WHILE MY BRAIN WAS ANTICIPATING TYPICAL BREAD, CAME THESE POPS OF DEEPLY SAVORY AND UNMISTAKABLY CARNIVOROUS STIMULANTS.
Working mothers, I don’t know how you do it.
Those of you who follow our Instagram will know that recently, two toddlers have joined this family. Not just some harmlessly drooling, homo sapien nuggets that crawl inside your neatly confined perimeters sucking on a bottle. But two wall-eating… wood-shredding, (stuffed) animal-hunting, flying and flipping and cirque du soleil-style acrobats that, quite literally, ate and pooped the entire past week away, and then some. Hi Internet, please meet 芝麻 (Sesame), and 湯圓 (Sticky Rice Ball. SRB for short), the two Rottie-mix that we newly adopted over the past weekend.
So long, sleep. Hello, stress.
I have so much to say about them, how we met, how we overcame fear, how we took an oath. But this type of story deserves clarity and mindfulness, both not what my sleep-deprived head of glue can provide as we speak. So I’m just going to leave you today with a Tuscany-inspired country bread, speckled with salty bits of porky fatness. You heard right, a delightful discovery made in a motherly restaurant named Trattoria Dardano, nestled inside a tiny yet historical town named Cortona where we stayed. The conversation we were having without suspicion was upended by my first bite of the unexpected burst of flavors. While my brain was anticipating typical bread, came these pops of deeply savory and unmistakably carnivorous stimulants. WHAT was that!? I investigated immediately, to realized that this seemingly unremarkable bread was relentlessly laced with specks of salty fatty cured pork-bits which, I assumed, not only created these sparks of salivating porkiness, but also spread their gospel aromas into the neighboring bread-tissues when their fat was rendered during baking.
Geniale! I shouted, but in English.
I think you’ll agree, too.
Gotta go. Somebody’s eating my feet.
- 1 1/2" square (65 grams) cured fatty pork, such as pancetta or salted pork
- 3 cup + 3 tbsp (400 grams) bread flour
- 300 ml (300 grams)(75% hydration) water
- 3/4 tsp (5 grams) sea salt
- 1/3, or scant 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast, see instruction
- If you live in North America or Europe (or any dry and cool climate), the first proofing will take about 5~6 hours, and you should use 1/3 tsp of instant dry yeast. If you live in South Asia (or any humid and hot climate), the first proofing will take only 3~4 hours, and you should use scant 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast.
- Cut the cured fatty pork into tiny small cubes, then transfer to a plate. Use a blow-torch to caramelize the edges of the cubes, turning a couple times. Or heat up a skillet until smoking hot, then turn off the heat and add the cubes, then transfer to a plate once the surfaces are caramelized. Set aside.
- In a stand-mixer with dough-hook, add bread flour, water, sea salt and instant dry yeast (remember the amount varies depending on where you are). Knead on low-speed until the ingredients come together, then turn to high speed and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and very elastic. The dough will be very wet, sticking to the bottom of the bowl even with the machine running on high, and make slapping sound against the side of the bowl. Add the pork cubes and any rendered fat, and knead again until evenly mixed.
- Plastic-wrap the bowl then let proof at room-temperature. If you live in North America or Europe, start at 6~7 pm the day before, and let proof for 5~6 hours until the dough has expanded to about 280% (almost tripled). If you live in South Asia, start at 8~9 pm and let proof for 3~4 hours until the dough has expanded to about 280% (almost tripled).
- After first proofing, scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface. Gently lift a corner of the dough and fold it over itself a few times. Then flip the dough with the seam-side down, and gently tuck it in a few different directions to tighten the ball. (For a more detailed photo on this technique, check out THE BLUSHING BOULE POST). Now transfer the dough into a well-floured proofing basket, or a parchment-lined large bowl. Plastic-wrap all around, then transfer into the fridge for the second proofing overnight. If you live in North America or Europe, let proof for 9~11 hours. If you live in South Asia, let proof for 5~7 hours. Either way, do the math and go to sleep.
- The next morning, preheat the oven at 500 F/250 C with a lidded dutch oven inside. The dough should have expanded again but NOT DOUBLED. If your dough has doubled (probably because you live in a very humid and hot climate), it has most likely over-proofed, and next time you'll have to shorten both the first and second proofing, or reduce the yeast to adjust. Now, gently invert the dough onto another lightly-floured parchment paper (the seam-side when you folded the dough, now faces up). If you live in North America or Europe, the bread will mostly crack at the seams naturally. But if you live in South Asia, you may have to score the surface of the dough to help it crack.
- Transfer the parchment with the dough on top, into the pre-heated dutch oven. Flatten the folds of the parchment so it doesn't ruin the shape of your bread. Put the lid on, and bake in the oven for 25 min, then remove the lid, and bake for another 13 min until the the crust has darkened.
- Transfer to a cooling-rack and let cool for 30 minutes before cutting.
I used a mixer of guanciale and pancetta. But if you can't find guanciale (cured pork jowl), you can use 100% pancetta. Just make sure that you choose the parts that are more fat than meat.