Friday, March 20, 2009

Buddy time: Pane Francese

Sometimes things in life treat you unfairly.

Take Pane Francese, for example. Not only did its aroma permeate the house while baking, tormenting two starving people, but it only made two loaves. Within 30 minutes, one loaf was nearly gone. We couldn't wait any longer for it to cool.

Let me back up a bit, though.
This month, the Bread Baking Babes got together and created Pane Francese, thanks to Sara of i like to cook. It's an easy, straight forward bread that requires a few days to prepare. You'll find the recipe on Sara's blog.

First, a chef is created. (Well, that's me, actually, and I'm already here (ha ha -- a little bread humor)). The chef to which the recipe refers, however, is a piece of dough that is saved from a previous baking. In lieu of that, you need to create one from scratch, using a bit of sour dough starter. It so happens I had recently refreshed one of my starters, a daughter from some starter made months ago. She had lain dormant in the fridge for a number of months, and I had decided to check and see if she was still viable. Apparently she was.

Wednesday night, I mixed a bit of starter with some flour and water, covered the bowl, and went to bed, hoping that I would find some bubbly goodness on Thursday morning. Amazingly, I did. Off to a good start.

(No photo because I didn't want to jinx it.)

Thursday, I took that mixture and added more flour and water to create the second stage levain. I really wanted this to work out. After about 3 hours I checked
the bowl and there was this lovely, bubbly, mass of dough. On to the final mixture and rise.

At 5:30 pm on Thursday, I put the newly mixed dough into the Big Bowl and placed it in the proofer, figuring it would take it's time on the 8-10 hour rise segment. The new 'chef' was sitting in its place on the counter, waiting for 8:30 pm, when it could be wrapped and saved for a future batch of bread. All was well.

At 11:30 pm I checked the Big Bowl and discovered the active dough had already reached the top, so I placed it in my retarder (aka fridge) for safe-keeping.

(Notice the great Pyrex nesting bowl set, three of which were used to make this bread.)

This morning, I removed the dough, placed it back in the proofer, and within 2 hours, it was ready to go. I was amazed at how many bubbles were in the dough. It was as if there was a ton of yeast working away, but in reality, there was none. I formed two batard-like loaves and let them rise for 2 hours, then popped them into the hot oven. The oven spring made the loaves even larger, and as I mentioned earlier, the aroma was fabulous.

I know you're supposed to wait an hour before slicing into fresh bread, but there was no way that was going to happen this time. This bread will disappear too quickly.

At least, there is a new chef in the fridge, ready to spring into action as soon as the loaves are gone.

This is one great bread recipe, and another winner from the Bread Baking Babes.


Megan said...

Sounds like a tremendous amount of work - but the end result was obviously worth it. Kind of like child-birth, right? :)

All I can manage is a simple loaf here and there~

Sara said...

Judy you pictures are fantastic - what a great rise you got! Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for baking with us!

NKP said...

Looks great! You got such life out of your chef and your loaves - wonderful. And I love your orange bowl, such a happy colour.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This bread has a huge flaw: makes small loaves and it's gone too soon.
I had the same kind of eager rising dough that you did Judy. I really enjoy working with this old dough chef!

Engineer Baker said...

You're so right - the only problem is that you didn't end up with enough bread :) Mine tried to spring free during the 8-10 hr rise too! Yours look just perfect.

breadchick said...

Oh Judy! Your bread looks fantastic. Thanks for joining us this month.

Jude said...

The risen dough looks so perfectly smooth. I also have a problem with slicing into loaves even before they cool.