Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Pane di Como

Pane di Como

I finally have this recipe figured out. I have tried it now and then over the years because I knew I would love it. But the dough was always impossibly slack. I would add more flour, but that always never worked well. Then I would forget about it for a few years, then come back to it, then have the same problems. 

Biga for the como bread on the left

This time, I measured by volume and not by weight. The recipe took an extra full cup of flour, by volume (I did not check the weight at all). Since I added the flour at the beginning, the recipe finally worked. However, even though I used bannetons, the loaf spread too much when baking. That could be because I had the oven too low so the oven spring was not optimal. Also, the bottom crust, see below, was too thick. Next time: I will have a hotter oven and an asbestos sheet pan underneath the Le Creuset and Lodge bread ovens.

Crumb of the como bread

This is the bread of Como, Italy. It is a rustic hearth bread (so I keep reading). No one seems to know if it is the water in Como that makes this bread world famous. For me, it is the crackly crust and the malt that sets it apart. I love the dense crumb. 

Como, Italy at the south end of Lake Como

The recipe is from Carol Field's book The Italian Baker. In fact, it is the first recipe. Her second recipe, Pane di Como Antico, seems to be more popular, though. It is more rustic and has a higher hydration so that there are holes throughout the crumb. That is fine for some occasions but is not my personal favorite type of bread. 

Whenever I begin exploring a region's breads, I attempt to stay with authentic ingredients that are available. Field said to use Morton sea salt and malt syrup. I got the salt (salinity in different salts is important to know) but since I always have diastatic malt powder on hand, I used that (it is a 1:1 substitution). The malt aids leavening and adds sweetness and color. 

The recipe uses a biga: an overnight starter made with a tiny bit of commercial yeast. I am pondering exploring more and different bigas in the future. They're fun. They make the bread-making a two day adventure. 

Morton sea salt and KAF diastatic malt powder

Yesterday, my Andrew alerted me to a Carol Field and Julia Child broadcast on his PBS station in Washington, DC. I'm able to watch it because he shares his PBS passport with me. But I can't share the video here. In the program, Field made grassini and an unnamed loaf of wheat bread. It was delightful to watch. I learned many nuances of mixing and handling dough. Watching Field also reminded me to slow down and remain calm during the entire process. Cherish the experience!

After I perfect this loaf, I will explore Panis Quadratus, a bread also from Italy but very, very ancient. I can't wait!

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  1. Great bread baking. I can smell it from the pic!

  2. Boy does that look good, yum, yum, yum!

  3. I love how you work so hard to learn and make these breads as authentically as possible.

  4. Hello,
    Your bread looks delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Take care, enjoy your day!

  5. That bread looks delicious ... enjoy it :)

    All the best Jan

  6. I'd love to try your bread. It looks amazing!

    Happy Sunday, Andree!

  7. Looks delicious.
    I think I have actually had Panis Quadratus - my parents made a four-grain Roman bread for a Roman-themed dinner with some friends of theirs (we kids got the leftovers).

  8. I like bread. Hubby cannot have yeast, though. I don't make it anymore.


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