With each bread for the BBA Challenge, I think this is it. This is the best bread. Then the next bread is made, and I think the same thing all over again. Given that my previous style was to find a bread I liked, and then make it over and over again, this challenge has been eye-opening. Committing to make all the breads, even when I really, really like the one I just made, is a skill I wished I had learned earlier in life. There were those relationships I stayed in for a long, long time, when I truly should have been only trying them on to see how they fit. Yup. Breadmaking is good for learning all kinds of life lessons.
This Italian Bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is one that my entire family wanted to marry. I’m sure they’ll be begging for it again soon, long after I’ve moved on to Kaiser Rolls and Lavash Crackers. It makes a crispy grilled cheese sandwich. (Rockin’, according to my son.) A perfect BLT with basil. It’s a wonderful foundation for a picnic with Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam triple-cream cheese. Toast with homemade butter. Dipped into a bowl of Rancho Gordo beans. In other words, extremely versatile. Which is why I didn’t even get to make croutons with it. Not a crumb left.
Peter Reinhart’s Italian Bread starts with a biga, which rests overnight in the fridge. (So many pre-ferments, so many names for them!) After it has come to room temperature the next day, the rest of the process is pretty normal: mix the biga into the rest of the ingredients, knead, let rise, shape, let rise again, slash, and bake in a hot oven with plenty of steam.
The loaves are soft, but retain a slight bit of chewiness to them. The flavor is soft, as well, not tasting strongly of any of the ingredients. Just a blank-canvas, plays-well-with-others kind of bread. Ready for anything you can throw on it, and sturdy enough to take it. Which is apparently a great bread to have around our house. But I’ll be moving on, as promised!