I had so much fun making challah for last week's YeastSpotting event, that I decided to try my hand at a whole wheat version of Pane di Como. This was a very hearty bread with a crispy exterior. It wasn't as tangy as I would have hoped it would be having milk in the starter, but it was still a tasty accompaniment to the Tuscan Style Bean Soup I served Sunday night. It did take about 24 hours start to finish, but only about 20 minutes or less of hands on time.
Whole Wheat Pane di Como by Joie de vivre
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp molasses
1/3 c. warm water
2/3 c. milk, room temperature
1 c. all-purpose flour
Directions: Stir the yeast, molasses and warm water together in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes or so until the yeast is bubbly. Add the milk and stir. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter overnight.
2 c. water, slightly warm to touch
5 - 5 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 Tbls. salt
Add water to the starter and use hands to squeeze the water and the starter together until no clumps remain. Mix the flour and salt together and add 2 c. at a time into the starter mixture. When it is too stiff to stir with a spoon, use your hands to knead the mixture together. It should be ever so slightly sticky (stickier than if you use white flour). Knead the dough very well, crashing it down on the counter while doing this to develop the gluten, for about 8-10 minutes. Put the dough in a well greased bowl and turn over so that the top of the dough is also greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double, 2-3 hours.
Once dough has doubled, cut it in half and shape it into 2 round loaves. Place each loaf in a bowl lined with generously floured kitchen towels. Cover each loaf with a towel and leave to rise once again. 1-2 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F with a baking stone in the oven. When ready to bake the loaves, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and invert the loaves onto the stone. Bake until the dough sounds hollow when thunked on the bottom, about 1 hour. Cool the loaves on racks before cutting.