Stefano is a very enthusiastic baker friend and fan of our recipes. he has already shared several of his excellent bakes with us, also in the yourloaves section of our site. We envy him because he seems spoiled for choice when it comes to all kinds of excellent Italian bread flours he can experiment with to create wonderful loaves. We want to thank him for his contribution, his story and the inspiration he gives to us and other bakers!
Why baking is in my DNA
Passion, it’s all about passion. Not only for baking, it is something more, it is something that we (I have a twin brother and I often use we), well I, have in my DNA.
My grandfather was a baker, a pastry chef, he started working in a bakery when he was 7 years old. He spent his whole life in his bakery and even after his retirement he continued to work in bakeries, he helped lots of young bakers to learn the “white art”. He was really inspiring, When I was 6 or 7 I used to spend hours in his bakery, staring at him, at his gestures, at his incredibly fast movements, all in perfect sync.
My father was blind, since he was 3 years old, so he had to develop alternative skills. He was great in many ways, he was a Philosophy teacher at the high school and he was also able to do incredible things with his hands. I learned from him to repair a cassette recorder, to replace a broken water pipe, to build small wood objects, to play piano, to swim, even to fish (our family comes from Portovenere, close to the Cinque Terre, in Liguria, Italy). This explains why I love to use my hands to get in touch with the world around me. Baking is sort of the paradigm of using hands. Hands, flour, water and salt. Nothing else, well, one more thing, passion. Without passion you could easily give up, baking is rewarding but it also requires a lot of patience and time.
I’ve a degree in Law, I’ve been working in the Information Technology industry for almost 20 years, in different countries, but I would stop working tomorrow if I had the opportunity to start a bakery. My roots are in the past, in the small, simple things. From this point of view, baking bread is something ancestral. My dream is to buy a country house, with a big garden where to grow everything I need, to bake bread, to go “off grid”.
So far this is a dream, I keep working with computers, I travel a lot (50-60 flights per year) but every time I can spend one or two days at home, with the beloved ones, I bake bread, croissants, pancakes, focaccia and we love it. The walnuts bread you find below is one of our favourites.
My Recipe for sourdough bread with walnuts
Ingredients for the poolish
115 g flour
115 g water
50 g rye sourdough starter
Ingredients for the dough
170 g high protein bread flour (Manitoba)
170 g whole wheat flour (Organic “tipo2” flour milled by Molino Tre Ponti, Polverigi, Ancona – ITALY)
6 g barley malt flour
60 g chopped walnuts
180 g water (warm)
50 g rye sourdough starter
8 g salt
I prepare the poolish the evening before baking, and I make sure that the rye starter is very active when I make the poolish. I feed it 6 hours before making the poolish, so let’s say at 14:00 to be ready at 20:00.
In the morning I mix the poolish with water, add the flours, the malt and 50 gr of rye starter. After mixing I let the dough rest for 45 minutes (autolyse).
Then I add the salt, the walnuts, and I mix the dough using the slap and fold technique, to develop gluten. After ten minutes I stretch and fold the dough and I leave it to rest for 15-20 minutes. I stretch and fold the dough for a total of 4 times, at 15 minutes intervals. Then I put the dough in a bowl for the fermentation, for about 2.0-2.5 hours. Then I shape the dough and I let it proof in a banneton, floured with rice flour, for 1.5-2.0 hours. I bake the bread in a dutch oven, 25 minutes with the lid at 230°C and then 20 minutes without the lid, at 200°C.”