Pane Dolce

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    3

    medium loaves

Appears in

Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread

Bien Cuit

By Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky

Published 2015

  • About

Like all chefs (and business owners), I can’t stand waste, but waste is what you inevitably get when you make croissants. Because of the way they are shaped and rolled, there will always be less-than-perfect-looking ends. Instead of throwing them away, we use that rich, yeasty dough to make the starter we use for the next day’s croissants. However, it doesn’t take much of this dough to start a batch of croissants, so I still had excess that was going to waste.

This kept nagging at me until I came up with the idea of using the dough to make a sweet bread. I approached one of my bakers, a Uruguayan named Walter, and asked him to shape the leftover croissant dough into long tubes. I knew this dough could benefit from even more fermentation, and my guess was that the added fermentation time would provide a big boost in flavor, both from the yeast and from the lactic acid in the milk.

So Walter gave the tube-shaped loaves another 15 hours of fermenting time. The bakery smelled like a cross between a ripe banana and an open bottle of rum: yeast and alcohol pushed to their practical limit. Once baked, the result was a deliciously addictive bread I wanted to call pain sucrée or “sweet bread.” Walter, on the other hand, was in love with all things Italian and lobbied for pane dolce. As I thought about it, the bread was soft and sweet, like many Italian breads, so Walter won the day.

If you don’t have leftover croissant dough on hand, the second starter in this recipe works just as well. One final note: As you’ll see, this recipe employs two different starters, with varying amounts of water, flour, and yeast. This approach yields breads with a fuller flavor profile than those made with a single starter.

Ingredients

Starter

  • 75 grams (½ c + tsp) white flour
  • 0.2 gram (pinch) instant yeast
  • 75 grams (¼ c + 1 tbsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)

Second Starter

  • 50 grams (¼ c + 2 tbsp) white flour
  • 5 grams ( tsp) granulated sugar
  • 1 gram (generous tsp) fine sea salt
  • 0.2 gram (pinch) instant yeast
  • 44 grams (2 tbsp + tsp) cold whole milk

Dough

  • 500 grams ( c + 1 tbsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough, and for the linen liner and shaped loaves
  • 100 grams (½ c) granulated sugar
  • 13 grams ( tsp) fine sea salt
  • 4 grams ( tsp) instant yeast
  • 150 grams (½ c + tbsp) cold whole milk
  • 150 grams (½ c + tbsp) eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 grams (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg (about 50 grams)
  • 2 grams (¼ + ⅛ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 20 grams (1 tbsp + 1 tsp) water
  • 30 grams (3 tbsp) pearl sugar or other sugar with large granules, such as turbinado

Method

For the Starter

  1. Put the flour in a medium storage container. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the flour. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. Cover the container and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 13 hours.

For the Second Starter

  1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a medium storage container. Pour in the milk. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. This starter is best if covered and left at room temperature for 6 hours, then chilled in the refrigerator for 6 hours. But if the timing is better, you can also leave it at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours and then move it to the refrigerator to chill for 9 to 12 hours.

For the Dough

  1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour about one-third of the milk around the edges of each of the starters to release them from the sides of the containers. Transfer the starters and milk to an extra-large bowl along with the remaining milk and the eggs. Using a wooden spoon, break up the starters to distribute them in the liquid.
  3. Add the flour mixture, reserving about one-sixth of it along the edge of the bowl (see Mixing). Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix until incorporated. At this point the dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.
  4. Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Roll and tuck the dough (see Rolling and Tucking), adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue rolling and tucking until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further rolling, about 12 times. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a clean bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  5. For the first stretch and fold (see Stretching and Folding), lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. With the plastic bowl scraper, release the dough from the bowl and set it, seam-side down, on the work surface. Gently stretch it into a roughly rectangular shape. Fold the dough in thirds from top to bottom and then from left to right. With cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough in the bowl, seam-side down, cover the bowl with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  6. For the second stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  7. For the third stretch and fold, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle. Pinch the butter into pieces, distributing them over the top of the dough. Using your fingers or a spatula, spread the butter across the surface of the dough. (For photos of the following process, see Incorporating Add-Ins.) Roll up the dough tightly from the end closest to you; at the end of the roll the dough will be seam-side down. Turn it over, seam-side up, and gently press on the seam to flatten the dough slightly. Fold in thirds from left to right and then do 4 or 5 roll and tuck sequences to incorporate the butter. Turn the dough seam-side down and tuck the sides under toward the center. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  8. For the fourth and final stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  9. Line a half sheet pan with a linen liner and dust fairly generously with white flour.
  10. Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Press each into a 6-inch (15 cm) square, then roll into a loose tube about 6 inches (15 cm) long (see Shaping a Tube or Oval Loaf). Let rest for 5 minutes. Press each piece out again and then shape into a very tight tube about 9 inches (23 cm) long. Transfer to the lined pan, seam-side up, positioning the loaves across the width of the pan, rather than lengthwise. Dust the top and sides of the loaves with flour. Fold the linen to create support walls on both sides of each loaf, then fold any extra length of the linen liner over the top or cover with a kitchen towel. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for 16 to 24 hours.
  11. About 1 hour before baking, set up the oven with a baking stone and a cast-iron skillet for steam (see Baking Stones and Steam, then preheat the oven to 460°F (240°C).
  12. Using the linen liner, lift and gently flip the loaves off the pan onto a transfer peel, seam-side down. Slide the loaves, still seam-side down, onto a dusted baking peel (see Using a Transfer Peel and Baking Peel). Score the top of each (see Scoring); these loaves should be scored more deeply than usual: about ¾ inch (6 mm) deep. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash, then sprinkle 10 grams (1 tbsp) of the pearl sugar over each loaf. Working quickly but carefully, transfer the loaves to the stone using heavy-duty oven mitts or potholders. Pull out the hot skillet, add about 3 cups of ice cubes, then slide it back in and close the oven door. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 400°F (205°C). Bake, switching the positions of the loaves about two-thirds of the way through baking, until the crust is rich golden brown, about 25 minutes.
  13. Using the baking peel, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. When the bottoms of the loaves are tapped, they should sound hollow. If not, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer.
  14. Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.

For the Egg Wash

  1. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, salt, and water. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate until ready to use (overnight is fine). Give the egg wash a quick stir before using it.
  2. Remove the sheet pan from the refrigerator and let the loaves sit at room temperature for 1½ hours.