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Profumo di pane: the art of bread making

bread“Profumo di pane” in italian means bread smell. I’m sure you know what I mean: you’re walking down the road and then you feel it, this incredible smell that comes from a bakery and that is enough alone to change your day in a better day.

The “bread thing” is quite an independent subject in the kitchen, maybe a life philosophy. I discovered it thanks to my friend Clio that is a real addict (how would you define a person that wakes up at 6 a.m. to make bread, knowing that a 12 hours day of work is waiting for her?). I’ve always teased her for this  “bread commitment” but the reality is that this incredible passion that she puts in bread making and in all other things of life is the reason why I love her so much.

So here we are, with the story of Clio’s love for bread and of course her recipe to make it!

“If anyone asks me about my favourite food, whether it is to eat or to cook, I have no doubts: BREAD.

It is so simple, so basic, yet it entrenches a whole universe. It symbolizes life, it describes cultures and religions.. It comes in a thousand shapes and flavours, enhances what it accompanies or it is just so good alone. They even made a museum out of the whole baking experience: it is in San Francisco and during my visit I was shocked to notice how brilliant that idea was. They just put a window that from the street gives view to the kitchen, and someone shaping the dough into funny animals’ shapes, and there you find bunches of people coming to watch.. and after you watch, you just got to taste! Genius…

It is bread which brought me to the kitchen, ever since I was a kid and my grandma would come visit us for a week. I’d come home from school, I’d still have to jump up the stairs from our backyard and there it was, that magic fragrance spread all over, so warm. My grandma would always bake her own bread, and when we (my sister and me) well-behaved she let us shape the dough as we liked, as teddy bears or cute faces- problem was that after it rose and cooked the dough always lost the shapes we’d wanted to give it.

So as I grew up I started making my own experiments with flour and yeast, and was astonished to find out how many different results I could get by mixing only 4 ingredients (flour, yeast, water and salt). It took almost three years of hard-balls and yelling from parents before getting to satisfactory results! But it was just so much fun to knead and shape and then refill the house of that warm smell.

When making your own bread, you must know that the results will change according to some important variables. First of all, outside temperature and humidity – but that, you cannot control. Then, you find kneading time and resting time.

And here it’s almost “the more, the better” rule. To give you a simple example: the first time I made decent bread was after I had a bad fight with my boyfriend. I was so angry that I started bouncing the dough real hard on the table for several minutes, just like playing at volleyball with my to-be-bread. Well, it came out perfect (and that boyfriend is now my husband, see how life goes). Generally speaking, the more the yeast you use, the less time you need for the dough to rise, but you need to find the right balance otherwise your dough will taste yeast, no wonder. So here’s what I do:

Part One:

10g yeast

100g flour (check out for the percentage of proteins: 10-11% is good for bread, is less is better for pastry)

1 glass of warm water

1 spoon of sugar

Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the glass of water. Make a fountain in your bowl with the flour, pour in the mixture, work it all for 5 minutes until you have a round dough. Cover it and let it rest 1 up to 3 hours.

Part Two:

500g flour (or more, accordingly)

5g salt

Warm water

Add the above ingredients to the previous dough. Add the water a little bit at the time, in order to find the right balance of water and flour: you must get a soft, smooth dough. Work it for at least 10 minutes, then cover it with a humid cloth and let it rest for at least other 3 hours, up to 6-8 (the rising time depends on the temperature: the hotter, the faster it grows. During summer, you may want to try to have a slower rise by keeping the dough in your fridge – rising time will be then to 12 hours approximately).

Part Three:

Shape your dough as you want, in a whole round or in little paninis, arrange it or them in a baking sheet, then make a cut in the middle of your dough with a knife. Cover again and let it rest for other 30 minutes. It is at this point that you can also have fun by adding other ingredients, such as olives, nuts, seeds and the like. Just add them to the dough before shaping it.

Bake it at pre-heated oven (200°C) – the baking time depends on the dimensions of your bread, for a round whole consider at least 30 minutes, up to 45, for small paninis 20-30minutes. Let the bread rest after cooking until at room temperature (the bread continues to rise even after it’s cooked thanks to the internal vapour resulting from the use of water in the dough).

It’s a proven anti-stress!

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