Monthly Archives: February 2012

Coccodrillo

Matthew:  I’ve made many loaves of bread and one of the hardest parts for me is to get the crust to turn out.  I had resigned myself to the fact that  I wouldn’t be able to get the perfect rustic loaf with a tough and crispy crust in my oven.  But then I tried a new recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook.  The crocodile-like loaves are flour-dusted and rough and surprisingly easy to make.  The sponge, which is put together the night before, left my apartment with a wonderful smell of yeast and beer.  I used Makeweight by Furthermore Beer for the bread.  And, not only is this bread easy to make, but you get two good-sized loaves which is perfect if you have a new neighbor who just moved in.  Here’s the recipe:

Sponge:
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup dark beer at room temperature
3 cups cool water
1 cup semolina flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 
Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina or whole-wheat flour (I used semolina)
1 tablespoon sea salt
about 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour for work surface and pan
 
To make the sponge, in a large bowl, combine the yeast, beer, water, and the semolina and all-purpose flours and whisk until well combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
 
To make the dough, add the all-purpose and semolina flours and the salt to the sponge and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together in a shaggy mass.  Using a plastic pastry scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface.  Knead until it is smooth and elastic, dusting the work surface with only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, 5-7 minutes.  The dough will be soft.
 
Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours.
 
Dust the work surface with 1 cup of the all-purpose flour.  Heavily dust a half-sheet pan or rimless baking sheet with all-purpose flour.  Punch down the dough and, using the pastry scraper, scrape it out onto the floured surface.  Bounce the dough around on the flour, shaping it into a large, round loaf.  Do not be daunted by the softness of the dough.
 
Place the round loaf on the prepared pan, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size, 30-45 minutes.
 
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F.  Liberally sprinkle the top of the loaf with all-purpose flour.  Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut straight through the middle of the loaf crosswise, separating it into two loaves.  Flour your hands and turn the loaves so that they sit cut side up on the pan, spacing them generously apart.  Bake the breads until they are brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 35-45 minutes.  Turn off the oven, leave the door closed, and let the breads sit in the oven for 10 minutes to set the crusts.  Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely before slicing.