By Taylor Brown, Correspondent
This recipe came from a dear friend of the family. Although my loaves could never compare to his, the recipe is reliable and delicious. The term ‘rustico’ stems from the English word ‘rustic’, deeming this recipe simple, but reliable. Pan Rustico is a sourdough recipe generally made when learning to bake levain (sourdough starter). To make Pan Rustico Country Bread, you will first need to build the levain.
In a tall jar, mix 50g of mature sourdough starter, 600g of bread flour and 100g of warm water. This should be covered and left for three to four hours, or until doubled in size. If you don’t plan on making your bread directly after the resting period, your leavin can be left refrigerated for up to twelve hours. Next combine 600g of bread flour, 100g of whole wheat flour, 300g of all-purpose flour, 730g of water, and 20g of salt into a large mixing bowl.
Slowly, not rushing in all at once, incorporate your levain into the mixture of flour. The initial product will be sticky and difficult to manage, but continue to knead until consistent.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl that has been slightly coated with oil to prevent sticking. Cover this and let it rest for thirty minutes. To build strength in the dough, pull each side up and fold it over into the center. This is a much easier process with wet hands. Cover again and let rest for thirty minutes more. Repeat this step, tearing the dough as you pull it up and fold it over. Cover again and let the dough ferment at room temperature for four hours.
To shape and proof the dough, place it on a floured work space and divide it in half, shaping each piece. Transfer the doughs to proofing baskets (bowls work fine) and let sit for half an hour. Cover each with a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
Finally, to bake the bread you will need cast iron pans, or a sheet pan. Place either into the oven and preheat to 500°F. Transfer the dough to the baking vessel and bake for ten minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 475°F, and then bake fifteen minutes longer. Transfer the bread to the top rack for twenty minutes. Finish the with the oven door open to release the moisture.
Lastly, enjoy! Your bread should be all set to eat. Freshly baked bread and butter makes the excruciating baking process entirely worth it.