When my family was stationed in Italy, to say we ate well is an understatement. To say we lived well, seems boastful. We dined like anyone – al fresco, in back alleys, in a Nonna’s living room-turned Trattoria, at the corner pizzeria… we may have truly learned to live, to appreciate life during those lunches that stretched to dinner, during impromptu train rides to Venice to eat Gelato on the Rialto Bridge. How I wish everyone could experience life with the taste of a vine-ripened tomato, drizzled with the region’s best olive oil, sopping up the juices with still-warm bread, torn from the loaf , nibbling on the small, pungent cheese that is sitting like crumbled stones in a dish, just within reach ~ sitting outside with the crescendo of animated voices, drunk on the abundant love of life. Do you feel it? Do you have the urge to create a little sing-song tone with your words, gesturing with your hands to ease the words from your mouth? Can you taste the creamiest gelato, with flavors that ruin Blue Bell for life? Hopefully you get the picture!
There was a type of sandwich that the kids would buy for a snack. The bread was amazing – the ingredients of the sandwich, simple. Prosciutto, salami, or mortadella with provolone. I found that bread – thanks to Flourish!
According to Google, stirato is a type of ciabatta that is cut into equal lengths and stretched before baking. It is a no-knead dough, which makes it simple enough for any baker. The stirato is an un-fussy, no-apologies-about-it, Italian-style baguette. And that it is a type of ciabatta? -makes it perfect. Really, when it first goes into the oven, you’re thinking nothing good can come of this. But, after 18 steam-induced minutes, you realize this is the bread you’ve been waiting for!
Thanks to Flourish, King Arthur Flour’s (KAF) generous blog – the dough, instructions and final product were everything you promised!
- 500g unbleached flour
- 375g water, 80-90 degrees
- 1/2 t yeast
- 10g kosher salt
- semolina flour for dusting loaves and work surface
Combine flour, yeast and water. (original recipe states you may use 1 T of sourdough starter if you have it; I chose to omit). Stir to combine, make a well in the center and pour in salt and an additional tablespoon of water. DO NOT stir it in – Cover the bowl, let rest for 20 minutes.
After resting, with either a bowl scraper or rigid silicon spatula, loosen one edge of the dough and fold it into the center (almost kneading, just not with your hands); turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat for 1 minute. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Repeat the stretching/folding/resting for 20 minutes 4 times total. After the final stretch/fold/rest interval, cover and let rest for at least 6-7 hours. Research shows that traditional Italian methods let the dough go for up to 18, even 30 hours, giving it a sourdough taste. I let mine rest for 10 hours. Your dough will triple in size, so make sure your bowl or food bin is large enough.
Preheat oven to 470 degrees F. Place a heat-proof pan in the bottom of the oven – this is where you’ll create that nice little steam bath for your loaves. Turn dough onto semolina (or semolina/flour combo) surface. DO NOT knead, punch or otherwise man-handle your dough!! Press out to a rough 10 x 16″ rectangle. It will seem very flat and unimpressive – its waiting to surprise you! Divide the dough into 4 long, skinnier rectangles (if you manage to get the dough to 10 x 16″, you’ll have 4 – 2 1/2 x 16 inch strips of dough) KAF baker used a ruler, I used a bench scraper to cut and seal edges of dough. Let the loaves rest, covered on parchment-lined baking sheets for 20 minutes. As soon as you uncover and slip the pan (one at a time) into the oven, carefully pour 1 cup of water into that pan you placed on the oven floor earlier – I added 4 ice cubes to really pump out the steam – Now, shut the door and DO NOT PEEK for 18 minutes!! Ok, check at 16 minutes, that is when my loaves were finished. Carefully remove loaves to rack to cool; quickly slip the other pan in the oven and replenish the water/ice if needed. The oven is nice and toasty by this time, so again, check after 16 minutes.
If you’re lucky, your husband will come in the kitchen just as you are removing the first loaves from the oven, and with his fire-proof hands, reach for one of the still smoldering loaves and rip it and give you a taste – hence the reason there are only 3 loaves for the above picture. Yes, we shamelessly devoured that crusty, hole-y loaf – without regret!
Find the original recipe here: https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/02/07/search-perfect-loaf/
Love and good food – enjoy! V