Much of the time I’ve been in Italy, I’ve been looking for the definitive book on Italian bread and baking. Every time I visit Eataly or larger book shops, I pick up and put back down sundry tomes. It’s baffling though: many are rudimentary and some of them are even written and published in English and translated into Italian. The book I’m looking for may exist, but I haven’t found it yet.
I’ve not seen the revised edition of (American) Carol Field’s ‘The Italian Baker’ yet, though from my memories of the original, that’s not the definitive book either*.
If I lived in Italy for 20 more years, and worked in Italian bakeries, maybe I could write it… but that ain’t looking likely at the moment.
So in the meantime, I pick up the occasional book to tide me over. The latest one I bought is the Slow Food Editore (the movement’s own imprint) ‘Pane, pizze e focacce’ – “Breads, pizzas and flatbreads” if you want a semi-bodged, largely gratuitous translation.
This isn’t a classic book by any means, but it does have some good stuff about types of lievito madre (“mother leaven”, ie natural leaven or sourdough starter), about grains and ingredients, and about various forms and shapes of breads. Some of the latter – with names like montasù and mafalda – struck my eye.
So that’s been my starting point with this book: trying some new shapes.
This is about something the book calls a baule. The word means “chest”, “trunk” or “boot” (as in storage area of a car) but I can’t find other evidence on t’interweb for this style of loaf, with this name. I’ve said before, though, much of Italy’s food tradition probably doesn’t exist in digital form yet.
Confusingly, a bauletto (“little chest”) is a term that does seem to be used for this shape of loaf, from Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, but name is also more commonly used to refer to a white tin loaf, often sliced.
I’ll just have to give ‘Pane, pizze e foccacce’ authors Davide Longoni and Marcella Cigognetti the benefit of the dough…t (hm, that doesn’t quite work does it?) about baule.
This isn’t a recipe, it’s just a record of trying a new shape. For the dough I just used the classic 10g fresh yeast, 10g salt, 350g water, 500g flour, with a mix of strong white and wholegrain.
So basically, you make your dough, and give it a first prove.
Then you deflate it slightly, form a ball and give it a rest.
Then you stretch out that ball to form a rectangle, which you roll up tightly to form a cylinder or sausage shape.
Roll and stretch this sausage to elongate it.
Once you have a nice long sausage, flatten it with a rolling pin.
Once you have a nice long flat rectangle, roll this up, keeping it as tight as possible.
You’ll get a nice sort of baton shape.
I love the spiral ends.
You then get a knife. The book says use the blunt edge, so you could also use a pastry scraper. Make a deep cut into – but not all the way through – the baton.
Move this to a baking sheet.
Cover with a cloth, then leave to prove again, until it’s doubled in size.
Bake. I did my usual time and temp for a loaf this size – 20 minutes at 220C, 20 minutes at 200C.
When baked, remove and cool on a wire rack.
It looks rather nice, and you can tear it down the centre to share during a meal.
But I’d still love to see one of these things in a real Italian bakery. If anyone has every encountered this shape of loaf in Italy, please do let me know! I’m intrigued.
* I did originally include links to Amazon here, but this excellent piece by Russell Brand reminded me they’re still corporate tax-dodgers with questionably “cosy relationships with members of our government”.