Each time I go to back to Italy, my homeland, I try to make the best out of it as I know that I am not going to be there again for another year or so. This time I made sure to visit two artisan bakeries and a mill specialized in rare heritage grains. I will talk diffusely on all these experiences in later posts. For now I want to focus on the first of the several Sicilian heritage wheat flours I bought at the mill.
In Southern Italy the most commonly cultivated type of wheat is grano duro (durum wheat, also called semolina flour in the US and UK) but there are also some rare examples of local grano tenero (the “usual” type of wheat we all use). Madonita wheat is a grano tenero which grows around Le Madonie mountains in Sicily. As far as I know, Madonita wheat is not generally used to make bread by locals -they use grano duro for bread- but it is instead used in some traditional local cookies and cakes. The flour is stone-milled and sold whole, but I asked the miller to burattarla, which means, to sieve part of the bran away in order to make it a tiny bit lighter. Isn’t it wonderful to know in person and be able to make requests to your miller? As I am the daring type, I decided to make my first coming back home loaf using this flour. I may have been the first person in decades -or longer- to make a sourdough out of this flour but now that I have tasted the bread I am very happy I did.
Incidentally these loaves, naturally leavened and hand crafted using an ancient Sicilian wheat, would have fit perfectly on the table of Götz von Berlichingen, the German Knight With the Iron Hand, who lived and died in the 15th hundred. So I am dedicating this bread to him and to my dear friend Karin, author of Bröt and Bread and skilled community baker, who kindly invited me and other fellow bakers to bake a loaf worth of the fame and carisma of this unstoppable warrior. I am sure the nobleman would not have been turned away by a Sicilian sourdough. To make bread out of this flour was not the easiest of things and I guess that the flours available for Götz von Berlichingen‘s bakers were not much easier than the one I used. But oh the pleasure to eat a non industrial loaf, made out of non genetically modified grains, grown without pesticides, milled in a 150 years old water stone mill. I invite you to try my method on any heritage wheat you may find. Or simply on a good whole-wheat flour. Still you are crafting it by hand and with natural leaven and I am sure Götz von Berlichingen would like such a bread, too.
MADONITA WHEAT SOURDOUGH
200 g active wheat starter, fed at least once and doubled before being used
600 + 100 + 150 g water (see method below)
1 kg stone-ground whole wheat, I used Madonita burattata*
13 g sea salt (2 teaspoon)
1. Combine the flour with your active starter and 600 g of the water
2. Knead for 7-8 minutes (at low speed if using a stand mixer)
3. Add the salt and knead for another 7-8 minutes (still at low speed)
4. Add another 100 g water and let rest 5 minutes in order to cool off a bit
5. Knead for another 10 minutes (at medium speed if using a stand mixer)
6. Transfer the dough in a container and seal well
7. Make a series of folds, until you see that the dough gains elasticity
8. Place the remaining 150 g water in a vaporizer and hydrate the dough with water at each fold
9. Make folds every now and then for the first 2 hours of bulk fermentation
10. Let rest untouched for further 2 hours at room temperature
11. Transfer the dough on a floured surface and make a one more fold
12. Shape as you wish (I made two small filoni -something between a baguette and a batard- and a round)
13. Place the shaped loaves in floured banettons, seal in plastic bags and place in the fridge
14. Let rest in the fridge for ca. 16-18 hours
15. 1 h and 1/2 before baking turn the oven on at maximum heat, with the baking stone in the middle rack and a tray in the lower rack
16. Slash the cold loaves and place in the hot oven, pouring boiling water in the baking dish
17. If your over reaches a temperature higher than 250 degrees Celsius lower the temperature to 240 degres Celsius right away, otherwise wait 15-20 minutes then lower to 230 degrees Celsius and let the steam go out, also removing the baking dish with the remaining water
18. Continue to lower the heat until the loaves are golden brown and feel lighter when lifted
*Burattare is an Italian term used by pre-industrial millers to define the common practice of sieving stone-ground whole wheat. A sieved (sifted) wheat still contains all the germ and large part of the bran but it is somewhat lighter.