Pane Casereccio – Italian Homemade Bread
Most likely you will not find this bread in any non-Italian baker’s books yet it is one of the most widely made breads in Italy. This is mamma’s bread, every Italian family will have the recipe, simply listed as Pane. Raffaella’s mother told me of how they would prepare the bread at home and then take it to the local baker to cook it. Each family in the town would cut the top of the bread with a symbol or some special design to tell the difference as the baker would fill the ovens and cook as much as possible.
After WWII more families had ovens in their houses and the trips to the baker stopped but the markings on the bread remained. This was the first bread I baked. The process hooked me on the therapeutic benefits of cooking. This bread can be made with a bread machine but that would eliminate all the fun. In Italy we have type 0 and type 00 flour and this bread would be made with type 0 but all-purpose, unbleached flour will work fine. The true bread lover may want to add two tablespoons of gluten.
100 g Biga (if available)
5 cups (700 g) all-purpose unbleached flour
2 cups (420 ml) water
1 packet (7 g) active dry yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp Olive Oil
On a flat hard surface sift the flour into a mound. Mix in the dry yeast and salt. Create a well in the center of the mound. If you are adding biga, place the biga in the well and slowly add the water.
Work the flour mixture and water together from the inside of the well to the outer edges. Knead the dough energetically for several minutes. Roll the dough into a ball. Grab the dough ball as if it were a bowling ball and through it down onto the surface several times. Continue working the dough and throwing onto the surface for 10 minutes. This is the therapeutic part of the preparation. Get rid of all your anxieties. You cannot hurt the dough. The more you work it, the better the bread.
Finally roll the dough into a ball. Spread the olive oil over the ball. Place the dough into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow 1 ½ hours for the first rise, the dough will double.
Prepare the baking pans, covering the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Carefully place the dough onto the lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into 2 logs. Do not work the dough while shaping. Avoid pressing or tightly rolling. Place the shaped logs onto the baking pan. Oil the outside of the bread and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rest for 45 minutes.
About 15 minutes before the second rise is completed, turn the oven on to 450 degrees. When the oven is at temperature, spray or throw 1 cup of water onto the sides of the oven and close quickly. Wait another 5 minutes.
Carefully open the oven. Do not place your face near the opening as steam will gush out of the opening and may burn. Place the logs into the oven and close. During the first 10 minutes of baking spray the logs with water 3 times.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. The crust will be golden and seams will open up in the top of the bread.
Tags: Gourmet Foods Bread Italian Recipes Food and Wine Travel Italy