Invented this one as I had some farro grain, which I’d bought when I was trying to make the Tuscan zuppa di fagioli e farro, aka bean and farro soup. Farro itself is a type of wheat grain, though the word can also be used to refer to barley and other grains, depending on where you are in Italy or who you’re talking to. Wikipedia has a good page, which doesn’t really clarify!
I played it by ear (well, by fingers) with some of the quantities, and I wanted to keep the dough very soft and wet – hence it flattened slightly when I moved it from the proving basket to bake. But flavour-wise, it’s great.
I’ve been struggling to get used to Italian flours. Many of them are low protein, unlike your standard British bread flour, which is ground from harder wheat. Harder wheat produces stronger flour, with more protein, say 13% or higher – giving the requisite gluten proteins to create certain bread structures, for the types of bread we’re more used to making in the UK.
Anyway, the recipe:
Cook about 50g of farro in water, simmering for about 45 minutes, until the grain is soft.
(You could use the cooking water for the sponge, though I didn’t in this case. You can also soak the grain overnight in ale, wine or friuit juice, if you’re interested in experimenting! Also, if you can’t get farro, wheat grains, aka wheat berries, would be fine.)
Make a sponge with:
250g wholewheat flour (I used an Italian integrale)
10g fresh yeast (or say 5g ADY if you can’t find fresh)
Leave the sponge to ferment for 8-12 hours. I did it overnight, in a fairly cold kitchen. (We’re in Rome, but it is January – nights getting down to around 0C.)
Make up the dough with:
150g wholewheat flour
100g white bread flour (I used an Italian bread which, despite being called “Farina di grano duro” – flour from hard wheat – and professing to be “per pane, focacce e dolci” – for bread, foccacia and sweets – is only 10% protein. See my perplexity? It worked ok though, so you could use a British plain flour.)
Bring the dough together and add the farro grains.
Knead. It’s sticky, that’s good, don’t worry!
Clean off your hands with some extra flour and bring the dough to a ball.
Ferment, covered, for about 4 hours, or until doubled in size.
I gave mine a few turns.
Turn out, form a ball, and rest for 10 minutes.
I formed a baton and proved it in a 36cm (14″) long basket.
Final prove until doubled in volume.
I turned it onto a baking sheet and made one long dorsal cut.
Bake in a preheated oven at 220C for 20 minutes, then turn down to 200C and bake for another 20 minutes. Or thereabouts.