Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Il Pane di Matera #BreadBakers

A wonderful crusty loaf made in the tradition of Matera bread, or il pane di Matera, from milled durum wheat and a sourdough starter.

Let me start off with a disclaimer. This loaf cannot officially be called il pane di Matera. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s what the title says. Hear me out. Pane de Matera is special, with specific requirements, including not just milled durum wheat (which I have used) but from 100% Lucanian milled semolina grain known as "Senatore Cappelli," which I have not. The water is also supposed come from a local source in the Matera area of Italy. Finally, it should begin with a piece of dough from the previous day’s loaf, with yeast made from a fresh fruit starter. I used a sourdough starter.

Such is the tradition and history behind this loaf that it was given the European Union Denomination of Protected Origin (DOP) which means, just like sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it is produced in the Champagne region of France or random ham cannot be called IbĂ©rico unless it comes from Black Iberian Pigs raised in the Iberian Peninsula region of Spain and Portugal, it must be produced the right way in the right place to be called Il Pane di Matera.

So while I’ve made a valiant attempt at producing my own version of il pane di Matera, and it’s a fabulous crusty loaf, it doesn’t officially qualify for the name. That said, you should make this guy. With all due respect to Italy, it reminds me of my favorite baguette tradition in France and that says a lot.

With the substandard help of Google Translate, I made my bread from this recipe in Italian. That was part of the fun!

Watch this video to see how to shape the dough.

150ml or 160g sourdough starter or 20g brewer’s yeast
3 3/4 cups or 600g Italian semolina durum wheat flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
warm water

Mix your sourdough starter or brewer’s yeast with 6 3/4 oz or 200ml warm water and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour and 1 1/4 cups or 300ml warm water and mix for a few minutes. Mine was too crumbly for the bread hook so I just kept mixing with the K cake beater.

Add in the yeast mixture and beat/knead for five minutes. At this point, I did change to the bread hook.

Add in the salt and knead another few minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl dusted with flour and cover it with cling film. Poke holes the film with a toothpick.

Leave to rise for two hours in a warm place.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface and put it back in the bowl, covered again for another two hours.

After those two hours are up, you can knead the dough, shape and bake. But at this point I strayed from the recipe I was working with and turned to another source I found online which said that traditionally the dough was left to rise overnight, then it was brought to the communal ovens in the morning to bake. So, after kneading again, I popped the dough in its covered bowl into the refrigerator. If you’d rather skip this step, preheat your oven to 220°F or 104°C, with a pizza stone on a middle shelf, if you have one, and proceed down one more paragraph.

The next morning, I removed the dough from the cold and left it to warm up again.

When it was no longer chilled, I preheated my to 220°F or 104°C with my pizza stone on a middle shelf.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and knead it. (As you can tell from the photos, mine was still quite slack compared to the dough in the video.

Form the dough into a ball, press a crease in it, and then fold the ball in half.

Flour a baking sheet and transfer the dough to it. Use a sharp knife to slice three cuts into the dough. (See YouTube link above for a visual on this.) According to a source online that may or may not be Wikipedia in Italian (I forget but I read it somewhere and made a note), the three cuts represent the Holy Trinity.

Place the baking sheet on the pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes. Raise the temperature of your oven to 350°F or 180°C and bake for more about 40-45 minutes more, or until the loaf is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped. About midway through, I also slid the loaf off of the baking pan and straight onto the pizza stone.

There were plenty of holes, but I was expecting the rest of the crumb to be more open. Next time, I'm going to let the dough rise just a bit after shaping and before putting it into the hot oven but overall I was extremely pleased, especially with the crusty outside and the enormous flavor.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.


This month my Bread Bakers group are baking Italian breads and we have a fabulous line up for you. I can’t wait to travel all over Italy, loaf by loaf. Many thanks to our host, Anshie of Spice Roots for all of her hard work and this great theme.

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Pin this Pane di Matera!


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