Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the Kitchen: Making Sweet Potato Pugliese Bread

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbour is a spiritual one. – Nikolai Berdyaev 

The finished "pane Pugliese"
Have you ever wanted to find a recipe and couldn’t? At one time my household had a recipe for pulgise bread (the regional "specialty" bread from Puglia, Italy). When that relationship ended, the cookbook—and recipe—left too. I have been Pugliese-less almost ever since, which is not a good thing.

A villa in a city in Puglia region. It must be wonderful to
live around such charm and beauty.
Puglia is a region in South-eastern Italy facing the Adriatic Sea. As in all of Italy, they have a rich and diverse culinary history. Any recipe that has “pugliese” in its name has origins in that location. I am particularly fond of their regional bread, as you may have guessed.

I thought the recipe was in Beard on Bread, or Beard on Pasta, or Beard on... something else. I am, of course referring to the famous Chef James Beard… But I had no luck.

I couldn’t even find comparable online in the thousand places I looked. It’s easy to recognize as it had an unusual final shaping method. It was folded over itself and then rounded on the bottom with your cupped hands. When it expanded in the oven it had distinctive "curls" on the ends.

I finally found one I’m sort of happy with. It still isn’t “the one” but it’s really quite good bread. This recipe was posted on by "Tim" in 2008. If you’ve ever been to "The Fresh Loaf" you will know they are hard core bread bakers. I suggest you go. Some amazing stuff there.

Some of the recipes there are complicated with a capital “c”, others not so. After making this bread a couple times I have streamlined his somewhat laborious process to something more normal. The result is great. (I hope he doesn’t mind my intrusion into his very hard work.)

It’s Saturday. You do have time to make it. It would be a great addition to your Easter feast, or any gathering for that matter. I've also given you pictures of all the important stages, so you have no excuse.

This is after the first rise, before the remainder
of the flour is added. 1 1/2 hours.
Sweet Potato Pugliese Bread
Yield: 2 loaves  |  Total time 4hrs 45 min
3/4 cup cooked sweet potato
2 cups total sweet potato cooking water and water
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rye flour
5 cups white flour

Peel and chop the sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Cook the sweet potato until very soft. Drain the liquid off and place in a measuring cup. Top up the liquid to 2 cups total.

Place the sweet potato and liquid in a food processor and process until smooth. The result will be a creamy, light orange, slightly thick liquid.

After adding remaining flour and kneading.
Combine the salt, yeast, whole wheat, rye and 1 cup of the white flour in a large bowl. Mix well. Heat the sweet potato mixture to 110°F. Pour over the flours and yeast and mix to a thick loose mixture. Wrap with plastic wrap (or place bowl in a plastic bag and tie tightly. Put the bowl in a warm place and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

After this first rise, add enough of the flour to make a somewhat sticky dough. This may be the remaining 4 cups and may not be. Moisture content in flour varies with the weather, so add 3 and see what happens.

The dough will tell you when it has enough flour. It will come together and be unwilling to accept any more flour. Do not force the remaining flour into the dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth. The dough should still feel very moist in your hands.

Place back into an oiled bowl and let rise for 2 hours.

After 2 hours: the second rise.
After the second rise, do not punch to deflate. Cut the dough in two. Take one piece of dough and form into a rectangle about 6” wide x 12” long. With the length facing away from you, take the first third and fold it up onto the dough. Do the same with the other end. You will be left with a rectangle about 6” x 4”. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Place both loaves on a baking sheet and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. After the final proof, dust the tops of both loaves with flour and bake for 40-45 minutes. Rotate the loaves in the oven half way through. 

To test for doneness, tap the bottom. If they sound hollow, the loaves are ready.

The dough is shaped and allowed to rise a final time for 45 minutes,
then dusted with flour.


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