Artisan Heirloom Grain Bread

The health benefits of this bread are almost as impressive as the delicious and satisfying flavor. Thanks to Claudio Pozzi and Comune di Bagnaia for teaching me how to make this bread, and for providing the heirloom grain flour.

Ingredients for a one-kilo or two-pound loaf of bread:

50 grams or 1/4 cup of pasta madre (starter dough–recipe below)
650 grams or 5 cups of stone ground whole grain flour with the bran sifted out.*
400 milliliters or 2 cups of water

How to make the pasta madre (starter dough), 4-5 days before making the bread:

whole grain flour
tablespoons water, enough to make a thick but liquid batter
small piece of raw apple or half-teaspoon of jam or yogurt (optional)

Mix together the flour and water to make approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cup of  liquid batter, and let it sit, covered, at room temperature, for 4-5 days. To help fuel the fermentation process that makes the yeast in the starter, you can add a tiny bit of fruit (the size of the tip of your baby finger) or jam or yogurt, to the batter.

How to make the bread:

First, activate the starter dough:

50 grams of starter (pasta madre)
150 grams of whole-grain flour ground from heirloom grains
75 milliliters of fresh water

In a large mixing bowl, mix ingredients together with your hand just until moistened.
Cover with a moist tea towel and let rise until the dough is doubled in size, 2-3 hours in the summer; overnight in the winter.

Making the dough in the morning, or whenever it is doubled in size:

Add to the starter dough that has been rising:

320 milliliters or 1-1/3 cups of water
500 grams or 3-3/4 cup of stone ground whole grain flour
1 teaspoon salt

Begin by mixing the water into the starter dough to form a wet pudding like mixture; let sit for 15 minutes, covered. Now, sprinkle a ring of the flour, perhaps ¼ cup at a time, around the edge of the bowl and then, using your hand, gently and lightly scoop underneath the dough and fold it over. Turn the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat this movement. Each time, as your hand comes up from under the dough, pull on the dough, stretching it out like taffy and then lightly fold it over. You are not so much mixing the dough as you are introducing air into it with this stretching and folding process. The flour is used only to help you incorporate more air into the dough. No need to punch and pummel this dough!–it is counterproductive, Claudio warns us. If the dough becomes sticky, add more around the outer edges. You are creating a loose, shaggy dough instead of a dense, perfect Pillsbury dough ball.

When it is soft and elastic, form a ball by holding the dough on the palm of one hand while turning and caressing the edges of the dough under to form a smooth round cap. Place on a dry linen or cotton cloth (which can be placed in a round or oval shaped bread basket, or a medium sized bowl); cover and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 2-3 hours in the summer and up to six hours in the winter.

Heat the oven to 220 degrees centigrade or 425 degrees fahrenheit.

Just before placing the dough into the oven, turn it out of the towel in which it has been rising so it is upside down and place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (if you are not using a wood-fired oven).

When the oven is fully heated, place the bread in to bake. Begin checking on it after 30 minutes. It is finished when the outside is a rich golden brown and when you tap on the crust and hear a hollow, melon-like sound. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack, then store, covered in a cloth, at least twelve hours before slicing. This allows time for the microorganisms in the dough to permeate the entire loaf.  This bread keeps, unrefrigerated, for five days or more. Enjoy!

Please write to me if you try this recipe. I would like to know how it comes out.
*Also, please share heirloom grain resources in the US on this site. I would like to help our readers find these wonderful old grains.:



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