The August challenge bake was chosen by Elizabeth of blog from our kitchen. Its an interestingly simple bread from one of my favourite baking books, Carol Fields’ “The Italian Baker”.
L’Otto di Merano is a traditional Italian rye bread, simply named after its form (an eight) and its home, Merano. Merano is a town in south Tyrol, northern Italy. Its full of character and famous for wines, particularly the light red wines that Italians do the best.
Now, about this bread. One thing that I really like about baking this recipe is the dough, it is so nice to handle, and its no secret that I do not like to knead sticky mud-like rye flour doughs. With this recipe the rye flour component is high enough to give that lovely rye bread texture but thanks to a high proportion of wheat flour there is no stickyness to the dough.
The recipe involves first making a sponge, or pre-ferment, by mixing some of the flour and the yeast with all of the water and allowing it to ferment before using it in the main dough. There are 2 advantages to including this step; firstly, the yeast becomes fully activated in this runny mixture before it meets the more restrictive conditions of the final dough. The second advantage is that the flavour of the rye flour is intensified during this pre-fermentation. The addition of malt to the mixture, brings flavour aswell as a little colour, especially in the crust.
I made this bread twice. The first time, I second guessed the oven spring and made some cuts in the surface of the dough, even though the recipe does not say to do this. The second time, I just baked the loaves without pre-cutting. Both versions tasted wonderful but the uncut version is aesthetically more pleasing. The 2 rounds of the eight are perfectly round and the smooth surface is a really nice look in this particular bread, which does not have such a significant oven rise as pure wheat breads do.
The only changes I made to the original recipe are; Instead of lard I used olive oil. Simply because I have no use for lard and did not want to buy a whole pack just for 2 tablespoons. I used fennel seeds instead of caraway because I prefer the subtle sweet flavour of fennel over the stronger taste of caraway seeds.
Recipe for L’Otto di Merano
Ingredients for 1 medium loaf
7g dried yeast
21g malt syrup
360g warm water
100g whole rye flour
100g all purpose wheat flour
All of the sponge
2 tablespoons of olive oil
400g all purpuse flour
3g crushed fennel seeds
- Mix the ingredients for the sponge, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 3 hours at room temperature.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the sponge and knead either with a dough hook and electric mixer or by hand for 10 ish minutes.
- Stretch and fold the dough by hand to fully develop the gluten. Form the dough into a tight ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise at room temperature for 1.5-2 hours, until at least doubled in size.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, divide into 2 equal sized pieces and form each one into a very tight ball.
- Place each ball on a baking try next to each other, cover loosely with a tea towel and allow to re-rise for 1 hour.
- 30 minutes before you are ready to bake your loaf, pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until hollow when tapped and nicely golden in colour.
Thank you Elizabeth for highlighting this lovely Italian Rye bread. Its a nice and easy bread to bake and is perfect with Proscuitto or your favourite Italian cheese.