This week’s tantalizing taste test involved traditional Tuscan bread, baked on a hot stone, then sliced and fried in bacon grease. If you are following along in the book. Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, go to page 162 and look at the top of the page. There it is, in big enough letters, one of the easiest recipes in the book. Easy yes, but don’t let that fool you. It’s one of the tastiest, too!!
I opted to pull a ringer into service. Collecting dust on top of the hosier in the kitchen was one of my all time favorites, The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Chapter five has a nice little recipe for low salt Tuscan bread. A classic bread, non pretentious, delicious all on its own, when fried in bacon grease it took on a new life in a parallel universe, the universe in the center of the Awesomeness Galaxy! Try it – you’ll like it!
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon of unbleached flour
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup water, room temperature
In a small bowl, combine the ingredients and stir until mixed. Chef Rudolf would insist on using a wooden spoon, so I shall, too! Go ahead, no one is watching.
Once the dough is sticky, cover the bowl with plastic film (you know, that cellophane stuff that never unrolls the way you want it to…)
Set aside in a semi dark, cool place for at least three hours, preferably 12 to 24 hours. I used our wine cellar, also known as the walk-in pantry.
Later, back at the ranch…
Once the starter has appropriately aged, it’s time to make the dough! You will be very popular once this step is completed. Get ready for i!
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
the starter (duh…gotta have it in there somewhere, you know)
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
In a mixer bowl, add the flour, yeast and starter. With the mixer on low, blend for about three minutes, adding the water in a little bit at a time. Once everything is combined and you have a basic dough blob, cover the bowl with plastic film and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Go watch American Idol or something.
After the dough has had its nap, uncover and sprinkle with the salt. Mix a bit more with a low setting; you are really just kneading at this point. Seven minutes is about all you need to knead (like that?) so now let it rise for about three hours. The dough should expand if everything worked right. Fingers are crossed for you if you try this. =8>)
Lightly dust the dough with a little bit of flour. Then carefully place on a baking sheet. I put a piece of parchment on the sheet first, but that’s your choice. With the oven pre-heated to 425 degrees, place the dough laden baking sheet directly onto the baking stone. Use a low rack if you don’t have a baking stone. On an upper rack, place an oven safe shallow pan with a few ice cubes added. This will help make for a nice, crispy crust, in my opinion at least.
20 to 25 minutes in the oven should be enough. If you thump it and it sounds hollow, you got a winner!
Let it cool for a while. Eat it plain…..or…
American Fried Bread
Take a few hearty slices of your Tuscan bread and fry them in some bacon grease. Man, what a great flavor!
If you do this outside on the grill, use a cast iron pan. Your neighbors will be soooo jealous!