A Wonderful New Sandwich Loaf





I fell in love with durum flour years ago on a trip to Sicily when I discovered that it was responsible for the golden color and sweet nutty flavor of the bread. I had been using it for pasta, adding a little bread flour to give it more elasticity and loved the firm al dente texture and delicious flavor. So when Beatrice Ughi of Gustiamo sent me a bag of the Pane Nero flour they just started to import I couldn't wait to try it for bread baking. (Gustiamo is a terrific site for many wonderful products from Italy) This flour, called Pane Nero, is a blend of 30% Tumminia, a whole ancient grain, and 70% durum semolina. It has a heavenly aroma and is the color of golden sand. I jumped right in and tried my recipe for no knead bread using 100% of this flour. I added 75 grams of my old sour dough starter to give it more structure and I needed to add 50 grams -almost 1/4 cup more water and the resulting loaf, though it rose well, had no oven spring and was too dense and hard.

Next I tried it using the recipe for my favorite part whole wheat bread. I replaced the whole wheat flour with equal weight pane nero. I also added my usual firm sour dough starter (I freeze the leftover starter every week after feeding it, so it is not replacing commercial yeast but rather it contributes to the structure, shelf life and flavor). A whole new bread was born--a new favorite! Not only is this bread exceptionally flavorful, it has the perfect degree of density, making it possible to accommodate spreads without tearing, and not squishing down when making a grilled cheese sandwich on a panini press.



Note: pane nero flour is organic and, as with all organic wheat that has not been sprayed with any sort of insecticide, it is advisable to freeze it for 48 hours when it first arrives to ensure that it remains bug free. It will remain fresh for well over a year in the freezer, and for up to 3 months refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 450°F/230°C

Bake 35  to 45 minutes

Makes:  One 9 inch by 4 inch high loaf

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Equipment: A 9 inch by 5 inch (7 cup), or 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan if not adding the starter, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. A baking stone or baking sheet.

1) Soak the Starter: In a mixer bowl, place the water and cut or tear the sponge into small pieces into it. Add the honey, cover and allow it to sit for about 1 hour. In a large bowl whisk together the bread flour, pane nero flour, non-fat milk powder, and yeast. Add about 300 grams/2 cups/300 ml to the water mixture and whisk until smooth and the consistency of a thick pancake batter. (This is to distribute the pieces of starter evenly.) (If using a bread machine place the water and honey in a medium bowl. Tear the starter into the bowl,in a few pieces, and stir it together until soft. Scrape it into the bowl of the bread machine. Whisk together the two flours, milk powder but not the yeast, oil, or salt and sprinkle the mixture on top. Let sit covered 30 minutes to 1 hour.)

2) Mix the dough: Add the rest of the flour mixture and, with the dough hook, mix on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead the dough on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) for 7 minutes, adding the salt after the oil is mixed in. (If not using the starter, use only 1-1/2 teaspoons/9 grams of salt.) (In the bread machine, mix it for 3 minutes and then autolyse--let rest--for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead for 7 minutes, adding the yeast after the first minute and the salt after the yeast is mixed in.) The dough should be sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and knead it. (The dough should weigh about 986 grams/ a little over 2 pounds--about 1 quart/liter).

3) Let the dough rise: Place the dough into a 3 quart or larger dough rising container greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 80°F/26°C.) until doubled in size (to 2 liters), about an hour and 10 minutes. (at 75°F/24°C 2 hours + 15 minutes.) Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a lightly floured counter. Press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Stretch the dough and give it a package fold (pull out the bottom and fold it to the center, then the same with the left side, right side, and top), round the edges and return it to the bowl, smooth side up. Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be (3 quarts) and allow it to rise until it reaches this point, about 1 hour. (Or dimple and shape it into a loaf after it has rested 20 minutes; set it in an oiled zipseal bag; refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature for about 1 hour or until risen full as indicated in step 4 before baking.

4) Shape the dough and let it rise: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter, smooth side down, and press it gently to flatten it. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary to keep it from sticking. Allow the dough to rest covered for 20 minutes. Dimple it all over with your finger tips to eliminate air bubbles, shape it into a loaf, and place it in the prepared loaf pan. It will fill the pan no more than 1/2 inch from the top. Cover it lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until the highest point is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the sides of the pan and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in--about 45 minutes.

5) Preheat the oven: 1 hour before baking set a cast iron pan lined with foil onto the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.

6) Bake the bread: Spritz the top of the dough with water. Quickly but gently set the bread pan onto the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door, lower the temperature to 400°F/230°C, and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will register about 205°F/96°C. After the first 20 minutes of baking tent loosely with foil and rotate the pan half way around for even baking.

7) Cool the bread: Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up.