IF YOU want to make a pan rustica you need to start 24 hours ahead. This rustic Spanish loaf uses a yeast starter to give extra flavour; dried yeast, a little sugar, warm water and, when it starts frothing, flour. Left in a bowl covered with cling film overnight it smells slightly of fermenting beer in the morning.
It’s half way to being a sourdough, so when I’ve tried this recipe a few times I might feel ready for the week-long process of developing a sourdough starter.
You add the starter to a straightforward bread mix, plus a little more yeast to give it some extra rise.
This results in a sticky dough. I’m following the recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ European Bakeation television series and they advise you to resist the temptation to add extra flour, which I would have done by the fistful. As they emphasise throughout the series, the softer the dough, the lighter the loaf and the slower the process, the more the flavour develops.
The advantage of having watched the series, rather than just reading the method, is that I remember that even the hefty Simon King struggled with this dough. It sticks to the worktop but I remember his action of pushing the gloopy mass forward with the ball of his hand and pulling it back in with his fingers.
This pulling back helps trap air in the dough. After the first rising you gently stretch and fold the dough back on itself three times to trap more air in it.
I’ve always wanted to get this variety of texture in a loaf, with a variety of bubble sizes. The loaf that I usually bake has a regular texture.
It’s softer and not as nutty as our regular farmhouse loaf which has more wholemeal flour in it and mixed grains. But it has a pleasantly rustic flavour . The fermented character doesn’t dominate but it’s there in the background.
Link Hairy Bikers’ pan rustica recipe.