The Roman summer has arrived, and the forecast the next days says 30C, 34C, 34C. The fruit and veg shop has fragrant melons, watermelons and lots of cherries, and large extravagant bell peppers. Time for iced tea, salads and minimal cooking….. And here I am, baking bread? Actually, mid evening we still get a lovely cool breeze here, so we fling all the windows open and air out the flat, listening to conversations across the courtyard, while observing neighbours in undershirts, watering their balcony plants.
Summer sourdough loaf
100 grammes sourdough starter (rye-based, 100% hydration)
375 grammes water
350 grammes plain flour (I used 00)
150 grammes wholewheat flour
10 grammes salt
Stir the sourdough starter with the water. Add the flours and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After this initial rest, add the salt. Mix well. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it.
Cover the bowl and let rise for about a couple hours at room temperature. Fold the dough a few times (just in the bowl, using a spoon or spatula). You will feel the dough becoming more elastic and responsive, and it will increase nicely in volume.
For baking same day: move the dough to a floured banneton and cover it with plastic (a hotel shower cap works well), and let it rise 5-6 hours at room temperature. Slash and bake. OR: If you are in Rome, it is June and your kitchen is never cooler than 25C, leaving the dough to rise 20-24 hours in the fridge might work better.
When ready to bake: heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot (or after at least 20 minutes), take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. Bake at 240-250C for thirty minutes with the lid on, then 10-15 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.
Note: at some point I will give in and use the bread machine, which makes OK bread without overheating the flat. But a nice crusty sourdough loaf is still more enjoyable. We were looking forward to the Festa della Cultura here in Garbatella this weekend, but it is cancelled this year. Just a parade of protest on Saturday, which we will watch from the balcony.