Baking some Italian Bread: Pane di Como

Pane di ComoMy 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)

Starter

  • 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.

Dough

  • 2 C water, room temperature
  • 6 ¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • Cornmeal

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.

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9 comments

  1. that looks delicious..I need to try it.where do you get the malt syrup? My grandmother (Dad’s mom) made the best bread ever…wish I had taken the time to cook with her and learn her secrets before she passed…

      1. Ok thanks- will take a look..I’m sure you will find lots in there to tell us about 🙂 raisin bread looks awesome…

  2. hi there, may i suggest to you, to use “powder malt”,it doesn’t expire

    Easy to find, with a lot of kindness from a baker, believe me they’ll be pleased to help you.

    use it in 3% over the flour, right near the yeast.

    And maybe, you’re missing the entire “cold period” phase

    I’m a bread passionate and last friday i was in como.

    Nice book , with a lot of nice recipes……

    Havefun, eat more bread

    Ciao

    1. I’ll look for some powder malt, we’ve got a few bakeries in the neighborhood I can try. We loved our time in Como and really want to go back. I definitely get impatient to bake the bread and probably should wait a little longer. Ciao, grazie mille!

      1. The picture looks great. I found you page because I made this bread last night and I was unsure how well I did without a photo. I was expecting larger holes but alas, it’s looking like I did a good job. By the way the breads of la Brea bakery book has bagel recipes which also use the malt syrup. It can stay in the fridge pretty long time. Thank you for sharing. I have a live starter I am constantly feed and using for bread. It’s now 5 years old.

  3. One thing. Do you make a slit with a razor in the dough just before baking ? On other breads I do to let air out and prevent the “split” and it works most times. Use a new razor blade.

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