Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice 15/43: Italian bread

Today I bring you a very special episode of the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge. No, it doesn't involve Meredith Baxter Birney and has nothing to do with that one episode of "Family Ties" where Alex P. Keaton's friend died and he spent most of the episode reciting a monologue into the camera while the kitchen set behind him faded to black.*

No, this Italian bread is very special because Husband baked it.

OK, he didn't really bake it. But he did divide the pre-ferment (in this case, a biga) into 10 equal pieces that I then could incorporate into the bread dough. When I arrived home and the biga pieces were cut and ready to go, Husband stated plainly, "See? I'm baking. You're welcome."

And am I ever glad he decided to bake. Peter Reinhart's Italian bread is amazing...simply amazing. I do not wish to overstate it, but really, this is (so far) my favorite recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, hands down. It's so good that I've already made it twice this week. It is my new go-to homemade bread.

The method involves making the aforementioned biga, letting it proof, then allowing it to chill in the refrigerator at least overnight. Then you ask your husband to cut it into 10 pieces for you. Then you mix those pieces with bread flour, salt, sugar, yeast, diastatic malt powder, olive oil and water. Some mixing, some kneading, some proofing, some hearth baking, some magic.

This Italian bread is crusty on the outside, tender on the inside. It's wonderful to eat spread with soft butter, toasted with oil, black pepper and garlic powder, fried in a skillet with an over-medium egg or just torn off the loaf in big, unseemly hunks. I took two loaves to Sister's house last night to serve with her trick-or-treat night feast (this year she made chicken noodle and winter vegetable soups). Husband couldn't come along, as he was working, and it was all I could do to save him a few pieces. I've not seen two loaves of bread disappear so quickly in quite some time.

I'm very pleased Husband's foray into bread-baking turned out so well. Next, he shall learn to shape Kaiser rolls.

*I did not fully appreciate this in the 1980s, but the Keatons had a really bitchin' stove.


The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge does not wish for us to share Reinhart's recipes. However, even if you don't have anyone to divide your biga for you, get yourself to page 172 of the book and start working. I'm even thinking of starting a few more loaves today -- even though I baked two yesterday. Peter Reinhart's Italian bread = seriously addictive.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Check out some of my fellow Bread Bakers' takes on delicious Italian bread:
PS. I'm submitting this post to Yeastspotting, because of all the yeast I've personally spotted in the past year, this has been my favorite.


Mags @ the Other Side of 50 said...

Loved the Family Ties flashback even though I now feel like I'm about 100 years

Your Italian bread looks fantastic! You (and hubby) did an awesome job.

Cindy said...

Thanks for that blast from the past. I loved that show, and yes that was an amazing stove they had.

Your slashing skills are stellar! You're making me very hungry for a fried egg sandwich right now.

Dianne said...

Mags, the Family Ties flashback made me feel about 100, too!

Cindy, thanks for the slashing-skills props! And I have to say, using this bread for a fried egg sandwich was definitely my favorite application.

misterrios said...

Oh wow! I remember watching Family Ties as a kid and never noticing the stove. Yes, I too feel really old now.

The bread is super. The slashing is awesome and I love the dark crust. Yummy.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Please tell your husband that, from the look of those loaves, he is a very talented biga divider!

Mimi said...

Now all you need is some good quality olive oil for dipping!!