Tag Archives: rye

Pane Coi Santi, Bread of Saints

4 Sep

Sometimes it still confounds me that for many years I was hesitant to attempt making any yeast-based breads that extended beyond a basic pizza crust. I contribute this lack of confidence to a spotty history of using my purchased yeast in a timely manner (thus rendering it dead and unusable). To boot, there is also my rather sad history of trying to make whole wheat bread 15 years ago in what can only be called The World’s Coldest Apartment, where the lack of heat (we’re talking steam from my breath being visible inside the house here, folks) inhibited my bread dough from rising. To add insult to my bread-baking confidence’s injury, I still ate the squat, leaden loaves that I ended up baking. If I was too poor to pay for heat, you’d better believe I was also too poor to throw out food, unpalatable as it may have been.

Now, having worked with yeast-based breads for many years, I find the process of making bread to be a soothing respite from my generally busy day-to-day schedule. Proofing bread involves a lot of waiting, so when making bread I am not only involved in the process of physically making the bread, but also waiting around while the bread slowly proofs, coming to leisurely life before my eyes. Some people might find this maddening, but I rather enjoy it. Truth be told, however, I usually use my bread proofing time to conquer all manner of mundane tasks like cleaning the kitchen or, you know, working. Because I am no fun at all.

This is one of my favorite breads. I generally buy a loaf of it from Pearl Bakery, a wonderful little bakery downtown that turns out a fantastic selection of breads and pastries. The Pearl Bakery’s pane coi santi, a traditional Tuscan bread that is dotted with dried fruit, toasted nuts, and a varying selection of seasonings, is a slightly different animal than the version I make. Theirs is made with a levain, a natural sourdough starter with a mild and pleasantly sour tang that gives the bread a good, hearty body. My version has a softer crumb, with a lightly chewy crust and a body that is decidedly less dense. Both versions are tasty, but, not having the gumption to start my own levain (perhaps this will be my next step in bread baking), I instead start my bread with a sponge of rye and wheat flours left to sit overnight and develop a slightly tangy and complex flavor. I also use dried sour cherries in my version in lieu of the Pearl’s golden raisins, and I think the swap is a good one. The sour/sweet note of cherries adds a nice touch to the heat of the black pepper that lingers in the bread, nicely bridging the two flavors together.

Even if you are not a bread baker by nature, I think you should take a stab at this bread. In reality, the preparation is not at all difficult, and, if nothing else, you’ll be giving yourself a bit of time to sit around and wait on your bread, perhaps while reading a book, catching up on email, or, if you’re as insufferably over-focused as some people around here, cleaning or working. Really, though? I think you should go with reading.

Last Year: Seared Tuna Steaks with Salsa Verde

Pane Coi Santi Recipe

Part of the base of this recipe hails from the basic country bread recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, but the tweaks and additions added to it that transform it into pane coi santi are mine.


1 cup warm water

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup medium rye flour

½ teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

Bread Dough

3 ½ to 3 ¾ cups bread flour

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 1/3 cups warm water

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts

1 cup dried sour cherries

To make the sponge:

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, then stir until completely incorporated. The mixture will be sticky and somewhat shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours, until the sponge has risen and fallen. I find it best to mix the sponge in the evening, then allow it to sit overnight.

To make the bread:

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 3 ½ cups of bread flour, honey, and yeast. With the mixer on low speed, or, if mixing by hand, while stirring with a sturdy wooden spoon, add the water and mix until the dough comes together, 1 to 2 minutes. When the dough comes together, stop mixing, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes

After 20 minutes, remove the plastic wrap and add the sponge, sea salt and black pepper. Knead the dough on medium-low speed if using a stand mixer, or knead the dough by hand while it is still in the bowl. If you are kneading the dough by hand, you will need to add in a bit more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough ceases to become a sticky mess. Mind you, the dough will be very sticky no matter what you do, so a reasonable amount of stickiness is to be expected. The same advice applies to mixing the dough in a stand mixer: if the dough is unrelentingly sticky, add in more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. Add the walnuts and dried cherries during the last minute of kneading.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, tight ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Using your fingers, gently deflate the dough. Gently stretching and pulling, shape the dough into a 12-inch by 16-inch rectangle, with the long side facing you. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into two 12-inch by 8-inch rectangles. Roll each rectangle into a tight log by folding the top two corners towards the middle of the rectangle, then tightly rolling the dough, tucking as you roll, into a loaf. Pinch the end seam closed.

Line a large overturned or rimless baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Place the two loaves on the parchment paper, spray or brush lightly with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Half and hour before the dough is done rising, adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a heavy baking sheet or  baking stone on the lower middle oven rack and allow to heat up for 20 to 30 minutes.

When the dough is done rising, remove the plastic wrap and, using a very sharp knife, slash the tops of each loaf with three diagonal cuts. Lightly spray the tops of the loaves with water. Carefully slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the heated baking sheet or baking stone in the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake the loaves, rotating halfway through baking, until they are dark golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a loaf registers 210 degrees, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove loaves to a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour.

Makes two large loaves.

Black Bread Rolls and Food for Traveling

29 Mar

When you have to travel in a car for a very long distance, and, thus, a very long period of time, it’s a challenge to try and figure out what you can do to make your time trapped in a car a little less unpleasant.  Last summer, while undertaking a nearly 700 mile drive south, we prepared the car for the needs of a child: toys, books, and a makeshift desk top crafted out of a strategically-cut piece of plywood.  A couple of weeks ago, preparing for a drive that would be half as long with a turnaround time twice as fast (last summer’s trip netted roughly 1400 miles in 8 days, but our most recent trip spanned 900 miles in only 4 days), we planned not for maximum entertainment while in the car, but rather for maximum efficiency.

Maximum efficiency in this case relegated lunch and snacks to the car, allowing for the most efficient use of driving time with the least amount of stops (or so we thought, until a certain preschool-aged child decided that it was of utmost importance to announce his desire to visit a restroom every 20 minutes, but that’s another story).  It also meant that I was going to be able to plan a small menu of picnic-type items, which gave me a certain amount of pleasure.  I am a big fan of meals that consist of many small bites of many different things, so this was right up my alley.

The first order of business, as it is in life, was snacks.  I roasted some nuts, sprinkled them lightly with sea salt, then combined them with some dried cherries and dried cranberries.  To excite our child, I also threw in some chocolate chips (be sure to combine these items AFTER the roasted nuts have cooled off, lest you inadvertently end up creating some sort of chocolate/nut blob that will cool into the world’s lumpiest candy bar.  Which, come to think of it, actually sounds sort of appealing…).  Baby carrots are always welcome, so I added those to the snack pile.  Strawberries and blueberries were fortuitously on sale at the market, so they came along, too.  I sliced up a pear and an apple, packed them into a tightly sealed container, and moved on to lunch items.

In the interest of keeping things simple, I planned to pack what amounted to tiny little sandwich fixings, only without the messiness of spreads and condiments.  The best way to accomplish this, obviously, is with cheese.  You slap some cheese on slices of bread and you’ve got the beginning of many a delicious sandwich.  You can pack cucumber slices and slices of red pepper, and those apple and pears I mentioned earlier are absolutely wonderful when tucked in between slices of sharp cheddar cheese and spicy black bread.

And now, having listed all the foods we managed to pack into one canvas bag for one very long drive, I have to admit something.  The most absolutely essential element to everything we ate?  The bread.  We ate it slathered with almond butter, we ate it enveloping vegetables, cheese and fruit, and we ate it plain, as a snack, managing to totally obliterate the entire supply within the first day of our trip.

Dense, satisfying, and packed with flavor (including hits of fennel, chocolate, espresso, and rye), it’s almost tough to imagine getting into a car now without a little disc of this bread to keep me company.  Luckily, car travel is not required of anyone in order to enjoy this bread, so you can bake it and enjoy it in preparation of another event.  Like, for instance, the fact that it is Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  You get the idea.

Black Bread Rolls

Adapted slightly from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible

2 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

pinch sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon caraway seends

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/3 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups medium rye flour

3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

cornmeal, for sprinkling (optional)

1) Pour the warm water into a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.  Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

2) Combine caraway seeds and fennel seeds in a spice grinder and coarsely grind until no longer whole, but still slightly chunky (you can use a mortar and pestle for this, but I use an old coffee grinder).  In a large bowl using a whisk or in the work bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, molasses, instant espresso powder, salt, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, bran, cocoa powder, and rye flour.  Mix until smooth and add yeast mixture.  Beat for about 3 minutes.  Add the unbleached flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and continue to beat (with paddle attachment if using a machine, or with a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) until too stiff to stir.

3) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking.

If kneading by machine, switch from the paddle to the dough hook and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy and springs back when pressed.  If desired, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead briefly by hand.

4) Place the dough in a greased bowl.  Turn once to grease the top and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

5) Gently deflate the dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal, if desired.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.  Shape each dough portion into a round ball and place seam side down on the baking sheet.  Flatted each ball with your palm.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk and puffy, about 25 minutes.

6) Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the baking sheet on the center lower rack in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until slightly browned and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

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