Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pane Toscano -Saltless Tuscan Bread

Okay,this is my amateurish attempt at the Tuscan bread which is a rustic saltless bread from Tuscany and is consumed with soups or salad (panzanella) or blended into soup (ribollita) or served toasted with simple topping (crostini/bruschetta) as a starter. Normal bread has salt in it which makes it tasty or acts as a preservative upto a certain extent though most baking books do not explain the reason for salt addition apart from the taste matter. Anyway Tuscan bread does not have any salt and it is said that since the duty /tax on salt was very high the public protested against it and avoided the salt in the bread giving rise to a chewy thick bread which they enjoes with wholesome soups.I have adapted the recipe from King Arthur Flour Site -Pane Toscano (and as usual halved it )though several different methods can also be seen.


Ingredients:
Sponge:
All Purpose Flour: 11 tbsp
Instant Yeast: 1/8 tsp
Luke warm Water: 1/3 cup

Dough:
All Purpose Flour: 1.5 cups + 4-6 tbsp
Yeast: 1/2 tsp + a pinch
Warm Water: 10 tbsp

Preparation:
Sponge:
Mix in a big bowl, the flour,yeast and water to get a wet mass of dough and keep it overnight at room temperature.

Dough:
To the sponge bowl,add in 1/2 cup of flour,yeast and warm water.Mix well and add in flour half cup at a time to get a stiff dough. It took me about 1 and half cup and 4-5 tbsp. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes to get a smooth elastic dough.

Keep it covered in an oiled bowl turning once until it doubles up in size -almost 1hour.Handle the dough gently and without deflating/punching turn it on to a lightly floured surface and by squeezing and gathering all the edges underneath smoothen the top and shape into a round loaf.The loaf after the first rise and shaping loks like...

Place it on a lined and lightly greased baking sheet onto which some cornmeal has been sprinkled and then keep it covered in a warm place until doubled again.After the final rise...

Preheat the oven to 450F/232 C.Make slashes on top of the bread preferably tic-tac-toe pattern. Keep the baking sheet inside and bake for 15 minutes while spraying water every 5 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 400F/200C and bake for 25-30 minutes or more until browned. Since I halved the recipe,the time would be few minutes before the mentioned range. Keep a check on the oven every 3 minutes whicle spraying water and check after 18 minutes during the second phase of baking . You must hear a hollow sound from the bread when thumped at the bottom and a wonderful bready aroma will come from the oven .

The spraying is to make crust hard and gives a steaming effect.You can also go for a cup of hot water which can be placed inside the oven.Instead what I did was before placing the baking sheet in the oven,I brushed the top of the loaf with water and then placed it in the oven.Every 3 minutes I sprayed or drizzled water or you can say poured water on sides of the oven and also splashed a few drops on the liner in the baking sheet. This I did every 3-4 minutes ant that too 4 times.That was a mistake actually as my crust has not browned properly though the bread is fine,atleast thats my conclusion.It was thick and chewy with hard crusts.But I have never tasted Tuscan bread and have nothing to compare mine with.On tasting,well it is bland as there is no salt.You use it with soup or your choice of dips.

I served few slices with my simple roasted tomato soup though any soup ought to work.Rest I plan to turn into panzanella and other suitable recipes.

Hope Lisa accepts this amaeteurish Tuscan bread for NCR:Bread for soup hosted this time at Lisa's. The bread being Italian also goes for BBD #32 :Italian Breads hosted at Family &Food. Finally I am happy that it is YeastSpotted by Susan. Its long time since I went there.

Other excellent and different versions :
Susan's Saltless Tuscan bread which makes use of flour paste
Ilva's saltless Tuscan Bread


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