roman-countryside-loaf1.jpg

A Four-Pound Roman Countryside Loaf

roman countryside loaf

Tomorrow we intended to leave the city for the countryside and spend Midsommar with friends.
To contribute to the cooking I was planning to bring some sourdough bread, which I know is highly appreciated by our friends. And since there would have been also other guests to the celebration I made sure to bake quite a lot of bread. Initially I thought of making two loaves, and prepared 4 pounds of dough accordingly. But when it was the moment to shape I was busy with a feverish kid, so I just made a single, huge, pagnotta (Italian country bread). I guess the term used for this big country loaves outside of Italy is miche, following the French terminology. For some reason French techniques dominate the bread world so I had problems myself finding information about the way traditional Italian breads are made and shaped. So happy I have figured this one out.

Since I started to bake bread, no, actually since I left Italy (I probably would never have baked bread otherwise), I have been longing not just for any Italian bread but for something very specific, which is, a Roman countryside loaf in the style of pane from Lariano or from Genzano. To me that was the one and only REAL bread (probably because I grew up with it). A sourdough with a compact yet airy crumb and a dark, almost burned, crusty crust.

roman countryside loaf

And this loaf, of all I made, not only resembles Roman countryside bread in taste, but it also looks like that. Yes, after buying tons of rising baskets and a technological kneading machine I find out that my favorite loaf doesn’t need either of these tools. Auch. Now what am I going to do with my fancy home baker appliances?

On a positive note, this loaf goes like butter even for someone without much baking experience and, as I said, requires no specific tool. Only a good sourdough starter, good flours and a hot oven. So, if you want to get something which will improve your Italian Roman countryside bread, get hold of a good baking stone (and of a baker’s peel). All the rest is superfluous.

As you can see, you don’t need a rising basket

roman countryside loaf

The dough is just folded on itself and closed in a kitchen towel

roman countryside loaf

You can be creative in improvising tools to make the loaf stay “in shape”

roman countryside loaf

Larger than life

roman countryside loaf

Det luftar bra (my cat can only speak Swedish)

roman countryside loaf

roman countryside loaf

roman countryside loaf

roman countryside loaf

roman countryside loaf

roman countryside loaf

roman countryside loaf

[gmc_recipe 5300]

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Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

Latest posts by Barbara Elisi (see all)

56 replies
  1. Janina
    Janina says:

    Hi Barbara, this looks fantastic. What sort of started did you use? Rye or White? I am sitting down currently eating a delicious piece of Rustic Italian Sourdough from your recipe and wondering what to do next, this will definitely be my next challenge. It makes me want to travel to Italy even more. Thanks for the post and great photos and instructions. I hope your child is feeling better and you have a lovely time in the countryside.

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      thank you so much for your lovely comment and for keeping up trying my loaves (and with amazing results I could see). I updated the recipe with more detailed info on the starter. I will also add American measures soon (still busy with a sick child and no countryside for us). ciao!! Barbara ps: and I hope you do go to Italy and, if you do, go for the little towns in the lovely Roman or Tuscan countryside, they are the best.

      Reply
  2. ninivepisces
    ninivepisces says:

    just wow! Think I will make this one next time I invite some friends, to go with a kind “graved lax” that I want to try out, deviled eggs and other bits that go well with champagne on a summer evening…..

    Reply
  3. KimGM
    KimGM says:

    We just came home from 12 days in Le Marche, and I am longing for Italian bread again. Swedish bread just isn’t doing it for me. Now I think I need to try my hand at baking Italian bread. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Karin Anderson
    Karin Anderson says:

    Barbara, what a great loaf!
    You are right, Italian breads are underrated, people only know focaccia (or something they call focaccia) and Tuscan bread (salt- and tasteless). I make the lovely Pane Siciliano with semolina flour (from “Bread Baker’s Apprentice”), but I never knew there was anything like this.
    I will definitely copy your recipe, and move it to the top of my (never ending) to-do list.

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      and consider that this loaf got mistreated by the baker (me). when slapping it in the oven I was very clumsy and part of the dough was hanging down the baking stone. I seriously thought I would have thrown away the loaf and was so tempted to open the oven and trash it. but the loaf held so amazingly together that the part hanging down was lifted up by the tension of the oven spring and even that part rose! miracles of bread baking. and, yes, Italian bread is a story without a story teller, really. the only one who ever wrote something meaningful about our country loaves is Daniel Leader in his Local Breads. I love the guy 🙂

      Reply
  5. Javelin Warrior
    Javelin Warrior says:

    What a gorgeous and rust loaf of bread! Your friends must have been very happy! I’ve always wanted to attempt sourdough but I never have. I love the method you use for shaping – creative and no special pan required!

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      they never got to taste the bread. the trip was cancelled. and if you get hold of some sourdough this is a perfect recipe for a first loaf… just maybe halve the doses 🙂

      Reply
      • Karin Anderson
        Karin Anderson says:

        Sorry, that was an error, it was late last night (it was the Bauernbrötchen post I entered in Panissimo.) But we really enjoyed this loaf, and I’ll make it again. For the 2-lb loaf I changed the baking time to 15 minutes at 250ºC, 15 Minutes at 210ºC and 15 minutes at 190ºC.

        Reply
  6. Janina
    Janina says:

    HI Barbara, i baked
    mine today and it is exceptional. Thanks so much for the recipe and tips. I ate some for lunch with home made Bagnett on top. It was heaven!!

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      hi there Janina, you and Karin really made my day. bagnet vert must have been wonderful on this bread, can’t wait to try myself! thank you so much for trying the bread and for letting me know!

      Reply
  7. Karen
    Karen says:

    Give my husband a tub of cold butter and I think he could eat a pound by himself. Your friends will certainly enjoy this bread…it looks wonderful.

    Reply
  8. sandra
    sandra says:

    io arrivo sempre con calma, questo panone romano me lo stavo dimenticando! devo tradurre la ricetta per capire meglio ma l’aspetto è SUPERBO!!!
    baci
    Sandra

    Reply
  9. Baltic Maid
    Baltic Maid says:

    You amaze me with your bread-baking skills. This looks sooo incredibly tasty. This is just how I love bread, I couldn’t have described it better: “A sourdough with a compact yet airy crumb and a dark, almost burned, crusty crust.”… I am drooling… 🙂

    Reply
  10. Sew Fun Ho
    Sew Fun Ho says:

    Hi Barbara, thanks for sharing your recipes. Reading all the feedback, I can’t wait to try your Roman Countryside Loaf. Where did you get your recipe from, no insult please, it could be your original. But perhaps you are inspired by some great bakers?
    How did you get the crust so burnt black? What oven and baking stone do you use? In my country Singapore, I can’t find baking stone easily. I am ethnic Chinese, I love baked breads, but sometimes I prefer steamed breads which are less dry and what we call less “heaty”. Would you like to try steaming your dough and let me know the result? Lately, I steam half my bread dough and bake half of it. I find that the steamed version rises better than the baked one. Not sure why it is so but interesting. I find the steamed breads as good and as nice as the baked ones, in a slightly different way.

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      Hi Sew, the recipe is mine, inspiration comes from the breads I grew up with. I use a baking stone, and the burned crust is something achieved by baking the bread long and at high temperature. I have a Chinese friend who often makes steamed bread for me and I really like it! It is though a totally different experience than that given by an European-style country loaf. I understand that it is not easy to get used to the thick dark crust, but give it a try…

      Reply
      • Sew Fun Ho
        Sew Fun Ho says:

        Hi Barbara, thanks for your reply. Your recipe is so inspiring. I am looking for a good oven to try your recipe. Any recommendation? Can’t wait to try……..

        Reply
    • Karin Anderson
      Karin Anderson says:

      Sew, perhaps you could find unglazed terracotta tiles in a home improvement store. I lined one baking sheet with a few that were leftovers from renovating our kitchen, and they work just fine. Another option would be a regular baking sheet turned upside down. I usually don’t even bake directly on the stone, I use it mainly to keep the temperature even.

      Reply
        • Barbara
          Barbara says:

          hi Sew. I cannot say I am happy with my oven. It reaches only 250 Celsius degrees while my previous one was going over 280 Celsius degree. One piece of advice if you want to get astounding European-style bread is to have a very hot oven. So when you buy a new one, just check which one reaches the higher temperature. Also, I use the electrical steady mode, without ventilation.
          Regarding the baking stone, Karin suggestions are good, and even without any of those tricks and no baking stone you can get gorgeous crusty bread as long as your oven is warm enough. Check out this breads I made using no baking stone and no hot baking dish:

          http://www.myitaliansmorgasbord.com/2012/10/20/durum-wheat-bread/

          http://www.myitaliansmorgasbord.com/2012/09/08/playing-with-rye-giocando-con-la-segale-chiara/

          http://www.myitaliansmorgasbord.com/2012/06/03/my-favorite-loaf/

          The first two breads have been made with my max 250 degrees oven, and the last one (my favorite loaf) was made with my old, super hot oven. As you can see, you can get very decent results even without a super hot oven. The baking stone -I only recently got- brought the performance of my not-so-hot oven close to that of my old oven (the hot one). If you can get a oven which reaches high temperatures you would probably not even notice that you don’t have a baking stone. Hope this helped 🙂

          Reply
        • Karin Anderson
          Karin Anderson says:

          I had a JennAir, and now a Samsung. Barbara is absolutely right, if you get a new range, pay attention these things: the oven can reach at least 500ºF/260ºC, the higher the better. If it has a self-cleaning feature, it must be able to reach these temperatures. It should be well insulated, so that not all steam gets lost through bad insulation. Important is also that the temperature settings are correct, and not by 20 degrees off etc. The bottom should have a cover, so that the coils are not exposed.
          By the way, I bake almost exclusively with convection mode, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to bake on two tiers 4 – 6 breads at the same time (for sale).

          Reply
          • Sew Fun Ho
            Sew Fun Ho says:

            Thank you Karin. I also bake with Convection mode all the time as I find the temp and browning more even. As my oven does not have steam function, I put water in the baking dish / tray below the rack of bread or cake. Cakes turn out more moist than otherwise. I will look for Samsung or other brand which have as high a temp as possible.

  11. ninivepisces
    ninivepisces says:

    so, pulled it out of the oven today- tastes really great. Even if it did reach neither the dark clour nor the fluffy holes like yours…. looking forward to what my guests tomorrow will say about this.

    Reply
  12. Raluca Blajan
    Raluca Blajan says:

    Hi Barbara, I’ve just made this bread yesterday. I’m still just like wow….Unfortunatelly, no pictures. It simply disapeared of my kitchen:) Today, time to bake it again. One question. This bread should have no cuts on top ? Yesterday I’ve made a simple cut to ensure it will have oven spring…

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      answering to you also here, mostly for other readers: no, this loaf should not be scored. as you can see it did not crack and it shouldn’t. just make sure not to overdo it with steam (a few ice cubes thrown in the lower rack are enough). lol, how did you guys managed to devour a 4-pound loaf in an evening? 🙂 looking forward to see the pictures of the next loaf!

      Reply
  13. Aldrahn
    Aldrahn says:

    Hi
    I tried this recipe last week and have to say that it blew me away with the beautiful structure and subtle flavours.
    I’m trying another this weekend but with half the quantities as my wife keeps telling me we can’t have bread with every meal 😉

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      so happy you liked it!
      it reminded me a lot of the bread from Italy I grew up with. Isn’t it amazing that now it can be tasted all over the world? 🙂
      I understand your wife! I also would like to eat bread all the time!

      Reply
  14. Aldrahn
    Aldrahn says:

    I’ve tried this amazing looking loaf and it looked nearly as good as yours 🙂 The flavour of this bread had a depth I’ve not experienced with my usual sourdough. Many thanks for this recipe!

    Reply
  15. Roger Raymond
    Roger Raymond says:

    HI Barbra, I cannot connect to the recipes link, can you send me another working link? I want to try this Roman Country bread. You link does not work.

    Reply
  16. Claudio
    Claudio says:

    Hi Barbara, sorry to bother you! Your recipes look gorgeous, and there is a lot to learn from your blog! Thank you so much for taking your time to share your experience.

    However, for this specific pagnotta, which I got so curious about, I cannot find any recipe – I understand from previous comments that there should be a link somewhere, but I cannot find any 🙂 Would you be so kind and could you share your recipe, please?

    Grazie mille!
    claudio

    Reply

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