(Graciously sent to me by my friend, BreadBakerEd)

From Carol Field's cookbook, The Italian Baker, "This 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."

Now, if all that hasn't put you off attempting to make this bread, my friend, BreadBakerEd, has generously offered his tips and hints---PLUS, he even has lent me his photos to help you along during the process. So, how can you go wrong? Start planning now!

The most important thing to do first is---READ THROUGH AND STUDY THE RECIPE. Know what you are going to have to do and when. Then plan your schedule. Preparation Time: Approximately 72 hours total
Yields 2 loaves
Recipe was found in: "The Italian Baker" cookbook by Carol Field

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 ***
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.

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 **
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 hurs.

1/4 cup (35 grams) durum flour *
1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 140 grams) unbleached stone-ground flour **
1 1/2 Tablespoons (25 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.

If you decide to make this dough by hand, place the starter, durum flour, and 1 cup unbleached flour in a widemouthed bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spool 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.

Pour the dough into a Hammarplast bowl**** or a widemouthed 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 degrees, turning the dough over in the bowl every hour, until just about tripled, 4 or 5 hours. (Ed says, "Keep and eye on it and do the ole finger poke test and dump when the indentation stays or just begins to fill in at the bottom. I can't remember how long, but I'm sure it's not 4 or 5 hours.")

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; its a hopeless task and quite unnecessary. It should look something like this, ready to split in two.

Place the dough on a 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. When fully risen, it should look something like this, all nice and poofy.

Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven with a baking stone in it to 475 degrees. 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.

After the oven spring(about 5 minutes), when the dough has set, slide the paper out. The loaves can be slid directly onto the the stone to finish. Just be careful not to pull the bread to far out of the heat or the loaves might collapse! Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.

"Love that oven spring!

Don't these look good enough to eat right off your 'puter screen?!

Cool on a rack.

* Ed and I both use instant yeast (SAF) and find that there is no really big difference in using that or active dry yeast as far as the amount goes (at least in this case). Normally, the amount of instant yeast used is about 25% less than the amount of active dry yeast. ** Don't attempt to use Antoine's Pasta Flour from the supermarket as others have tried and failed. If you can't find Durum Flour anywhere else, you can get it from the King Arthur Flour's Baker's Catalogue like I do.

*** Use the best unbleached all-purpose flour you can find---one with a higher than normal protein level, such as King Arthur's Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, available now in many supermarkets. If not, get it from their Baker's Catalogue.

****According the the book, "The Hammarplast bowl is a large capacity, straight sided, footed plastic bowl made in Sweden. The feet allow air to circulate under the dough as well as around the sides and the top." I improvise with a large acrylic bowl I got from Baker's Catalogue, and put it in my oven on the middle rack with just the light on. This provides the warmth necessary plus the circulation.

For help from the Baking Circle, click here. The name of the threads you want to read are "Crocodile Bread from The Italian Baker" and "Crocodile Bread". You will see BreadBakerEd there as "edsniche", and me of course.

If you really need to e-mail Ed, his address is breadbakered@yahoo.com.

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Copyright 2004 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved