Bread Time Stories – Pane Veloce

In addition to authentic Italian pizza, I also appreciate different types of Italian bread. Especially the ones that have a crispy crust and are yet soft inside.

A serious, street-credible Italian baker would make his/ her own proper lievito naturale i.e. sourdough for bread. However, apparently that would take about a week, and once ready, the sourdough would require daily attention, care, singing, dancing and sweet talk to be well. Or something like that.

Fortunately there are somewhat easier and quite fab alternative recipes available for us mediocre bakers who are not quite ready for such a serious baking commitment yet. I previously found this one and have now successfully tested this for several times. It is just simply fantastic and relatively fast to make too (well, in the world of baking Italian bread I suppose its speed would be the equivalent of Usain Bolt’s but it still does require about 2.5 hours). When baking this, I modified the recipe a bit by substituing some of the wheat flour with fine rye flour to gain a bit more nutritional benefits which worked quite well too.

“Fast” Bread

Ingredients for 3 loaves

500 g flour (type 00 if you have it)

370 ml lukewarm water

12 g fresh yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tsp honey

Dissolve the yeast and honey into 50 ml water. Place the flour into a bowl. Create a little hole in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast water and the rest of the water into it. Start stirring the dough with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and continue stirring until you have obtained a granular, soft and sticky dough. Sprinkle the dough with a sufficient amount of flour, cover the bowl and let it rise for 1.5 hours.

Cover an oven tray with a parchment paper and add a sufficient layer of flour onto the parchment paper. Use a (plastic) spatula to pour the dough onto the flour. Divide the dough (lengthways) into three separate loaves. Make sure there is enough distance (at least 3-5 cm) between the loaves as they will expand in the oven. Bake the loaves in the overn at 230 C for at least 30 minutes.

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Piegones – Torta della Nonna

Sometimes I never cease to amaze myself. I had one of those moments last weekend.

In the field of baking, my success rate is about 50 percent when I try new recipes. In addition, although I tend to be fairly optimistic by nature, I have learned in life that if you hand Mr. Murphy a chance on a silver platter (or should I say a baking tray), he will usually grab it. So, I really don’t know what I was thinking when I offered to make this pie called torta della nonna to my Dad for his birthday. Obviously I had never tried it before. And obviously I still have no confidence issues in baking although some firemen might beg to differ.

It all started quite beautifully. I was even quite proud of the smooth pastry I managed to make. Then something got lost in translation or possibly in the recipe. What I or my recipe (from “Oggi Cucino Io 4”) missed was the mention of the custard properly thickening before pouring it onto the pastry.

At this point, I called my parents to start considering alternative sources for birthday treats this year:

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Yet, being that optimist (or maybe in this case stubborn), I still refused to give up, cleaned up the mess and transferred what was left of the pie into the oven. What came out wasn’t an entire disaster. It had very little to do with torta della nonna, so maybe I will name this one torta di Anna instead. Torta di Anna had two layers of crust each followed by a layer of the custard. As there was no top crust available to add almonds on (as advised in my recipe), I roasted some afterwards and placed them on the ready pie. My mother told me that with the added help of some strawberry preservative, it was even nicer.

I am quite sure though that if I had managed to follow the nonna‘s advice as intended, this would have been a bigger success. Have a try yourself and let me know how it goes! Finally here is one example what it was supposed to look like…

Torta della Nonna

Serves 8-10

For the pastry:

300 g flour

100 g sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

150 g butter

1 egg yolk

1 egg

salt

For the custard:

5 eggs

120 g sugar

75 g flour

5 dl milk

1 vanilla pod

1 slice of lemon peel

salt

To decorate

almonds

icing sugar

Prepare the pastry for the crust: Sieve the flour into a bowl and mix it with the sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the cold butter (sliced into small chunks) and rub it into the dry ingredients until you have obtained a granular even mixture. Add the egg yolk and the eggs and continue working on the pastry for a few more minutes. Divide the ready pastry into two different-sized parts (one slightly larger than the other). Roll each out to circles about 3 mm thick and place them on two sheets of parchment paper. Move the parchment papers with the pastry into a fridge.

Prepare the custard: Whisk 2 egg yolks (keep the egg whites for later use) and 3 entire eggs with the sugar and a pinch of salt until smooth. Add the flour and stir well. In a kettle, bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod and lemon peel. Take the kettle of the heat and pour the milk into the egg and sugar mixture continuously stirring. Move the mixture back to the hot stove and cook for one minute still continuously mixing (as mentioned, at this point the sauce should (hopefully) thicken but yet please be careful not to exceed the time any more than necessary as you may also end up with scrambled eggs instead of a lovely custard…). Remove your custard from the stove and let it cool down stirring occasionally.

Move the larger part of the pastry together with its parchment paper into a pie dish to line its base and sides. Pour the custard onto first part of the pastry. Slightly fold the sides of the pastry to cover the custard, and brush the sides with the egg whites (mixed with a small quantity of water). Add the top layer of the pastry to the pie and fold its sides behind the bottom layer of the pastry. Decorate with the almonds. Bake in the oven at 180C for 45 minutes whilst ensuring that the pie won’t burn on top. Cool down for at least 15 minutes and dust the pie with some icing sugar before serving.

 

 

Italian Fast Food – Baguette Facile e Veloce

Sorry about the misleading headline. To be honest, this recipe is neither fast nor really Italian (it is an Italian blogger’s version of a French baguette). What I find amusing the Italian definition of “fast bread”. It takes about 3.5 hours in total to make. Yet trust me, I know from my limited baking experience that 3.5 hours really is quite little in the Italian world of baking!

One of the challenges of embracing your inner Italian baker in Finland is the climate. It is quite different for a focaccia to rise basking in the warm Ligurian sun under the loving eye of an Italian nonna than in a cold flat under the panicky eye of a Finnish blogger. Fortunately there is a handy substitute for the Ligurian sun: underfloor heating in the bathroom. However, as – despite the aid of the modern building technology – my attempts at focaccia alla genovese still bear more resemblance to cream crackers than bread, I chose to share this baguette instead.

This recipe certainly is “mediocre baker proof” as apart from time and a sufficiently warm place for the dough to rise, it doesn’t really require too much skill and effort to perfect. The end result is quite lovely: a soft and airy loaf with a crispy and thin crust. I have used different combinations of flour (00, Finnish wheat, whole-wheat…) at equal success.  As all bread loaves like this, it is very much at its best on the day of baking.

Easy and Quick(ish) Baguette

Ingredients for 3 baguettes

500 g flour

400 ml lukewarm water

salt to your taste

1 tsp honey

12.5 g fresh baker’s yeast

(Durum) wheat flour for baking

Mix 1/3 of the water, the yeast and honey in a bowl. Put the flour in a larger bowl. Add the water mixture of yeast and honey, the remaining quantity of the water and the salt. Stir fast with a cooking fork. The ready dough should be sticky. Let the dough rise covered in a warm place for at least 2 hours (it is ready when it has doubled its volume).

Transfer the dough to a baking board sprinkled with the flour. Divide the dough into three parts and gently roll them in the flour while shaping them into loaves (at this phase, the added flour should remain on the surface of the loaves, not kneaded into them). Transfer the loaves onto a baking tray. Separate the loaves by adding parchment paper between them. Cover the loaves and let them rise for another 30 minutes. Bake the loaves in the oven at 200 Centigrades for 25-30 (until golden).