Rustic Italian Bread (Panna Rustica)

For Mother's day this year, the hubs bought me a panini press/indoor grill. I have been wanting one for a while, and I was super thrilled to get one finally. I have been grilling every sandwich I make since the beginning of May.

I know that most Italians would argue with me that the traditional panini bread is a CIABATTA, and it is pretty easy to find in most better supermarkets these days. I, however, prefer a simple rustic Italian bread that I make myself. It looks a little complicated and scary, but I promise you, if you just try it once, you will be amazed at the depth of flavor, and will never want plain ordinary bread ever again!

Panna Rustica
2 cups all purpose flour (a bit more for later)
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
2 cups high gluten bread flour
1 Tbs. Kosher or sea salt
2 Tbs. Olive oil + a bit more for coating the bowl

In a very tall container, pour the all purpose flour, water, yeast and sugar. Whisk vigorously with a wire whisk until a thick lumpy slurry forms. Cover lightly with plastic and allow to ferment in the fridge for 24-72 hours. This is a starter called a BIGA.

Once you are ready to make bread: Remove the starter from the fridge, and pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the bread flour, salt and olive oil. With the dough hook attachment in place, knead your dough 5-7 minutes. You may need to adjust the water by a tablespoon or two. Once you have  a tight, smooth dough turn off your mixer. Coat a clean bowl with a little olive oil and scrape your dough into this bowl. Coat the dough with a little more oil, cover the bowl with plastic and allow to rise 2-2 1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down and knead with your hands on a clean work surface for about 3 minutes. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (you can buy this on the baking aisle of any store). Shape the dough into a big ball, coat liberally with AP flour, cover lightly with plastic and allow to rise 1-1 1/2 hours more. Turn your over to 450, uncover the dough, and coat with a little more flour: This dries out the surface of the bread making a very thick crunchy crust-and who doesn't LOVE that?!?

Witha very sharp knife, cut 4 diagonal slashed in the top of your loaf. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes. Turn the bread 180 degrees, turn the over to 375 and continue to bake the bread for 20-25 minutes more. Remove from the over and cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before cutting into your yummy fresh bread!

Popular Posts