Monday, May 12, 2008

Genzano Country Bread/ Pane Casareccio di Genzano

I was intrigued by this recipe in Local Breads, but put off making it for a while because the size of the loaves and the wetness of the dough were a little intimidating. Also, even though I've tackled the Pane di Altamura with dubiously good results, bread with a government stamp (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) comes with a little chip on its shoulder. Dare to make me, it says. And really, what do I have to lose? So started the process, and almost immediately, life got in the way.

Pane di Genzano starts with the creation of a biga naturale, a short-term sourdough starter fueled by a few tablespoons of my existing liquid levain. I got that going on Saturday morning, using the last of the flour in the house, a mix of Wild Hive bread flour and whole wheat pastry. Left it to ferment the recommended 8-12 hours and went out to the library, the farmers market, etc... At 5pm, I took myself off to learn a new tour(Times Square). I thought this training would be a matter of a few hours, but it soon turned out that I was actually leading a second tour in the West Village immediately following. What with one thing and another, ghost tours and upwards of forty Canadian teenagers, I didn't get home until nearly midnight, and wasn't about to start bread then. So I tossed the biga bowl into the refrigerator and hoped for the best. The next morning I had to be in Carroll Gardens by 11 am with a load of pain au chocolat (more on this later), so the biga continued its patient wait.

At 3pm on Sunday, bread production finally began. I mixed the dough, which includes nearly a cup and a half of the starter. It is supposed to be a very wet dough, so much so that Daniel Leader doesn't even give hand-kneading instructions. Mine, while sticky, was manageable, probably because I had used whole wheat flour in the starter, which absorbs much more water. If I was in a fever of authenticity, I probably would have added extra water, but I wasn't about to complain about being able to handle the dough. The recipe also called for a small amount of commercial yeast at this point. I added it, but I think in future I'll reduce the amount.

Mindful of my evening plans, I stuck the dough into two quart yogurt containers to ferment and took them along with me to Paper Beats Rock. As soon as the reading was over, I took them out right there in the bar and punched them down. I am the crazy lady with dough in her bag.

I then walked downtown to meet Matt, and took the alarmingly expanded dough to his house, getting it set up to proof right before the yogurt containers exploded. Miraculously, even after all the abuse and despite the fact that I baked it on metal pans instead of my baking stone, the bread came out beautifully, with a hard dark crust and a sweet soft, slightly irregular crumb.

A beautiful example of another home baker's slightly less interrupted take on Pane di Genzano can be found here.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

i can testify that the crumb of this bread is indeed sweet and soft and it has a lovely sourdougness and a lovely color. thank you dearie for convincing me to take it.