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Pane di Como (Como Bread)

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Makes 2 Round loaves.

This is a spectacularly delicious white bread with a crunchy dome, and a feathery floury top that tastes of the sweetness of wheat. Excellent for Breakfast.

Starter:
Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 scant tsp malt syrup
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2/3 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
Instructions:
  • Stir the yeast and malt into the water; let stand until foamy, about ten minutes.
  • Stir in the milk, and beat in the flour with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, about 100 strokes, until smooth.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until bubbly, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
Dough:
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water, room temperature.
  • 6 1/4 cups unbleached, all purpose four.
  • 1 tbs salt
  • corn meal
Instructions:
By hand:

  • Add the water to the starter; mix and squeeze it between your fingers until the starter is fairly well broken up.
  • Mix the flour and salt and stir 2 cups at a time into the starter mixture.
  • When the dough is too stiff to mix with a wooden spoon, just plunge in with your hands.
  • Mix until well blended 4 - 5 minutes.
  • knead on a well floured surface until elastic but still moist and tacky.
  • Once it has come together nicely, crash it down vigorously on the work surface to develop the gluten.
By mixer:
  • Mix the starter and the water with the paddle until the starter is well broken up.
  • Add the four and salt and mix for 2 - 3 minutes at low speed.
  • The dough will be smooth, but won't pull away from the side of the bowl.
  • change to the dough hook, and knead at medium speed, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary, until the dough is elastic but still still slightly sticky, 3 - 4 minutes.
  • Finish kneading by hand on a floured wood surface.
First rising:
  • Place in a well oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about and 1 1/2 hours.
  • The dough is ready when it is very bubbly and blistered.
Shaping and second rising:
  • Cut the dough in half on a floured surface and shape into 2 round loaves.
  • Place in oiled and floured 8" round bannetons or in baskets lined with generously floured kitchen towels.
  • cover with towels, and let rise until fully doubled and risen to the tops of the bannetons, about 1 hour.
Baking:
  • 30 minutes before baking, heat the oven with a baking stone in it to 400 degrees.
  • Sprinkle the stone with corn meal.
  • Very carefully inver the loaves onto the stone and bake until the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is thumped, about 1 hour.
  • Cool on racks

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