After making pizza after pizza the other day, I browsed the same book, Carol Field's Italian Baker, and found a recipe I made a lot for a little while..Pane Pugliese. This recipe reminds me of the bread you get at Sam's Italian Market in Willow Grove, PA, a bit north of Philadelphia, near the PA Turnpike. Sam's is an incredible Italian grocery in a suburban blank spot (my opinion only; we lived and liked it near there for six years...Sam's was one thing that helped us like it) and the bread that place turned out: moist, dense, full of flavor. Flavorful, in fact.
So my penciled notes from way back when(date: 3/23/92. Sam was not even 4, Ian just 2 1/2, Bryn not even a thought) say, "Great texture, moist. Reminds me of Sam's. Relatively easy, slightly messy (sticky)."
Like the pizza, I did have a strike...well, not a strike so much as a fire in the oven...With the first batch of bread yesterday. So here's what happened: I use an oven thermometer. Oven was at 450. I put in the loaves, ran to pick Bryn up and got back to a...very toasty smell, shall we say? The oven thermometer was reading 550. The third loaf, the one that was on the lower rack? A blackened door stop. A large piece of charcoal. The parchment paper? Gone. I can only guess it self-combusted (oh, I know, nothing self about it!)...Luckily, the two loaves on the top shelf seemed okay...
The little loaves went fast. I had promised one to a friend, and the rest barely made appetizers for this family.
So today, I wanted more. I did only two loaves (same recipe, bigger loaves) and baked both on the top rack. All went well. But oddly enough, the oven was registering 550 when I took the loaves out. Weird, but worth watching.
Anyway, this bread is every bit as good as I remember it. This is a loaf made with a "biga" or starter, which is what I think gives it its texture.
Every time I make bread, I wonder why I don't do it more often. I own a Kitchenaid. The flour
costs pennies. And homemade bread? This is real food.