Number of the beast bread

I love this loaf

We do love white sourdough in our house, but there’s only so much white flour stuff you can (should) eat. I like the Mill loaf but that’s not sourdoughy enough for us. What I wanted was something very similar to the bread I get in Italy that’s not white, not wholemeal but suitably tangy and ‘paysan’ as we call it.

I think this loaf is it, although the more I make it the more I’ve realised that it really improves from a very long proving time, it doesn’t like being too cold and the dough should be fairly wet and sticky, so you need to be brave whilst kneading and use oil and not add any more flour. There can be a dramatic difference – better crumb, better flavour – between a loaf that’s been proved over ‘just’ 12 hours and one that’s had 24hrs plus. If the prove is too (relatively speaking) short, the bread becomes a bit too ‘wholesome’. It’s a difficult bread in that respect, to get right. 

This is what you do to make two loaves.

You take 

400g white leaven
666g cold water (number of the beast, hence the name)
500g white flour
500g wholemeal/other flour
3tsp salt (I’m experimenting with cutting this down).

You mix the leaven with the water, add the flours and salt and mix to a messy dough. 
Rest for 10 mins, then, a la Dan Lepard, knead lightly. 
Rest 10 minutes then knead lightly (I knead for twelve counts). 
Rest for 10 minutes then knead lightly. Rest for 30 minutes then knead lightly. 
Rest for 1 hour then knead lightly. 
Rest for 1 hour then knead lightly. 
Rest for 1 hour then knead lightly. 
Rest for two hours, then knead lightly and shape and place into two bannetons (I use a 1kilo round and a 600g baton). 
Rest in fridge overnight for a good twelve hours or more. I’ve rested it for up to 72 hours
Preheat oven to 220 with one baking tray on a high shelf, one underneath. When up to temperature turn loaf out of the banneton, slash with a bread knife and put in the oven. Whilst oven still open, turn ice cubes onto the bottom tray. Close oven and turn the temperature up to 250C and cook for 15 mins. Lower temperature to 220 for further 15 minutes.

9 thoughts on “Number of the beast bread

  1. Gail

    I'm going to try this next, thank you! I've been mainly making the Mill loaf but I made the white last time and it was fantastic. I'm with you on not wanting to make white bread all the time so I shall give this a go.

  2. Gail

    Well I proved one overnight and the next for 36 hours and they were both tasty, although nowhere near as holey as yours, but I will make it again.

  3. Gail

    It wasn't hugely wet but it had some nice big bubbles in it before I baked it off. If anything the first loaf was better than the second, I let that prove at room temperature for about an hour before I put it in the fridge. The second one had some big bubbles in it but it seemed to deflate when I slashed it and didn't perk back up so much in the oven. Will keep experimenting…

  4. Gail

    Thanks, the second batch was more successful and the second loaf which I'd left in the fridge for 2 days was the best. I think upping the water content is probably a good idea, I think my leaven is probably a bit under-hydrated from being in the fridge.

  5. Eamonn

    Annalisa this looks lovely. What hydration is the leaven at. Dan uses 80% but I usually keep mine at 100%. I was looking for an adaptation of the mill loaf with a higher hydration and bit more sourness so this looks like it would fill that gap.

    1. Annalisa Barbieri Post author

      Oh yikes. I’m not sure I know! It’s 333g of water to 500g of flour?? Sorry to be so crap.


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