Tuscan Saltless Bread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    1

    loaf

Appears in

Making Bread at Home

Making Bread at Home

By Tom Jaine

Published 2005

  • About

One of the paradoxes of recipes for this deservedly popular bread is that many of them suggest adding a pinch of salt to make it more palatable. Bread without any salt is strangely mute, though when this commodity was hard to come by or heavily taxed, it was often omitted by bakers. The French once used to think English bread impossibly salty, high seasoning masking the natural nuttiness of the flour.

Salt does have a useful function, particularly in yeasted breads. Although salt may attack yeasts, even kill them if used to excess, it conditions the flour, makes it firmer and more resilient, while yeast in a way makes flour softer and less textured.

The saltless bread of Tuscany gets round the problem of flavour by being a natural accompaniment to salty foods like cured hams, salamis, or anchovies. Its open texture and rustic character ensures that it looks the part as well as tastes it.

You need to make the starter for this bread the day before you bake it.

Ingredients

Starter

  • 200 ml/7 fl oz boiling water
  • 120 g/4 oz unbleached white bread flour

Dough

  • 175 ml/6 fl oz warm water
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh yeast
  • 450 g/1 lb unbleached white bread flour

Method

  1. To make the starter, pour the boiling water on to the flour and mix to a batter. Leave overnight.
  2. The next day, add the warm water to the starter and crumble in the yeast. Mix to a soup. Add the flour and mix or knead in the bowl to quite a slack dough. Knead carefully for 5 minutes, keeping your hands as clean as possible. Leave the dough to rise in the bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (26°C/80°F) until doubled in size.
  3. Turn out on to the well floured work surface and lightly fold the dough into a ball. Place this on a 30 cm/12 inch square baking tray liberally scattered with flour, with the crease or joins uppermost. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove until again doubled in size.
  4. Have ready a similar baking tray, oiled and slightly warmed, place it carefully on the top of the risen loaf so that the shape is somewhat flattened then flip it over when the smooth and floury side will be facing upwards. Let it recover for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
  5. Either slash the top with a sharp serrated knife, or leave it to crack freestyle in the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.