Pane toscana is the traditional saltless bread of Tuscany. It isn’t meant to be eaten alone but rather with the spicy dishes, strong cheeses, and salty meats of the region. This is perfect to serve with antipasti or for dunking in a rich, delicious soup.
by volume by weight
1/3 teaspoon yeast 1 gram yeast
3/4 cup warm water 180 grams warm water
1½ cups all purpose flour 180 grams all purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons yeast 4 grams yeast
1½ cups warm water 360 grams warm water
4 cups all purpose flour 480 grams all purpose flour
Combine the ingredients for the sponge and cover. Let rise for 8 hours at room temperature. After 8 hours you will see many bubbles just underneath the surface – this is what you want.
Combine the sponge with the dough ingredients to make a rough dough.
Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and let rise until the dough has doubled, approximately 1 hour.
Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a round loaf. Do this by bringing dough from the edges to the center and pressing to seal. The surface of the dough towards the table should become smooth and taut.
Place the loaf on a cornmeal dusted piece of parchment that is on an upside down sheet pan.
Let the dough rise again for approximately 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 500F with a sheet pan inside. Slash the top of the bread in a cross hatch pattern using a sharp knife.
Slide the loaf immediately into the oven onto the hot cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 500F and then reduce the temperature to 400F. Continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack.
Pane Toscana is meant to be a simple bread and is used as an accompaniment to other things. Rather than add to the dough, here are some great serving suggestions.
1) Cut thin slices for an antipasto tray. The meats, cheeses, and olives on the platter will pair perfectly with this simple, rustic bread.
2) Rub slices of the bread with fresh garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Broil or grill until toasted. Serve with tapenade or fresh, sliced tomatoes from the garden.
3) Tear the bread into generous sized pieces and serve with rich stews, soups, or spicy chili.
4) Use any leftover bread to make bread pudding!