I’ve spent most of my summers in Tuscany.
As long as I can remember, the summer started at the end of the CISA highway, when the Tyrrhenian Motorway begins, and so do its oleander-filled traffic islands.
This image is so impressed in my mind that any time I see an oleander, I so much crave for the Tuscan sun.
Before it was Versilia, then ten or more years at the Elba island, and in the last fifteen years Maremma has been my land of escape.
I feel sad somehow as maybe this year (thanks Coronavirus…) I will not make it there. I will sorely miss the Uccellina Park, the baby wild bears crossing the street in search of food in the night, the view from Vetulonia, the narrow streets of Volterra, the grass diving into the sea at the Baratti Gulf, the castle at Castiglione della Pescaia, the Thursday market in Grosseto, the rotten egg smell of the spas in Saturnia.
I’ve been often nostalgic and sad in the past week, and all I could to do cure this nostalgia was to bake the Tuscan bread, that is a saltless bread. This bread is the main ingredient of the Panzanella, another typical Tuscan recipe.
The preparation is not so difficult as it may seem, and it is one of the breads I find so much satisfaction in the making. I love to hear the sound of the cracking surface as soon as it comes out of the oven. It sounds like the bread is singing, and it’s a lovely music altogether.
The Tuscan bread has its own production specification, requesting the use of sourdough. This time I tried the quickest way, and I prepared it with a biga, that is a an acidified dough of the previous day, so everyone can bake it, even those who have not their own sourdough.
For the biga
300 gr bread flour
10 gr fresh brewer’s yeast
200 ml lukewarm water
For the dough
500gr bread flour
250 ml lukewarm water
On the night before prepare the biga by pouring the lukewarm water in a bowl, and melt the yeast in it. Then incorporate the flour little by little, using a spatula. Sir for about ten minutes, and you’ll see the dough become silky and smooth. Cover with cling foil and let it rest for 12 hours.
On the day after, pour in the bowl the lukewarm water and then the bread flour of the dough, and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will be quite soggy and soft, but it has to be.
If you use a kneading machine, put the biga in the machine bowl first, and then add the other ingredients.
Then let the dough rest for at least one hour, always under the cling foil.
Then put the dough onto a flour dusted work surface and fold the dough as if it were a letter, then shape the dough like a loaf.
Put it on a tray covered with parchment paper. Dust the surface with the flour and let it rest again for one hour. I covered the surface with cling foil this time too.
Preheat the oven at 230 degrees, put on its bottom a small pan full of water (it must be suitable for the oven so no plastic parts are allowed) and then when the oven is hot and ready take the cling foil off the bread and put it into the over and let it bake for 35 minutes.