Homemade Ciabatta

The types of flour available in Italy are different, or at least labeled differently, from flour available elsewhere. Two types, farina di grano tenero 00 and semola di grano duro rimacinata are available more and more outside of Italy because we like to use them to make pizza and pasta. Grano tenero means soft wheat and is used for pastries. Even though it is referred to as tenero in Italy, farina 00 can be high-gluten to use for pizza or fresh egg-based pasta as well as low-gluten to be used for cakes. Grano duro means hard wheat (durum wheat) and is used for dry pasta as well as water-based fresh pasta in Southern Italy. If you buy flour that is labelled as ‘all purpose flour’, you don’t really know what kind of flour it is. It probably has low gluten and then will be unsuitable for making pizza or pasta. For making bread with a long rising time such as ciabatta, flour with a very high amount of gluten is used in Italy. This flour is called farina Manitoba, and is named after the province in Canada where this wheat is being produced. The high amount of gluten makes it ‘strong flour’, which means that the dough can rise better.

I haven’t found a source for Manitoba flour in the Netherlands, but I was curious about the difference with bread flour as it is available here and so brought a bag of farina Manitoba from Italy. I used to farina Manitoba to bake ciabatta bread for the first time, and I was very pleased with the result. For ciabatta the long rise is crucial to give it the characteristic airy texture and crispy crust. I’ve based the recipe on that of GialloZafferano.it. It is interesting to note that three different types of flour are required to make ciabatta: 00, manitoba, and semolina. The latter is used as a ‘gluten coat’ for the rising and for the crust. Continue reading “Homemade Ciabatta”

Homemade Italian Bread

When I have guests over for dinner, chances are I will cook a 4-course Italian dinner for them (antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce). With such a dinner I always bake this bread. Freshly baked bread is a treat that will impress your guests. It is not a lot of work if you have a stand mixer. Allow about 4 hours from start to ready to slice, but most of that is inactive time. Bread is also great for fare la scarpetta, cleaning every last drop of sauce from your plate with bread. This bread has a great crust and neutral flavor that doesn’t overpower the food. This is the reason why I do not generally bake bread stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, or the like, because then the bread would play the lead rather than a supporting role. Continue reading “Homemade Italian Bread”

Focaccia alla Genovese

Focaccia is mostly known as Italian flat bread topped with herbs, salt, and olive oil. One of the original types of focaccia is the one from Liguria, known as focaccia alla genovese after the capital city of Liguria (Genova). This is plain focaccia, preferably eaten still warm, and not only eaten with dinner but also used for sandwiches as well as for breakfast! Focaccia alla Genovese is salty, oily and slightly crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. You could also bake it topped this with olives, rosemary, or sage, but it is really good just … Continue reading Focaccia alla Genovese

Italian bread

Whenever I have guests over for dinner I always bake this bread. Even though it’s straightforward bread, since it’s fresh out of the oven it has a great taste, texture and smell and is therefore always very well-received. I use my breadmaker to make the dough, but use the oven to bake it for a superior crust and shape. It is not a lot of work at all to make your own bread if you own a breadmaker to make the dough for you, but you do need to consider that it will take about 5 hours from start to … Continue reading Italian bread