If there's one thing that has always intimidated me about cooking, it's yeast. I had some pretty unsavory results from my first attempts at dough making. Recently I've tried to overcome this, first getting my toes wet with some simple pizza dough and then moving up to loaves of fresh bread. My first attempt at bread was a Pane Toscano. It's a little time consuming, taking over 24 hours. You have to first make what's called a "sponge" that is a starter dough. Despite this extra step, with only flour, water, and yeast, it's pretty straightforward; the perfect recipe for a first attempt at fresh bread.
If the ingredient list looks a little plain, that's because it is. Pane Toscano is a traditional bread from Tuscany. It has no salt, giving it a very bland flavor. This isn't as much of a tragedy as it sounds though, because the bread isn't really meant to be eaten alone. Instead, it is dipped in olive oil or used as a base for fettunta. Check out the next post for some other ideas for how to use Pane Toscano!
Makes 1 loaf
Adapted from Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito
For the sponge:
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the dough:
1/2 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Begin by making the sponge. Pour the warm water into a bowl. Sprinkles 1 package yeast over the water and let sit for 10 minutes to get foamy. Add the flour and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 24 hours in a warm spot.
- After 24 hours, continue to make the dough. Pour 1/4 cup of the warm water in a bowl. Sprinkle the 1/2 package of yeast over the water and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup warm water and the sponge and mix it well with your hands to incorporate the water into the sponge. Add 3 1/2 cups of flour and mix well. Continue adding flour a little at a time until you can form a soft ball with the dough.
- Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it over so that the dough coats in oil as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 3-4 hours to rise. The dough should double in size.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and form it into a round loaf shape. Place the loaf on a greased baking sheet and let rise for 35 minutes. If desired, brush the loaf with an eggwash to produce a golden color.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the bread loaf for about 35-40 minutes until it is golden brown on top.
Ryan's rating of Pane Toscano - 5. I think it's time to try some more bread recipes!
1 - Awful. If you make this again I'll shove a fork in my eye.
2 - Meh. It's not my favorite, but I won't threaten self-harm if it shows up
3 - Good. I wouldn't feel forced to order a pizza behind your back.
4 - Great! I will fight you for the leftovers.
5 - Love it! Make it again tomorrow. Or immediately and I will bathe in