This rustic italian-style country bread recipe is my version of a Pan Bigio ,which is a popular bread found all over Italy. The nice thing about Italian breads and recipes is that there are no hard and fast rules and different variations of Pan Bigio would be produced regionally with local ingredients and techniques. Typical features of this bread that are common to all variations are a firm, crusty exterior, a chewy crumb and, thanks to a long slow fermentation time, a well developed flavour. My Italian-style country bread is made with a blend of whole wheat flour and strong bread flour and is leavened with a “biga” or “pre-fermented dough” and a small amount of dried yeast. This version is made with regular wholewheat flour and strong bread flour, for an even more rustic loaf stoneground whole wheat flour would be good, if its available. This bread is a perfect bread to enjoy with good simple foods such as olives, cheese, green salads and tomatoes.
Italian-style country bread recipe
Ingredients for 2 large loaves
Biga, or pre-ferment
2g instant dried yeast
260g warm water
330g wheat flour , 550 or 1050.
mix all the ingredients for the Biga and leave to ferment for at least 12 hours and upto 24hours.
250g fermented Biga
250g wholewheat flour
620g wheat flour, 550
5g dried yeast
16g sea salt
mix all the ingredients first by hand to ensure that the biga is well broken up and blended into the dough mix. Then either knead with the dough hook of your mixer or by hand for 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer for the kneading do take the time to finish it my hand with a few good stretches and slaps on your work surface, this will give extra strength to your dough. Form your dough into a tight ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours or until at least doubled in size.
Turn out the fermented dough onto a floured work surface and gently deflate it. Divide into 2 equal pieces and form into tight ovals. Place onto a peel (pre-dusted with semolina or cornmeal) or baking sheet and leave for the second rise at room temperature for 1.5 hours. 45 minutes before you are ready to bake the loaves pre-heat your oven and baking stones (if you are using) to 250degrees. When the loaves are fully prooved (test by the fingerprint spring back test, see tips), quickly slide them off the peel onto the hot baking stone, bake with steam for 10 minutes at 250 degrees and then reduce the heat to 200degrees and bake for a further 50 minutes, or longer if you want a really dark, crunchy crust.