Friday, July 23, 2010

Coccodrillo, or "The Croc"

This is the most insane dough I have ever baked with. Wetter and even more gelatinous than the Royal Crown, it defied all sense of physics. A veritable pancake batter is stirred slowly in the mixer for 17 minutes and, by golly, at the end it is a cohesive mass and cleaning the sides of the bowl!
The jelly-like dough is poured into a bowl to rise, flipping every hour, for up to five hours. The incredible thing - you can actually flip it! It looks like liquid but stays intact for a little flip action. Amazing.
While shaping the loaf as best I could, it started to blob over the counter in an attempt to escape. No matter, it was easily nudged back on to the floured board and given some sort of loaf-like shape. I baked it on a lined sheetpan to golden deliciousness and my son declared it his all-time favourite bread.
Thanks Lien, Babe, for this great bread! This is the last bread that I had left to bake for the Bread Baking Babes, I am totally caught up. It also is the perfect bread for this month's Bread Baking Day - Italian Breads - how great is that?!

This Crocodile bread, named for its shape, was dreamed up about thirty years ago by Gianfranco Anelli, a baker in Rome. It is his favorite bread and, judging from the numbers of people who come from all over the city to buy it, it may be his most popular as well.

At the bakery it takes two days to make; I suggest that you start it in the morning, work at it again for ten minutes in the evening, and finish the next day. I actually prefer to stretch the process over three days because the flavor is even better. Three days may seem formidable, but the working time of the first two days is only 5 to 10 minutes.

This is one dough that you will find difficult to make without an electric mixer, for it requires thirty minutes of continuous stirring for the final dough-of course you could enlist help. The result is an extremely light bread with a crunchy dark-speckled crust and a very chewy interior. The bread stays fresh for an amazing number of days.

Coccodrillo, or "The Croc"

for BreadBakingDay #32, Italian Breads
Makes 2 large loaves

First starter:
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or 1/6 small cake (3 grams) fresh yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup (35 grams) durum flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour* (*use strong bread flour -stone ground or not- for a better result)

The morning of the first day, stir the yeast into the water; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flours and stir with a wooden spoon about 50 strokes or with the paddle of an electric mixer about 30 seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12 to 24 hours. The starter should be bubbly.

Second starter:
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or 1/2 small cake (9 grams) fresh yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
1/2 cup (70 grams) durum flour
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour (use strong bread flour -stone ground or not- for a better result)

The evening of the same day or the next morning, stir the yeast into the warm water; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the water, flours and dissolved yeast to the first starter and stir, using a spatula or wooden spoon or the paddle of the electric mixer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12 to 24 hours.

Dough
1/4 cup (35 grams) durum flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 140 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour (use strong bread flour -stone ground or not- for a better result) (I used the one cup)
~
1 1/2 teaspoons (10-15 grams) salt* (*it says 25 g in the book, but this will get you a very, very salty crocodile)

By mixer:
The next day, add the durum flour and 1 cup unbleached flour to the starter in a mixer bowl; mix with the paddle on the lowest speed for 17 minutes. Add the salt and mix 3 minutes longer, adding the remaining flour if needed for the dough to come together. You may need to turn the mixer off once or twice to keep it from overheating.

By hand:
If you decide to make this dough by hand, place the starter, durum flour, and 1 cup unbleached flour in a wide mouthed bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon for 25 to 30 minutes; then add the salt and remaining flour if needed and stir 5 minutes longer. The dough is very wet and will not be kneaded.

First Rise:
Pour the dough into a Hammarplast bowl or a wide mouthed large bowl placed on an open trivet on legs or on a wok ring so that air can circulate all around it. Loosely drape a towel over the top and let rise at about 70° F, turning the dough over in the bowl every hour, until just about tripled, 4 or 5 hours.

Shaping and Second Rise:
Pour the wet dough onto a generously floured surface. Have a mound of flour nearby to flour your hands, the top of the oozy dough, and the work surface itself. This will all work fine-appearances to the contrary-but be prepared for an unusually wet dough. Make a big round shape of it by just folding and tucking the edges under a bit. Please don't try to shape it precisely; it's a hopeless task and quite unnecessary. Place the dough on well, floured parchment or brown paper placed on a baking sheet or peel. Cover with a dampened towel and let rise until very blistered and full of
air bubbles, about 45 minutes.

Baking:
Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven with a baking stone in it to 475° F. Just before baking, cut the dough in half down the center with a dough scraper; a knife would tear the dough. Gently slide the 2 pieces apart and turn so that the cut surfaces face upward. Sprinkle the stone with cornmeal. If you feel brave, slide the paper with the dough on it onto the stone, but the dough can also be baked directly on the baking sheet. When the dough has set, slide the paper out. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack.

(with some minor adaptions taken from: "The Italian Baker" by Carol Field)

This bread has been Yeastspotted!

breadbakingday #32 (last day of submission August 1st, 2010)