Updated: May 3, 2020
I have been making this bread for 10 years and my family LOVES it. My son named it "most excellent bread ever". Every time I make it I'm super thankful it makes two rounds because one is NEVER enough.
This bread is chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside with a rosemary salty crust. It's insanely delicious. Here's the catch...you need a little bit of time and patience. You make the "biga" which is the starter dough 8 to 24 hours before. Good news its super simple. And one other thing, baking day will require you to be around for four hours to tend to the dough. Don't be put off or intimidated by it because, again it's super simple. You can be around doing other things, even working from home, just set a timer to fold your dough. Trust me it's TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Here's what you'll need:
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1/4 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 and 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups (10 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
For the Biga:
Combine the flour, water and yeast in a large ceramic bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight (8 - 24 hours). After the biga sits for 8-24 hours you may use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes if you refrigerate before proceeding with the recipe).
For the Dough:
1. Stir the flour, water and yeast into biga with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
2. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt over the dough then stir until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Spray a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray; fold the dough over itself by gently lifting and folding the edge of the dough toward the middle of the bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold again. Repeat turning the bowl and folding the dough for a total of 8 turns. Cover the bowl with plastic and let sit for another 30 minutes.
4. Repeat step 3 2 more times for a total of three 30 minute rises.
5. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Place a baking stone on the rack and heat oven to 500 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking the bread. (NOTE: If you don't have a baking stone, don't worry I have forgotten to use mine before and the bread still turns out beautifully).
6. Gently transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Lightly dust top of dough with flour and divide in half. Shape each piece of dough into 5 inch rounds by gently tucking under the edges.
7. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 Tablespoons of oil each. Sprinkle each pan with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then place the round of dough in pan and slide the dough around the pan to coat with the oil, then flip and repeat with the other side of the dough. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
8. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 5 minutes.
9. Using fingertips, press dough out toward the edges of the pan (if the dough resists stretching, let it relax 5-10 more minutes then try again).
10. Using a dinner fork, poke surface of dough 30 times, popping any large bubbles. Then sprinkle with the rosemary evenly over each of the dough rounds. Let the dough rest 10 more minutes.
11. Place the pans on the baking sheet or on the oven rack and reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until the tops are golden brown, about 25 to 28 minutes, switching placement of pans half way through.
12. Transfer pans to wire wrack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pan and return to wire rack and brush with remaining oil from the pans. Let cool 30 minutes (if you can wait that long) before serving.