Monday 26 September 2022

The Great Bread Making Adventure: Pugliese

Well, now, that's disappointing! After making a nearly perfectly formed and risen loaf, it got scorched in the oven. 

But I still think it's beautiful. I've had experiences with bread being too crumbly, fallen in the middle, really yeasty tasting and other bread failures. That I managed to produce such a well-formed loaf is pretty impressive to me. And the inside is still good. 
And tasty. Initially, I was just going to cut off the burnt top crust, but bread without a top crust does not slice very well. So, I decided to leave it in place and just cut the burnt parts off each individual slice. 
Today's loaf is another Italian bread, Pugliese. In case you need to know how to pronounce that (I did), here it is:
(Even after listening to it several times, I still don't think I have it quite right). 
The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making has this to say, "This much-loved Italian bread was once the regional bread from Puglia, in the southern region of Apulia. Perhaps is is the extra virgin olive oil from this region or the excellence of the wheat, but pugliese is considered to be among the jewels of Italian breads, popular all over the country and beyond as well. The bread is normally white, with a pale, floury crust and a soft crumb, quite dense by Italian standards, compared with the holey ciabatta and the open-textured pagnotta."

I want to make a couple of statements in regard to this quote. The first is regarding the use of fats/oils in these breads. While I prefer to avoid the use of added oils in most of my cooking at home, I am not attempting to make these breads oil-free. Having never made them before, I need to know what the taste and texture should be with the oil, before I attempt to make them without. Also, the standard replacements for oil may not work in breads. Pureed prunes and apple sauce likely will impart a slightly sweet flavour, which may not be desirable. Avocado and pureed prunes could also add some inappropriate colour. So, I will be making the recipes with the oil/fats included. Having said that, there is a recipe for lardy cake and, as I pointed out in my previous post, I will be making all of the recipes vegan, so I most definitely will not be using lard. 
The second statement I want to make is just a reminder that, as far as possible, I will be making these breads 100% whole grain. So, in spite of the fact that the book states that this bread is normally white, and the recipe calls for only 2 cups whole meal flour out of a total of 5½ cups, I did use whole wheat for the entire amount. 
An interesting thing about this bread is that it starts with a biga. This is sort of like a sourdough starter, except that the traditional sourdough starter is made using wild yeast, not commercial yeast (though I think many modern cooks start their sourdough with commercial yeast) and the cook keeps replenishing the sourdough starter. A biga starter is made using commercial yeast and only sufficient for that recipe is made. If you want to know more, I suggest you check out this link

As mentioned in my first bread post, this book was published in Britain. As such, I will have some challenges with ingredients. The recipes frequently call for fresh yeast, which comes in a soft cake, rather than dry yeast, which comes in a package or jar. So I've had to use this website to help me figure out the equivalents, as well as this one because fresh yeast is not readily available where I live. However, if I find some I might buy it just to give it a try. But more than just yeast, some products are really challenging to find in North America or figure out the North American equivalent for. Granary or malthouse flour, for example. I can find them on Amazon, but the shipping nearly doubles the already high price. I suppose if I knew someone going to visit the UK, I could ask if they could bring back a kilogram of one or the other... Nevertheless, I will figure out what I will do when I get to those recipes. 

Meanwhile, I am planning on taking a detour from Italian breads in order to make the Barley Bannock in honour of Canada's National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30th), also known colloquially as Orange Shirt Day. I'll tell you more about that next time. I'm also going to look for an oven thermometer to see if my oven temperature is accurate or not. 


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