I stopped into Fante's, a short walk away in the Italian Market, looking for a pan to bake Italian-style twisted loaves in. I've tried them on baking sheets -- they flatten out too much. Side walls are a necessity. But I needed something much longer than a regular loaf pan.
There were various expensive commercial pans... and this reasonably-priced one, a long aluminum pan made by Wilton. I talked to the woman at the desk, who quickly steered me to it. "We all have this pan," she said twice during the conversation.Tom's Assimilation BreadIngredients
3 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 packet yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons olive oilEquipment
Long loaf pan (you can use a shorter pan, you'll get taller bread)
Two mixing bowls
Clean dishtowel or napkin
Set out two mixing bowls and a clean dishtowel or napkin. Clean your countertop. Make sure you leave the white flour container open as you'll need a little more and your hands will be too sticky for the lid.
Stir yeast, salt, maple syrup and olive oil into water. Mix vigorously to dissolve the yeast. Add to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Get your hands right on in there and mix it up until a dough forms. If dough sticks aggressively to your hands, add flour a pinch at a time until the dough is more cooperative.
Remove dough from bowl and knead on countertop for ten minutes. Use an oven timer if necessary to keep yourself honest. Kneading sounds simple enough, but I had trouble with it for ages. This is what works for me: I dig my thumbs into the front of dough, while the rest of my fingers pull around the backside... and I keep doing that, over and over, until the dough is relaxed and happy.
Continue to add flour if the dough becomes too sticky during the kneading process. After ten minutes, the dough should be easy to knead -- if it's too hard to work with, you might need to add just a tiny
amount of additional water at a time.
Pop the dough into the second mixing bowl and cover with the clean dishtowel. Let sit for an hour. After an hour, the dough should roughly double in size.
Pull out the dough, which should be very
flexible now. Pick it up in both hands and twist the ends in opposite directions, stretching outwards. You'll have a long twisted loaf faster than you can say "Iannelli's."
Grease and flour the pan -- I spray mine lightly with store-brand Pam, just enough to help a dusting of white flour stick and prevent the bread itself from sticking.
Pop the dough into the pan. Cover again, and wait another hour. Preheat oven to 425 and bake for 30 minutes.
The bread isn't quite as twisty as I'd like, yet, but I'm very pleased with the way it looks.
Time-savers: after the first rise, set your oven controls to start baking an hour from now and pop the bread in the oven right away. That's my usual solution, in fact, but not everyone has an automatic oven. You can also skip the first rise completely with perfectly acceptable results... which means you only have to think about the bread once, when you first knead it. But use a regular-size loaf pan and skip the twisting business, as the bread won't expand as much... and it won't fill the pan we all have.