Before we get to the recipe, there is something you need to know about this famous Italian number. Tthe dough is a bugger to work with because it’s sticky. Hold on hold on, before you all flee to your bunkers, arms waving as you shriek with panic, this isn’t anything to worry about, it’s just another rung on your leaven ladder. The final results are impressive, the texture really open but with a gorgeous chewy crust. Great with all things italian, or on its own with a bowl of olives, some decent olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. So follow the below, and you’ll have your own slot on “Saturday Kitchen” in no time. Come on, you know you love James Martin.
Recipe makes 3 loaves
for the “starter”
100g strong white bread flour
100g Italian “00” flour (if you can’t find this easily there is a cheat – it’s sold in supermarkets and is known as “sauce flour” – look for the “00” on the packet)
all your starter
250g strong white
250g Italian “00”
50g olive oil
baking stone or upturned tray for the oven
The day before you want to bake, make your starter. Take your 100g of leaven and mix with the water, then add the flours and mix well. seal tightly and place somewhere warm like an airing cupboard. The following morning it’ll be really beery and smelling wonderful, with a really open texture. Like this:
Place your starter in a big bowl and add the water and the olive oil and mix thoroughly. Then add the flours – do not add the salt at this stage.
after you’ve given it a good mix, cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 mins then:
lightly oil your work surface, and your bowl
knead for ten seconds
rest for 10 mins
knead for 10 secs
rest for 10 mins
add the salt by spreading the dough out like you would a cloth, sprinkle it all over and knead/fold for 10 secs
rest for 30 mins
knead for 10 secs
rest for an hour
FLOUR your work surface well, then take your dough out and gently fold it a couple of times with the intention of making it into a ball. It won’t want to come out of the bowl, so show it who’s boss.
cover with a tea towl and leave it on your worksurface for 45 minutes then with your fingers, press it out into a aquare shape, about 8 inches all around. Take a sharp knife with a long blade and cut your square into 3. take one strip, and fold it into three by taking hold of one end, then folding it into the middle and pressing down, then take the opposite end and fold that over the top and press down. Make sure you seal it in with your fingers – this folding gives your loaf some strength. Make sure your loaves are well floured by rubbing the tops and sides with flour then place them on a semolina covered peel (piece of stiff cardboard). cover with a tea towel and leave for around 2 hours until they’ve doubled in size – make sure you put the oven on full blast after the first hour of resting (ensure your stone or upturned tray is in there too)
Just before you slide them in the oven, take each loaf in turn by both ends and stretch it out thereby making it longer. Don’t be shy about it, be confident, but gentle at the same time. It’s this which gives the distinctive shape. Quickly mist your oven with water, and slide your loaves on to your stone/tray. How to slide from your card to the oven is below:
Give them 10 mins at full whack (about 240c-ish, higher if you can) then open the door, spray again quickly (4 squirts should do it) turn your oven down to 210 and give them another 20 mins. These timings and temps work for my fan oven, but yours may differ, so keep an eye on them, you’re looking for a really good crust colour – think of that bloke from Bargain Hunt, kind of orangey tan.
You’ll find the dough sticky and unusual to work with when you knead but at that point do not be tempted to add more flour, or you’ll balls it up. I mean it, don’t add flour when kneading.
This is what you’re after. Ta-dah! Check out the light airy texture. By the way, all the images on this site are shot either with an Iphone or a Canon G10 compact, for you camera geeks out there.