Buon giorno! I am ecstatic to move south into Italy via The Village Baker, beginning with a salt-free Tuscan bread recipe. Pane Toscano is bread from a time when there was an oppressive tax on salt in Tuscany. The book also says that this bread was historically made from porridge, and their recipe intends to revisit that style. Allowing the yeast to soak in boiling hot water overnight changes the texture and the flavor such that the salt is not so sorely missed. The result was the spongiest crumb I’ve ever enjoyed. SO good.
Adapted from the Village Baker
1 3/4 cup boiling water
2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup yeast starter
1 cup room-temperature water
4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Make the sponge the night before you want to make bread. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight (at least 15 hours)
The next day, stir the yeast starter. Add the bouille and 1 cup of water. Mix well. Beat in the flour until dough is stiff enough to knead. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to coat all sides, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface without punching it down or handling it roughly. Gently form it into a large, round loaf by pulling all the edges underneath, gathering them and squeezing them together, leaving the top smooth. If you have a baking stone, place the loaf on a sheet of parchment paper; if you’re using a pan, sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, and place loaf on it. Cover with a towel, and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slash the top of the bread in a tic-tac-toe pattern. If you’re using a baking stone, use a peel to transfer the loaf, parchment paper and all, to the stone in the oven. Otherwise, put the pan of bread into the oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes, misting bread with water from a spray bottle three times or with a pan of boiling water below.
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