Bread has always been a household staple. With colder weather approaching, freshly baked bread not only compliments the food on the table, but it also warms the soul. It is as much about the meal as is about the tradition of home-baked bread.
I am a great believer in slow rise when it comes to baked goods, because nothing really compares to well-developed flavours that come from longer rise times. This lovely, decorative loaf is enriched with soured cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and it is a hearty addition to any lunch or dinner.
550 grams soft bread flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
200 grams soured cream
240 ml tepid water
100 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
80 ml olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon salt
sesame seeds (optional)
Sift the flour twice, add in the dry yeast, stir it through, and set it aside. Take a large bowl, add in the sour cream, 50 ml oil, tepid water, and salt, whisk it well, and let it sit for about 5 minutes, so the salt dissolves. After resting, whisk it again, then add half of the flour, and mix very well with a wooden spoon, until a creamy batter forms. Sprinkle in the freshly grated Parmesan, and stir it through completely. Slowly start adding the rest of the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon at first, then kneading with your hands, until all of the flour is used.
The dough should be slightly tacky, but it shouldn’t stick to your hands. Wrap the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will rise and become very soft and aerated. Take the risen dough out and knead it on a well-floured surface for a few minutes, then divide it into four equal portions, shape each one into a ball, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rest for 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, prepare the baking pan. Take a round baking pan (23 cm), and butter and flour it generously. This will prevent the bread from sticking to the pan and potentially not coming out in one piece once baked. When the dough has rested, roll out each of the dough sections into a long rope shape, then carefully slice it in half length-wise, using a sharp knife. Twist the two cut pieces around each other, then make a coil shape out of it, and place it in the centre of the pan.
Slice another rope shape in half, twist the halves, and continue making the coil in the pan. Continue wrapping the dough pieces in this fashion until all of the dough is used. Let the bread rise for another 30 minutes in the pan, covered with a dry kitchen towel. Just before baking, brush the whole surface of the bread with the reserved oil, and generously sprinkle it with sesame seeds (if using), and bake in a preheated oven, at 220°C (430°F), for about 25 minutes. Take the baked bread out of the oven, at let it cool down to at least room temperature, then serve.
Baker’s note: Keep in mind that Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is salty, and adjust the amount of salt to your preference. You may wish to add more, or omit the additional salt altogether.
By Tina Vesić