Ever since I got Carol Fields’ book, “The Italian Baker,” I’ve been wanting to make this bread. It is a truly ancient bread from the Puglia region of Italy and known for it’s pompadour top. The pictures above are my first shot at making this bread, and though they turned out pretty nice, I still have some work to do with the shaping. No matter, the romantic in me has striven to make bread based on centuries-old recipes and Pane di Altamura is truly ancient, having been mentioned by Horatio!
Now truth be told, this recipe is technically NOT true Pane di Altamura because it is a “protected” bread under the Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which specifies that the flour must come from the Puglia region. Plus, the high mineral content water of that area apparently contributes to the distinctive taste of the bread. But even still, I believe we can get pretty close to the original. All I know is that the two loaves I made today are gone. My family ate one loaf, and the family I gave the other loaf to demolished the bread! This will definitely be a regular part of my repertoire from here on out!
This recipe uses 200g of biga made from durum flour. But I made the loaves above with the same amount of levain simply because I was making a big batch of bread for donation today and had prepped a lot of levain. But I’ll give the formula for the biga (besides, I prepared a biga right before I started writing this post, so I figured I might as well add it).
BTW, I get my durum flour from Azure Standard (and no, this isn’t an affiliate link).
|Durum Wheat Flour||100%||500g|
- Mix all ingredients together until smooth
- Cover and let ferment for 6-12 hours (the longer the better)
This will yield more biga than what is called for, but I put the unused portion in a jar and put it in the fridge so I have biga on hand. It’ll last about a week.
|Durum Wheat Flour||80%||800g|
According to Carol Fields, most Italian home bakers invariably use a mixer, but this recipe is small enough to mix by hand.
- Mix flour and water together until well-incorporated and autolyse for at least 30 minutes.
- Add the biga, salt, and yeast and mix well.
- Knead the dough until smooth.
- Bulk ferment for 3 hours in a warm place to maintain the dough temp. Fold the dough twice during the first hour evey 30 minutes. Then let rise for 2 hours. The dough should at least double. If it doesn’t in that time, let it sit until it is fully doubled. My dough expanded about 2 1/2 the original volume.
- Divide the dough into two pieces and shape into rounds, much like you would a boule using your hands or a scraper. Bench rest for an hour or until the dough forms nice, large bubbles on the surfact. Mine took 1 1/2 hour.
- Shape the dough. There’s no tutorial for this. I had to watch that video a few times to get the motions down and immediately transfer to your loading board or peel. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can use an inverted baking sheet that’s covered with parchement.
- Bake at 485°F/250°C for 20 minutes with steam.
- Remove steam container then bake at 435°F/225°C for 25-30 minutes or until the pompadour has a deep burnished color.
This is such an easy bread to prepare but I realized that the trick to it is in that final shaping. It’s not that difficult to get the sections shaped, but it will take me practice. One thing that I know I will have to do next time is to bring the pompadour section a little more forward so it sits more over the base.