In my attempt to find the perfect Italian Bread this is yet another attempt. Its good but still not EXACTLY what I am looking for! The taste is perfect, the crumb is awesome the crust is good but still not that hard 1/4 inch thick stuff we get here in the northeast!
For the BIGA:
Combine flour, yeast, and warm water in bowl until it forms a shaggy dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer biga to medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until beginning to bubble and rise, about 3 hours. Refrigerate biga at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
When ready to make the dough remove BIGA from refrigerator and allow to come to room temp.
To make the DOUGH, combine flour, yeast, and water in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead the dough on lowest speed until rough dough is formed, about 3 minutes.
Turn the mixer off and, without removing the dough hook or bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. (This allows protein in the dough to relax, making for a stronger dough that can rise higher, with a better crust)
Remove the plastic wrap over the dough, and add the BIGA in peices to bowl. Continue to knead on the lowest speed until ingredients are incorporated (dough should clear the sides of the bowl but should stick to the very bottom), about 4 minutes.
Add salt and increase the speed of the mixer to the next setting. Knead for 2 minutes; add more bread flour if it is not forming a dough ball.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl (at least 3 times the size of the dough) and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot away from direct sunlight, until slightly risen and puffy, about 1 hour.
I turn my microwave into a proofing box buy microwaving a large mug of water for 4 mins then place the dough with the mug in the microwave oven. I re-warm the water for each rise!!
Remove the plastic wrap and turn the dough by folding it in on itself iwth a bench scraper or silicone spatula. Do this from four sides DO NOT REMOVE dough from bowl! Replace the plastic wrap and let the dough rise 1 hour. Turn dough again, replace plastic wrap, and let dough rise 1 hour longer.
Dust the work surface liberally with flour. Hold the bowl with the dough at an angle over the floured surface. Gently scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface (the side of the dough that was against bowl should now be facing up).
If you want two smaller loaves, split the dough into two equal halves. Use a knife or bench scraper.
Dust the dough and your hands liberally with flour and, Strech the dough into a rough 8- to 10-inch rectangle using the back of your hand DO NOT ROLL. If you are making two loaves, shape each piece into a smaller rectangle.
Fold the top left and right corner to shape a point then roll like a jelly roll and transfer it to a large sheet parchment paper. Dust loaf liberally with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let loaf rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and place a baking stone on the rack. On the bottom of the oven place an empty baking pan or a cast iron skillet. Pre-heat the oven to 500F or the highest setting for your oven (mine is 550F).
On stove using a tea kettle or sauce pan start to boil water so it is boiling when you are ready to put your bread in the oven.
Using a single-edged razor blade, or sharp chef’s knife, cut a slit 1/2 inch deep lengthwise along top of loaf, starting and stopping about 1 1/2 inches from the ends. Lightly spray the loaf with water. Slide parchment sheet with loaf onto baker’s peel or upside-down baking sheet, then slide parchment with loaf onto hot baking stone in oven. If you are not using a baking stone or tile, simply place the baking sheet in the oven.
Now pour the boiling water into the pan at the bottom of your oven WARNING this will produce lots of steam becareful not to get a steam burn.
Bake for 10 minutes open oven and spray with more water close your oven. This steam will create a crispy crust!
Continue to bake until deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf registers 210 degrees. For one large loaf this will be about 35 minutes longer. For two smaller loaves this will be closer to 30 minutes.
When the bread is done, transfer it to a wire rack and discard the parchment paper. Now the toughest part, cool the loaf to room temperature, about 2 hours. This will allow the flavor to develop.