Bread is a culinary cornerstone to nearly every cuisine on the globe.
From baguettes to baps, pittas to pumpernickel, every style of bread can be directly associated to a corner of the world. We spoke to master baker, Phil Nicodemi from Lievito Bakery, about his star bakes and the special techniques he uses to create these unique breads…
“The French baguette is a natural starting point as it is a staple for millions of people across France and around the world. The baguette is probably the most recognisable loaf we see today. In our bakery we follow a very traditional French process of making baguettes – the poolish method. This is a process of mixing equal quantities of flour and water with a tiny amount of fresh yeast until you form a paste which is then covered and left to activate overnight. By the following morning the mixture will have doubled in size and become very light and airy; the poolish is ready. We now introduce it into the rest of the ingredients, commonly wheat flour, salt, yeast, water and a dash of rye flour to add a more complex flavour. As a tip: always start your mix with flour, water and yeast, then add the salt after a few minutes. When ‘chucked in’ all together, the salt can retard the yeast and impair the dough.
Once the dough is mixed you can bulk prove this for up to 48 hours. However, at home, you would be good to get going after 2 hours or so and you can shape a range of products from baguettes to fougasse. By using the poolish method your final product will have a lovely light, open crumb and when baked high with the addition of steam, will give you a great crust.”
“Pumpernickel is a beautiful dark, intense bread originating from Germany and dating back to the 1450s. This bread is all about the low and slow method of baking. Traditionally made with rye sourdough starter, coarse dark rye and rye berries, it has a real punch. You would bake this loaf for up to 24 hours on a really low heat of about 120C. Doing this allows all of the natural sugars to brown, creating an intense flavor that some liken to the richness of coffee with sweet notes. It’s a dense, gummy loaf which is perfect with smoked salmon and fermented veg.”
“The ciabatta, which is a beautiful soft, open-crumb loaf, was invented in Verona, Italy, to rival the French baguette. The name literally means ‘slipper’ referring to the look of the loaf. The process is similar to the baguette but contains a high volume of water and lots of olive oil. Generally, a ciabatta is made using white super-fine flour, water, salt, yeast and a good olive oil. The mix is very very wet, but with ambient proving, stretching and folding of the dough every 15 minutes or so for a few hours, the gluten is strengthened to create a silky soft dough which, when baked hot and fast, will have an open glossy crumb. The most important part of making ciabattas is the folding process. If this isn’t done, you will end up with cricket bats.”
Tip: with any dough, always add any fats at the end of the mixing process.
“This is a really cool little bread which comes from Vietnam. Bánh Mì is a hangover from French colonialism and the name derives from the French pain de mie (soft bread). It looks the same as a baguette, but has a thinner crust and often contains rice flour, as well as a good amount of sugar and butter to make the crumb softer and sweeter. Commonly, it is made into bánh mì kẹp (a filled sandwich), which is a street food of Vietnam, as well as being eaten dipped into condensed milk.”