Another bread from Dan Leader’s “Local Breads” book….I’m a huge fan of high-hydration italian breads, and Leader’s recipes for such breads are well-written and precise. The wet, slack doughs of ciabatta, focaccia, pizza bianca, pane como, and the like require long, long machine kneading at fairly high speeds to develop great texture–a simple fact that so many baking-book authors ignore. I kneaded the pane como dough for 15 minutes in KitchenAid stand mixer at speed #4 with a spiral dough hook, and it still didn’t quite pass the windowpane test. Finally, after 17 minutes, the dough was coherent, glossy, and strong, though still quite fluid.
Why do I like these wet-dough italian breads so much? Well, they all display a shiny, open crumb: great for eating fresh, delicious as toast or grilled cheese, with chewy, crackling crusts. The holey interiors sop up juices and grab onto butter or jam. In so many ways, they’re the opposite of squishy, additive-laden, sugary commercial American white bread.