Monday, March 17, 2008

Recipe in English: Coccodrillo

This Crocodile bread, named for its shape, was dreamed up about thirty years ago by Gianfranco Anelli, a baker in Rome. It is his favorite bread and, judging from the numbers of people who come from all over the city to buy it, it may be his most popular as well.

At the bakery it takes two days to make; I suggest that you start it in the morning, work at it again for ten minutes in the evening, and finish the next day. I actually prefer to stretch the process over three days because the flavor is even better. Three days may seem formidable, but the working time of the first two days is only 5 to 10 minutes.

This is one dough that you will find difficult to make without an electric mixer, for it requires thirty minutes of continuous stirring for the final dough-of course you could enlist help. The result is an extremely light bread with a crunchy dark-speckled crust and a very chewy interior. The bread stays fresh for an amazing number of days.

Makes 2 large loaves

First starter:
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or 1/6 small cake (3 grams) fresh yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup (35 grams) durum flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour* (*use strong bread flour -stone ground or not- for a better result)

The morning of the first day, stir the yeast into the water; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flours and stir with a wooden spoon about 50 strokes or with the paddle of an electric mixer about 30 seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12 to 24 hours. The starter should be bubbly.

Second starter:
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or 1/2 small cake (9 grams) fresh yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
1/2 cup (70 grams) durum flour
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour (use strong bread flour -stone ground or not- for a better result)

The evening of the same day or the next morning, stir the yeast into the warm water; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the water, flours and dissolved yeast to the first starter and stir, using a spatula or wooden spoon or the paddle of the electric mixer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12 to 24 hours.

1/4 cup (35 grams) durum flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 140 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour (use strong bread flour -stone ground or not- for a better result)

1 1/2 teaspoons (10-15 grams) salt* (*it says 25 g in the book, but this will get you a very, very salty crocodile)

By mixer:
The next day, add the durum flour and 1 cup unbleached flour to the starter in a mixer bowl; mix with the paddle on the lowest speed for 17 minutes. Add the salt and mix 3 minutes longer, adding the remaining flour if needed for the dough to come together. You may need to turn the mixer off once or twice to keep it from overheating.

By hand:
If you decide to make this dough by hand, place the starter, durum flour, and 1 cup unbleached flour in a wide mouthed bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon for 25 to 30 minutes; then add the salt and remaining flour if needed and stir 5 minutes longer. The dough is very wet and will not be kneaded.

First Rise:
Pour the dough into a Hammarplast bowl or a wide mouthed large bowl placed on an open trivet on legs or on a wok ring so that air can circulate all around it. Loosely drape a towel over the top and let rise at about 70° F, turning the dough over in the bowl every hour, until just about tripled, 4 or 5 hours.

Shaping and Second Rise:
Pour the wet dough onto a generously floured surface. Have a mound of flour nearby to flour your hands, the top of the oozy dough, and the work surface itself. This will all work fine-appearances to the contrary-but be prepared for an unusually wet dough. Make a big round shape of it by just folding and tucking the edges under a bit. Please don't try to shape it precisely; it's a hopeless task and quite unnecessary. Place the dough on well, floured parchment or brown paper placed on a baking sheet or peel. Cover with a dampened towel and let rise until very blistered and full of
air bubbles, about 45 minutes.

Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven with a baking stone in it to 475° F. Just before baking, cut the dough in half down the center with a dough scraper; a knife would tear the dough. Gently slide the 2 pieces apart and turn so that the cut surfaces face upward. Sprinkle the stone with cornmeal. If you feel brave, slide the paper with the dough on it onto the stone, but the dough can also be baked directly on the baking sheet. When the dough has set, slide the paper out. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack.

(with some minor adaptions taken from: "The Italian Baker" by Carol Field)


Anonymous said...

Hi there! I want to try making this, but the 2 starters is throwing me. Do they get combined at some point? Help!!!! :]

Lien said...

Take a deep breath... count to ten. You just read over it, no panic (yet). You make the first starter... the ingredients of the second starter are added to the first. Maybe the choice of words here by Carol Field is a bit confusing. (I'll underline it in the posting)

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm taking deep breaths and going to my happy baking place. Oooohhhmmm.....sourdoooouuuuggghhhh.... Ok, thanks for clarifying that. I guess I need to slow down and read these things slower when I'm overly excited about trying something new and challenging. I will bake this bad boy up next week! Thanks for your help and have a great weekend! :]

Elizabeth said...

Did you change the amount of salt? I've tried this Field recipe twice in the past and it was a total disaster both times.


Lien said...

Hi Elizabeth, yes I used less salt (± 15 g instead of 25 g). A few years ago when I tried this for the first time I used 25 g, it didn't have much effect on the outcome it's just oversalty!
It's all in the flour with this bread, and in working it enough to develope the gluten to hold all that water in.
But I agree it's not the easiest of recipes!

Elizabeth said...

I've tried making it twice. And the attempts were a year apart. The first time, I made it with the amount of salt Field called for and thought the same thing as you: way too salty.

The second time, I reduced the salt but I see from my notes that I chickened out about the slackness of the dough and added a lot of extra flour. I also had a problem with the dough not rising at all - even after more than 22 hours.

But judging from the results that some of you have had recently, (and the fact that I've had a bit more experience with very slack dough in other bread recipes) I'm thinking perhaps I should try this one more time again.


P.S. If I do try this soon, what's the deadline for this particular "cocodrillo" BBB?

Lien said...

O yes you should try it again, third time lucky!
The 'deadline' was today. Well it's not so strict, but a week after we all posted we collect the "Buddies" in sort-of-a round up at the kitchen of the month. that was me this time so I posted about that today. But don't let that withhold you trying!!
Good luck.

Elizabeth said...

I think I will try this again, Lien! But it will have to wait until the kitchen is a bit warmer so I'll really miss the BBB deadline. Winter is really hanging on here (yet more snow is falling now). But the long term forecasters claim that it will start to warm up next week so perhaps I'll make my third (lucky, with fingers crossed) attempt then.


P.S. Maybe I'll be able to make the April Babe deadline....

Anonymous said...

Lien, if I can't use wheat what would be a suitable alternative for durum?
This one is the last bread on my BBB Breads list I haven't made yet and I wanted to do it for the weekend but have no idea what I could use for durum.

Lien said...

Hi Astrid sorry for the late answer, maybe you already finished making it?
I'd probably just substitute the same amount with the flour you use, but haven't tried it with spelt (as I presume you're using spelt?)
hope it went alright anyway

Astrid said...

Hi Lien,
no problem. I am not finished yet. The Coccodrillo is at it's first rise. You are right I try to conquer this one again with spelt flour. Since it has not to keep any particular shape it might as well work out. I did some experimenting regarding the durum and if it works out (should know this evening) I will post about it for sure.
I even tried to find durum here but I could not find any place to buy it anyway so I had to come up with an alternative... ;o)

Unknown said...

I thought it was crocodile-shape of bread or something... doh! it looks so unique with holes in it...