I've been away for a bit. Please excuse my absence - I've been on safari. Yes, the fabulous Bread Baking Babes and I put on our pith helmets and hip waders and went hunting crocodiles. What an adventure!
We went in search of the ferocious Coccodrillo Crocodile Bread, a bread dreamed up about thirty years ago by Gianfranco Anelli, a baker in Rome, and named for it's bumpy texture. Although it's rustic in appearance, it uses modern kitchen appliances to create its structure. thirty minutes of continuous stirring, to be precise. Would you like to do that by hand? Not me. My arm would fall off!
The bread takes 3 days to make, although it only involves minutes of time for the first two days. It was quite an experience. I've never worked with a dough quite like this before. It was a cross between soup and Silly Putty. The long beating period creates long, looooong gluten strands that barely hold the soup together.
There was much discussion between the Bread Baking Babes about which flour was best to use. I mail ordered durum flour from King Arthur flour but forgot to figure out what unbleached stone-ground flour was. It must have been early in the morning because I decided that my stone-ground whole wheat flour would do the trick. (Jungle drums of doom start playing here.) You'll have to visit all the other Babes' sites to see the wonderfully fluffy crocs they captured. Mine is more of a hearty, hippie whole-wheaty croc. It was good, but I'd like to try it again with the right flour to see what it's supposed to be like. My crust stayed soft and the inside was almost gummy.
Oh, and I forgot to set the timer. (Jungle drums reach a crescendo here.) I did set the timer, but my timer has this annoying design where the "clear button" is where the start button should be, so I set the timer, hit start (I think), and walk away. When I go back to check a while later, the timer says zero and the bread is starting to burn on top. Aieeeeee!
Shaping the dough is a joke. You can try to make a tidy circle, but you'll just be frustrated. It oozes wherever it wants, perhaps injesting small towns along the way.
Cutting the dough is equally challenging. The two halves like being together and don't appreciate your efforts to separate them!
But the trickiest part by far was getting the dough onto the preheated stone. I sprinkled the stone with cornmeal which promptly started to scorch, smelling up my kitchen like burned movie theater popcorn. Then as I tried to gently turn and lift the halves, they writhed like a gator on the hook, thrashing around until seared by the heat of the stone. As soon as they hit the oven, the two halves tried to return to each other, so I ended up with conjoined crocs. Fortunately, the surgery to separate them was cheap and painless.
My family enjoyed the bread and I even got a request to make it again, so it must have been OK. I think I'll stay away from whole wheat if I re-make it, though.
If you love bread baking and you love a challenge, you're more than welcome to bake with us and become a Bread Baking Buddie and earn yourself a BBB-badge. How? Click here to find out. The hosting kitchen of the month is Lien of Notitie van Lien. Thanks, Lien, for a fun adventure in baking!
Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes crocodiles!
Bake My Day (Karen), Cookie Baker Lynn (Lynn), Lucullian Delights (Ilva), My Kitchen in Half Cups (Tanna), Notitie van Lien (Lien), The Sour Dough (Mary aka Breadchick), Thyme of Cooking (Katie), What Did You Eat (Sher)
Coccodrillo Crocodile Bread
Makes 2 large loaves
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup (35 grams) King Arthur durum flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) Bob’s Red Mill unbleached stone-ground flour
Step One (this becomes first starter):
In the morning, stir yeast into water: let stand until dissolved about 10 minutes.
Add flours, stir with wooden spoon (about 50 strokes) or mixer about 30 seconds. I stirred until this was almost smooth but not lump free.
Let stand 12 to 24 hours.
Starter should be bubbly and sweet smelling.
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
1/2 cup (70 grams) King Arthur durum flour
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) Bob’s Red Mill unbleached stone-ground flour
Step Two (with the first starter, this becomes second starter):
In the morning, on the second day, again dissolve yeast in water allow to stand about 10 minutes.
Add water, flours and dissolved yeast to the first starter.
Mix with a wooden spoon or the paddle of the electric mixer until smooth. Again this was not lump free.
Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment another 12 to 24 hours.
1/4 cup (35 grams) King Arthur durum flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups unbleached stone-ground flour
18 grams salt
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.
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.
Baking. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven with a baking stone in it to 475° F. You can also put a shallow pan in the bottom to preheat, then after putting the bread in, toss in a few ice cubes to steam up the oven. 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. Squirt some water into the oven to create more steam. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack.
(The transferring problem can be fixed by scooting each half of the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and then transferring the parchment directly to your stone. This would also save the cornmeal scorching kitchen smelling like popcorn step.)
From: The Italian Baker by Carol Field