Sunday, May 01, 2011

Pane Rustico senza Impasto (No-Knead Rustic Bread)

One of the things I miss the most from my childhood is going to the neighborhood’s bakery to get a flavorful and still warm loaf of bread right out of the oven. The fresh baked fragrance was so hard to resist that the bread was half gone by the time I arrived home. And I lived just one block away from the bakery! Nowadays, the closest place I can get bread is the supermarket. And even though it is supposed to be fresh and it is conveniently packaged in paper bags, it feels a little dry and no aroma is coming from the bag. This is probably why I prefer to make my own bread at home. And you are going to be able to do it yourself too with this recipe for Pane Rustico (Rustic Bread). This Italian country bread recipe doesn’t require too much work but the results are very satisfying. It was inspired by the “no-knead” method promoted by Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery. The only secret to a moist and flavorful loaf is the long and slow rising.
  • 600 grams of bread flour (5 cups)
  • 450 ml of water (2 cup) 
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 10 grams salt (approximately 2 teaspoon)
  • 1 gram dry yeast (approximately 1 teaspoon)
Heat ¼ cup of the water to 110 F. Pour the yeast into a medium-size mixing bowl and stir in the warm water with a spoon.
Add honey and stir. Add flour, the rest of the water and salt.
Use a spoon or your hand to mix everything together. The dough should be shaggy and sticky. I used a Danish Dough Whisk that a friend of mine, Rieko Moreno, gave me as a present. I was amazed how easy this tool was to use in my wet dough, and to clean too.
Although any spoon would do the work, this tool definitively made things easier for me.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature (70 F) for at least 18 hours. The dough is going to be ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles and it has more than doubled in size.
Uncover the bowl and fold the dough three or four times with a spoon or a spatula (just to punch down the dough). 

Place the dough on the center of a floured sheet pan (or onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper if you want to bake it on a pizza stone) . The dough will be very wet and sticky. 
Lightly sprinkle flour on top of the dough and form it in a rectangular shape (like a Ciabatta) with your hands. 
Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. It should look rustic. Sprinkle some more flour and cover the dough with plastic wrap. Let it rise until it doubles in size (about 2 hours)
Place the bread into a 450 F preheated oven (I slide the parchment paper with the dough directly on top of a preheated pizza stone). Check on your bread after about 25 minutes. Once it’s golden brown, take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. 
You can cut into it immediately but if you do it’ll collapse and won’t look as pretty.  Pane Rustico is great for sandwiches but, like most breads, it’s absolutely delicious right out of the oven.