Sunday, June 1, 2008

Son of Pane Genzanese

Last night, we threw a very special bachelorette party at our house. When Libby and Jill put together the menu, they took daring leaps into new recipes, but decided to cater to my strengths. I was assigned to make bread and dumplings.

A few days before the event, I began work on yet another batch of the Pane Genzanese (Jeffrey Steingarten's recipe again). I went through it step by step, from the stiff poolish build to the biga to the dough, blending in the pre-ferments in small pieces, and finally came to baking. In a hurry (this big a loaf bakes for a while), I proofed the loaf as directed under a baking sheet, spread it out, and slammed it into the oven. About fifteen minutes later, I glanced casually at the oven in passing, and did a double-take, turned back, and gaped. I squawked and called Libby and Rob into the room.

My more or less innocent lump of dough had bloomed into a full-fledged monster, an enormous pillow of bread that took up nearly the entire baking stone. I had left plenty of bubbles in, and indeed the finished loaf has not only uneven holes in the crumb but a few very large open spaces. That, however, is only a partial explanation for the phenomenal size of this gargantuan loaf (pictured here with Rob's head (of average size)as a scale indicator. All descriptions of Pane Genzanese touch on its mighty size, but until now none of my loaves have achieved remarkable dimensions. As I eventually realized, nearly a quarter of the dough from the last batch had gone into a little pizza, so this was my first encounter with this beast of Frankenbread in its true form.
Good thing it is delicious and long-lasting, because after throwing a party and having my parents to visit, we still have a half loaf larger than most regular loaves. Bread pudding, anyone?

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