I love baking, ABSOLUTELY love it! With my headphones and an awesome playlist, I can bake till my phone battery runs out. Then I would take a break to recharge it and get back to baking! The joy and ''happy feeling'' that some people feel with yoga / long drives / long walks / dancing / meeting friends; baking gives me all that.
It is the most enjoyable, de-stressing, relaxing and working out at the same time, kitchen experience I always look forward to.
If you think of it, interestingly and entertainingly, with all the careful and smooth mixing, rhythmic kneading and shaping, it definitely seems like Tai Chi, but of course in the kitchen!
A bit about the bread -
Traditionally, this is a long loaf of bread, but I baked it as a big bun. It has a delicate, crispy crust and a fine crumb that gives it its name, Mantovana, from Mantua in Lombardy, Italy.
The double rising produces a light, even texture. Be careful not to over – rise the bread, it might collapse when placed in the hot oven. Do not leave the dough for more than 40 minutes for its second rising.
Goes great with sliced Parma ham or country Salami.
| |TO BEGIN
Sponge Method Time
About 20 minutes
1 1/2 hour
200 deg Centigrade
Make sure you have all the ingredients ready, and only then should you start.
Refined Flour, wholemeal flour (wheat flour), warm water, salt, olive oil, and yeast.
To make the starter with the sponge method, first, in a bowl, put 400 ml of lukewarm water. Add the yeast to the water and stir well using a wooden spoon. Make sure no lumps are left in the water, even if you need to stir it for some time. Once the yeast is well dissolved in the water, leave it to bubble slightly, for about 5 minutes.
In the meanwhile, till the yeast water is getting ready, in a large bowl, put both the flours in it and mix well.
Once the yeast water is ready (it would have a few bubbles), make a well in the center of the mixed flours, and pour the water in the center.
Use a wooden spoon to draw in enough flour from the sides into the yeasted water to form a soft paste. Do not add too much to make it very dry, but keep it enough moist to allow it to froth well.
Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen cloth / tea towel, and then leave it to ''sponge'' until froth and risen, about 20 minutes. After the starter is ready, it would look nice and fluffy, with a few bubble holes on the top.
After the sponge is ready, add the salt and olive oil to the sponge. Mix in the rest of the flour from the sides of the well. Sit in 3/4th of the remaining water, as needed, to form a very sticky dough.
Sprinkle some four on your working table / counter. Turn the dough out on to the floured surface. Knead with an easy pressure (not too much pressure like you are picturing someones face on the dough!) for about 10 minutes, till its smooth and elastic.
Once the dough is soft and elastic, turn it into a tight ball. Spread the big bowl with some olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl. cover with a moist kitchen cloth / tea towel, and leave it to rise for about 50 minutes until it has doubled in size.
Once the initial rising is done, the dough would be almost double in size and very fluffy. To knock back, press at the center of the dough to deflate it, and pull it in from the sides to make a tight ball again. Leave the dough for the second rising, until its doubled in size, about 40 minutes this time (make sure you do not exceed the 2nd rising time).
After the second rising, the dough would have doubled again. Knock back again, and roll the dough in your palms for about 5 - 10 minutes, to form a tight ball. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes before proceeding to the next level. This allows the gluten that is formed in the dough, to rest a bit, making the dough easier to handle, till it is worked at again.
Put the oven for pre-heating.
Line the oven tray with a butter paper or grease it with some no-salt butter.
Place the dough ball in the center of the paper, cover with a sieve and a moist tea cloth / kitchen cloth and allow it to prove for 15 minutes.
Once the proving is done, with a sharp knife, make a cross on the dough, about 1 cm deep, and just on the top of the dough. Do not cut the dough till the base, as it would open up completely while baking.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Tastes delicious with Garlic - Parsley Butter and Chopped Olives Butter
Do not add the entire amount of water to the dough, hold back some in case the dough is soft enough already. If you end up adding all the water at a time and it turns out a bit too soft to handle, then you would have to add flour, which wouldn't give you the best results for the bread. Hence even if it turns out to be a bit dry, you can always add that extra water.
The dough for this bread is definitely a lot softer and mushier than the other bread doughs, so once you add the water to the flour, do not doubt it if you have got it right.