Pane Pugliese

Pane Pugliese is a rustic yeasted white bread typical of the Puglia region of Italy. In this version, I swap out potato flour for cubes of cooked potato.

For the starter:

1/2 cup + 1/2 teaspoons white rye flour

1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons dark rye flour

generous 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon water at about 60°F (15°C)

 

For the roasted potatoes:

14 oz unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch (6 mm) dice

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoons flaky sea salt, preferably Maldon

Dusting Mixture (1 part fine semolina flour and 5 parts white flour), for the lined proofing basket and the shaped loaf

 

For the dough:

3 cups + 2 1/2 teaspoons white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough

1/2 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons medium whole wheat flour

2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

generous 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 cups + 1 teaspoon water at about 60°F (15°C)

Dusting Mixture (see above), for the lined proofing basket and the shaped loaf

Directions Comments & Suggestions

Chef’s Note: The most common rendition of Pane Pugliese is a rustic yeasted white bread typical of the Puglia region of Italy (which you might have guessed from its name). The version I first learned to make used wheat and potato flours and was taught to me by George DePasquale, an Italian-American baker in Seattle. I’ve since developed this version, which incorporates rye for a full-flavored starter. As for the potato flour, I skipped it and went straight to pieces of whole potato. As is so often the case in bread making, changing this one variable completely altered the character of the bread.

The virtue of leaving the potatoes in small chunks is both texture and flavor. And I don’t peel the potatoes, because I like the texture of the skin, which dries out during roasting.

In this way, the potato contributes to the final bread in the same way olives or raisins do in other breads, providing little islands of flavor and texture in the larger expanse of crumb.

However, the potato’s contribution really starts in during the fermentation stage. The yeast has to work harder and longer to digest the potato, and it creates new and varied flavors as it does so. But strangely, the finished loaf doesn’t taste strongly of potatoes. I think what happens is that the potato starch turns into alcohol, sugars, and a multitude of flavor components as it breaks down and combines with the other ingredients. Just before baking, the finished dough smells sweet and bracing, very much like a wheat beer. One of my regular customers always buys half a loaf at a time, explaining that he’s so addicted to this bread that if he bought whole loaves, he would come back for another one just as frequently, so he’d eat twice as much bread in the same amount of time. My question is, What’s wrong with that?

  1. For the starter: Stir together the white and dark rye flours in a medium storage container. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the flour. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. Cover the container and let sit at room temperature for 11 to 15 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 13 hours.
  2. For the roasted potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Put the potatoes in a bowl. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt, then toss until evenly coated. Spread on a half sheet pan and bake until the skin is golden brown and the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. The potatoes will decrease in weight when roasted. You will need 200 grams (1 1/2 cups) of roasted potatoes for this recipe. Let cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. For the dough: Stir together the white and whole wheat flours, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl.
  4. Pour about one-third of the water around the edges of the starter to release it from the sides of the container. Transfer the starter and water to an extra-\large bowl along with the remaining water. Using a wooden spoon, break the starter up to distribute it in the water.
  5. Add the flour mixture, reserving about one-sixth of it along the edge of the bowl. Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix until incorporated. At this point the dough will be sticky to the touch.
  6. Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Roll and tuck the dough, adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue rolling and tucking until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further rolling, about 16 times. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a clean bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  1. For the first stretch and fold, lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using the plastic bowl scraper, release the dough from the bowl and set it, seam-side down, on the work surface. Gently stretch it into a rectangular shape. Fold the dough in thirds from top to bottom and then from left to right. With cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough in the bowl, seam-side down, cover the bowl with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  2. For the second stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  3. For the third and final stretch and fold, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle, scatter the potatoes over the top, and gently press them into the dough. Roll up the dough tightly from the end closest to you; at the end of the roll the dough will be seam-side down. Turn it over, seam-side up, and gently press on the seam to flatten the dough slightly. Fold in thirds from left to right and then do one roll and tuck sequence to incorporate the potatoes. Turn the dough seam-side down and tuck the sides under toward the center. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Line a 9-inch (23-centimeter) proofing basket or bowl with a clean kitchen towel and dust the towel fairly generously with the dusting mixture.
  5. Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour, and shape the dough into a round. Dust the sides and top of the dough with the dusting mixture, fold the edges of the towel over the top, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  6. Transfer the basket to the refrigerator and chill for 14 to 18 hours.
  7. Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a covered 6-quart (5.7-liter), 10-inch (25-centimeter) round cast-iron Dutch oven on the rack. Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
  8. Remove the basket of dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature while you allow the oven to preheat for about 1 hour.
  9. Using heavy-duty oven mitts or potholders, remove the Dutch oven, place it on a heatproof surface, and remove the lid.
  10. Using the kitchen towel, lift and gently ease the dough out of the basket and onto a baking peel, seam-side down. Then carefully transfer it into the pot (the Dutch oven will be very hot). Score the top of the dough, cover the pot, and return it to the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 460°F (240°C) and bake for 30 minutes.
  11. Rotate the Dutch oven and remove the lid. The loaf will already be a rich golden brown. Continue baking, uncovered, until the surface is a deep, rich brown, with some spots along the score being even slightly darker (bien cuit), about 20 minutes longer.
  1. Loosen the edges of the loaf with a long handled spoon and then with the help of the spoon lift out of the pot onto a cooling rack. When the bottom of the loaf is tapped, it should sound hollow. If not, return it to the oven and bake directly on the rack for 5 minutes longer.
  2. Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.

Pane Pugliese

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