rest, Repeat:
Every 30-60 minutes pour the dough out onto the counter, let it spread a little, and fold it up into a ball. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest 30-60. Repeat this process every 30-60 minutes 3-4 times.
(Bill’s Note: I may not have repeated this enough, given the very wet dough I ended up with. The dough was still too slack later when I tried to shape the loaves.)

Bulk Fermentation:
Place the dough in an oiled rising bucket or bowl. Allow it to rise by double at room temperature.
(Bill’s Note: Actually, I wanted to bake by midnight, so I let it get a little warmer, about 80F, which may have been a little bit of a problem. I think it made the slack dough even a little more slack to also be warm.)

Pour the dough out on the table on a bed of flour and cut in two. Work with each loaf separately. Form a ball by carefully and gently pulling the sides toward the center repeatedly to get some surface tension on the smooth side underneath. Do not overhandle.
(Bills Note: Here I was a disastrous dough handler. I way overhandled it because it was too slack and would not form a ball. It just kept spreading out quickly. Well, I just decided after way too many times pulling at the sides to stop trying and went for flat bread. So, I can't emphasize enough, don't overhandle. Just make that shape and be done with it.

I am doing a second version, and I think I've discovered how to do this. Use thumbs and fingers of one hand to pinch and hold the gathered sides over the center, holding the gathered edges up a little to help the sides stretch and the shape to become more round and taking a bit of weight off the loaf. Use the other thumb and a couple of fingers to pinch a bit of the side, pull the bit out and up and over to the center, stretching the side as you do. Gather that bit in with the first hand along with others as you work your way around the loaf. Try to make it round by gathering a bit from the place that sticks out the most.)

Turn the dough over onto a thick bed of flour with the rough side down.

Final Proof:
Allow the loaves to increase in size by double.
(Bill’s Note: For me, this took about 3 hours. I'm still having a hard time figuring out when these higher hydration loaves have finished proofing. As I said there was too much water, and I never got these loaves to stiffen up very much. They mostly spread out on the counter.)

Bake at 425 degrees F.
(Bill’s Note: This took about 25 minutes, and the internal temperature went quickly to 210F, which I've experienced with these flat high hydration loaves. I didn't get much oven spring. I think the over handling was a serious problem.)

Allow the loaf to fully cool.

The flavor was as good as any bread I've made. The crumb was much less open than I had hoped but was soft and flavorful. I think the flatness was because of the over handling and maybe adding too much water to the dough. Maybe another fold or two would have helped. The gluten never really stiffened up enough. Still, this was a great tasting bread. My bad for the handling, but I'm already trying a second one. I also think the olives made the dough wetter, heavier, and harder to handle. The next try will be without olives.

Blue Zebra NOTE:
When working with wet doughs, high hydration doughs, the tendency is to be scared because the dough looks more like a batter than a dough. But be fearless! No worries, mon! The secret is wet hands!

To make it easier for me, I mix the dough in a bowl with one hand. One hand will be a mess; but that’s ok, it washes! I mix the dough initially until it is just a shaggy mess of incorporated flour, water and starter (I go ahead and add the salt…so sue me, I haven’t had a failure yet because of adding the salt at this phase for this particular dough), cover and leave it for the autolyse period. Then I come back and do my initial folding in the bowl!

I pick up a portion of the dough with my hand and stretch high above the bowl as far as it will stretch without breaking the gluten strands! Then I allow it to be pulled into the center mass of the dough. Once that stretch is finished, I turn the bowl a quarter turn (90 degrees) and repeat the action. I will do 8 of these stretch and folds in the bowl at one time, or 2 complete bowl revolutions. I let the dough rest again, covered. By this time, you will have helped form substantial gluten and the batter will resemble a very wet dough rather than a batter.

The next time, I come back to fold the dough, I will pour it out on the counter as Bill describes. It works to use a dough scraper (moisten it with water.) And it also helps to have wet hands. The dough won’t stick to you then. I don’t use any flour on the counter, but since this dough is so wet, I use a light sprinkle on the counter. The wet scraper and wet hands allow you to stretch and fold the dough, pulling gently from the underneath side (the counter side) of the dough with your hand on top of the sheet of dough, guiding it. You try not to flatten or degas the dough while working with it. The gas is what will make great, irregular holes in the final bread.

Here is an excellent video of doing the stretch and fold with a some what dryer dough (lower hydration dough). My friend, Mike Avery, at Sourdough Home developed this video for his student and is an excellent teacher and writer. I highly recommend his books. They are very affordable books and are available as online versions for quick downloads. You can be reading in less than five minutes.

I used my stainless steel Dutch oven to cook this bread because I don’t have my cast iron Dutch oven here. I used the lid for the first 30 minutes and then baked it another 30 minutes without the lid. I cooked the bread for one hour at 460 degrees F, and the final internal bread temperature was 211 degrees. It was perfect even though there was a rather large hole immediately under the top crust. I could have collapsed it with a pin to let the air out but was in a hurry to bake it for dinner.

I hope you will try this bread. Even though I cut into it before it was fully cooled, you can see how moist this bread is and in my opinion, it has much more complexity than the No Knead To Knead bread that is so popular right now.


katiez said...

Interesting! I've never worked with a wet dough like that but the finished bread looks lovely - and I love the flavor of sourdough.
And you say it's an easy bread to flavor and add stuff too, like olives, maybe, hmmmm!
(you forgot '...wine, a book of verse, and though beside me singing in the wilderness..')

Blue Zebra said...

Thanks Katiez! I fixed it although it isn't in the right order! I took poetic license but shhhh! Don't tell Omar, ok?!

This is such an easy sourdough to make!! Hope you will try it!


browndog said...

90% hydration, no kidding?
I've never made this, don't even know what type of bread it is, really. Like a different shape ciabatta?

Blue Zebra said...

Hi browndog, I don't know if my math is correct here but I just roughly took the total weight of flour and divided it by the total weight of the water (I didn't include the starter or the water in it), and it came out to 81.25% so not quite 90% but still pretty far up there for hydration. It's remarkably easy once you get to feel comfy with high hydration dough. I have never tried to make it like a ciabatta but I feel an experiment coming on! :D It does spread like a big dog when you go to do a free form loaf. It's why I tended to try it in this "cloach" type of cooking method. The loaf was so beautiful.

browndog said...

Well, I should try it sometime before the weather cools and my starter wants to hibernate. Asiago and black olives, mmmm...

neil said...

Lovely explanation of a very scary procedure, I especially liked the stretch technique, though I'm not sure I'm ready to have a go at bread dough this wet.

Blue Zebra said...

Neil thanks so much for the compliment. I learned to make bread with higher hydration doughs and it gets so easy after the first time. The first time it feels like you are wrangling something that is alive! The second time, with the wet hands your confidence makes it so easy. It literally takes 2 minutes to do the stretch and folds. I don't knead it at all and if I do see large lumps, then I do a quick frissage which does wonders to build gluten. All in all, it's very rare for me to knead bread anymore. This is a very freeing technique (the stretch and fold).

Hope you will try it! Pour a nice glass of wine and give it a fearless go! :D

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wonderful write up BZ! I'd go for the apple, smoked bacon and caramelized onion pagnotta! Now that sounds really first class!

Blue Zebra said...

Hi Tanna the apple, bacon bread is fabulous! You simply saute dried apples in a bit of butter and apple cider vinegar and or apple juice concentrate. Caramellize onions in a little butter. Cook bacon to almost crisp and chop into pieces then fold it into the bread during the 2 or 3 folds you give the bread. It's so easy and delicious! Hope you try it and let me know how it worked! :D

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Lovely bread and terrific write-up. I am drooling thinking of the apple, bacon, and carmelized onion version!

Susan said...

Very nice writeup and photos, BZ!

Blue Zebra said...

Hi Lynn! It was so easy to make, there really is no recipe per se...but how can anything with bacon in it not be delicious!? It made really awesome grilled cheese sandwiches. :D Let me know if you try, ok?

Susan thanks for your compliments! The credit for the write up of the recipe goes to Bill for his hard work. He writes incredible instructions that are so clear and easy to follow. He's a very great baker! Hope you will try the recipe. I think I will always use the pot method for the bread in future, unless I try it out as a ciabatta which I may do this next time. The loaf in the pot was just so much prettier than the artisan, free-form shape.

sue coffeepot said...

I loved the no knead, so I can't wait to try this blu z.


Marie said...

Thanks so much for visiting my food journal and leaving your wonderful comment. I love batter breads. They are so easy to do, without any of the kneading and stuff. I have never made a sour dough bread though! Perhaps it's time to change that! I may give this a try!

Kristen said...

That looks perfect...I bet it would be wonderful with a big pot of soup!

Blue Zebra said...

{{Sue}}! I've missed you! You will love this bread. If you do artisan, free form breads from this recipe they may be a bit more flat but they taste divine! The alternate is using a pot like the no knead. I think it's a much better bread!
Marie, at the age of 44 I decided to conquer my fear of yeast. It's been a great time doing so and I highly encourage people to "just do it". YOu will will be smashing at it! :D
Kristen it is so awesome with soups and anything Italian too!! :D
How is it with school, Mommy? Have you transitioned?

Peabody said...

Bread and a jug of wine...can you really go wrong?

Blue Zebra said...

peabody, I just don't know how ya can! :D ;) Good to see you! :D