My mom is always sending me recipes she’s tried. I’ll suddenly get an envelope in the mail from her and inside will be a recipe clipped from a newspaper or magazine. Every now and then though a larger package will arrive in which I’ll find a cookbook she saw or found. This week, one of those packages arrived. And lucky me, there was not one but two cookbooks in the package! One was a D’Artagnan Glorious Game Cookbook but the one which really excited me was the other: The Italian Baker by Carol Field. The very first bread recipe is Pane di Como, or Como Bread. Since I hadn’t made any bread in a while this seemed like a good time to get back in the game!
Another reason I wanted to make Pane di Como is because Como holds a special place in my heart. Milan/Como was the first real vacation Cheryl and I took together before she started business school. Of course I couldn’t tell you what the bread tasted like in Como but we have great food memories from the trip so seeing a recipe for Pane di Como reminded me of it.
The bread turned out to be very close to the boule-type bread I normally make but I think the Pane di Como is a little lighter and sweeter. I’m guessing that was the work of the starter which I don’t normally use. One problem I have when baking bread is the loaves always seem to burst open. I thought I had solved that by lowering the oven temp when baking but it happened again, so I’m guessing I should have let them rise more. This is why I’m no baker, too much impatience to get my bread made! Regardless of the aesthetic appearance, the bread does taste very good. It’s a nice crusty loaf.
I’m very intrigued by this cookbook. The first 60 pages are all about the recipes and bread basics like ingredients and equipment, always good information to have. After the intro you get almost 240 pages of bread recipes including regional and rustic, new bread, using leftover breads (what a great idea for a bread book!), celebratory breads (fruits and nuts, sweet, holidays), rolls and breadsticks, pizza, and elegant breads (savory croissants, appetizers). The last 90 pages are devoted to dessert; tarts, cakes, and cookies. I am most definitely going to have some fun with this cookbook, and along the way maybe I’ll even learn some patience!
Pane di Como (from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker, makes two loaves)
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 scant teaspoon malt syrup
- ⅓ C warm water
- 2/3 C milk room temperature
- 1 C all-purpose flour
Combine and mix the yeast, malt syrup, and water. Let it stand about 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy. Stir in the milk and flour. Whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- 2 C water, room temperature
- 6 ¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs salt
Add the water to the starter and mix until the starter is broken up. Add the flour and salt and mix well on low speed for a few minutes. Using the dough hook, knead for 3-4 minutes. Remove from mixer and finish kneading by hand, 6-8 minutes more.
Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 90 minutes. The dough should be doubled in size and look bubbly and blistered.
Remove from bowl and cut dough in half. Shape into rounds/boules and place each in a banneton or a bowl lined with a well floured towel. Cover with towels and allow to rise for 60 mins.
Pre-heat your oven to 400°F. If you are using a baking stone, dust the stone with some cornmeal then invert the loaves onto the stone. Bake for about 60 minutes or until you get that hollow sound from tapping the bottom of the loaf. Cool the freshly baked bread on racks.