Category Archives: Pugliese

How to Make Pugliese Bread

I love this bread. Such a nice, glossy, slightly golden interior and spongy texture. Great for dipping in olive oil, and let’s not get started about sandwiches.

Did I say get started? Then let’s. Your refrigerated starter should be bubbly, about like so (fancy crockery bowl not required):

Put it into the bowl of your mixer (it’ll deflate totally):

Then add your dry ingredients on top (note I’m making eight loaves’ worth here, so your quantities will be different, though the overall look and feel of the dough will be the same).

Mix with the paddle for two minutes to moisten, then apply the dough hook for five minutes. The finished product should look like this:

Wet and stretchy, no? That’s a good thing. Transfer to a bowl and let sit for half an hour. Then give it a stretch or two to spread the yeast around.

Wait another half hour and give it another stretch.

Then another half hour and one more stretch.

Is it sticky, messy work?

It is.

So then, once the stretching is all done, let the dough rise for almost two hours, until it triples in volume and looks like this (this is half my dough, the rest is in another bowl that looks just like this…it didn’t seem to warrant another photo):

Turn the dough out onto a VERY well-floured board (durum, if you’re using it). Then cut it into 13-ounces pieces with a bench scraper or knife.

Now then, fetching the closest available small basket, bowl or colander, line it with a towel or napkin and sprinkle with more flour (durum, preferably)

Place your lump of dough in it, bringing the cut sides up to the top of the ball and pinching them closed. This is all the shaping you’ll need to do for this very slack dough.

Sprinkle with more flour, fold the corners of the cloth over to cover and let sit for 1 1/4 hours or so until the loaves are very poofy.

With your oven up to blazing temperature, dust your peel with flour.

Turn your dough out onto it…

…and slash the tops as best you can with a razor blade or sharp knife. Dough this wet doesn’t slash too well, but if you can manage it, the loaves will come out prettier.

Insert into your oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I know, you probably don’t have one of these. However when I get back next week I’ll show you how to prepare your own oven to be more like a big, brick hearth. Until then, have a Merry Christmas all you baking fanatics!

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Pugliese Recipe

Did I mention you’ll need some durum flour? You will, and it can be hard to find. You can of course order it online, or just use all white flour instead. The loaf you’ll get will have as much right to be called “Pugliese” as mine — ’cause neither one of them will be made in Apulia! Anyway, my recipe is a variation on one I found in Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Bread Bible. The main difference is that where hers calls for a commercial yeast-based biga starter, mine calls for a “sour” starter — the kind I put up instructions for on the menu over there to the right. It gives you a lot more flavor (and a reason to keep re-using that starter). Anyway, here it is. For two 13-ounce loaves:

5 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
5 ounces durum flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
7 ounces water
10 ounces refrigerated starter

The treatment of the starter is an important part of the process. It can’t be ancient, flat, firm stater that hasn’t seen the light of day for weeks. It must be light and bubbly — not that it’s going to leaven the bread much. The idea is to build it up in the day or so leading up to baking. I “wake” mine two days before with a feeding and 4-hour fermentation at room temperature. I then put it in the refrigerator overnight and do the same thing the following day, building it up to the quantity I need (and then some). Then I refrigerate it again for use the next day. I quadruple this recipe because, well, my oven holds a lot of bread.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix with the paddle for two minutes to combine your ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and knead for five more minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (if it doesn’t, add more flour a couple of tablespoons at a time until it does).

Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise for half an hour, then stretch and/or fold it once or twice. Let it rise another half hour and repeat the stretching. Then let it rise another half hour and stretch it again. Let the dough rise for 1 and 3/4 hours after that, until it’s almost tripled in size (this is a very airy dough).

Turn out the dough, and divide it into two equal pieces. Pull each piece into a rough ball shape and place it in a basket (or bowl or colander) lined with a flour-dusted napkin or towel. Let rise for about 1 1/4 hours until it’s puffy. Turn the dough pieces, one at a time, out onto a floured peel and transfer them to a baking stone in 550 degree (or as hot as you can make it) oven. Bake about 20 minutes until dark golden brown.

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