Royal Crown’s Tortano

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I noticed a few weeks ago that a new food blogging group had formed – the Bread Baking Babes. They tackle a new type of bread each month and then blog about it and encourage readers to give it a shot within the following week to become a Bread Baking Buddy. The first month of BBB was hosted by Baking Soda over at Bake My Day! and the introductory bread was the Maggie Glazer’s Royal Crown’s Tortano, which is a rustic bread and a signature of the Royal Crown Bakery in Brooklyn, NY. With Nick’s birthday last week I didn’t have enough kitchen time to devote to this bread, but I knew I definitely wanted to try it sooner rather than later and finally got a chance over the last few days. I’m not sure if I’m a “Buddy” since it took me more than a week to make this, but I wanted to thank Mary over at The Sour Dough for being patient with me as I asked a ton of questions through email, and also for posting a bunch of pictures of the process. These helped me tremendously, and in hind sight I should have done the same, but if you attempt this bread definitely check out Mary’s post to get an idea of what the dough should look like at each stage.

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My first attempt to start the preferment didn’t go very far, as after I woke up I realized that nothing really happened and my yeast was probably bad (the jar had been around for quite some time). I went to the store and got some brand new yeast and started over. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I stuck with it, because aside from being an amazing loaf of bread, I also got to experiment with a different type of dough and new techniques.

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To say that this was a wet dough was putting it mildly! I have never seen dough actually look like a liquid mass before coming together. I crossed my fingers that I was moving along the right way and was so excited after each step to realize that was was supposed to happen was indeed happening. I am going to include my thoughts/comments/tips throughout each section of the recipe, since that’s easier than trying to summarize it all here. One thing I do think that I need to work on is my slashing. Perhaps my knives aren’t sharp enough and I need to get a razor? This happened with the French bread as well – the slits were barely noticeable and didn’t open up. Any tips from you bread geniuses out there??

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Overall thoughts on this bread… FABULOUS! It turned out exactly the way I imagined it should. The crust was crisp and crunchy, and the inside warm, chewy, and full of big air holes. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this bread and of learning many new things in the process!

Royal Crown’s Tortano
(Source: Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glazer)

Recipe Quantity: One (1) 2 1/4lb (1200 gram) tortano

Time Required for Recipe: About 19 hours, with about 20 minutes of active work

Note about recipe: You will need to start this recipe the night BEFORE you want to bake the bread.

This is the most beautiful bread Royal Crown makes, a huge round loaf filled with radish size air cells, tanks to careful handling and lots of water in teh dough. Joe adds potato for flavor and moistness and honey for color to this very wet, squichy dough. For extra flavor, the bread is leavened solely by its starter, so it rises very slowly and develops a nice but not aggressive acidity. To get authentic Italian flavor, you will need to bake this bread to a deep, dark brown so don’t skimp on the baking time – the bread will not burn.

Recipe Synopsis

The Evening Before Baking: Make the starter and if you like the mashed potato.

The Next Morning: Mix the dough and let it ferment for about 4 hours. Shape it, proof it for about 1 1/2 hours, and then bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

The Evening Before Baking: Making the Pre-Ferment:

Ingredients Volume (English units)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water 105 – 115 degrees F
2/3 cup unbleached bread flour
1 small potato

Ingredients Weight
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water 105 – 115 degrees F
3.5 ounces unbleached bread flour
3 ounce small potato

Ingredients Metric
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water 105 – 115 degrees F
100 grams unbleached bread flour
85 grams small potato

Ingredients Baker’s Percentages
eventually 0.3% instant yeast
eventually 73% water 105 – 115 degrees F
100% unbleached bread flour
1 small potato

Stir the yeast into the water in a glass measure and let it stand for 5 – 10 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water (discard the rest) to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles and sharp tasting, about 12 hours. If your kitchen is very warm and the pre-ferment is fermenting very quickly, place it in the refrigerator after 3 hours of fermenting. In the morning, remove it and allow it to come to room temperature 30 minutes to an hour before beginning the final dough.

[Chelle Note: This was the first time that I used a weight measurement for my flour instead of the traditional measuring cups. I think I am sold on this; perhaps it was just luck, but this was the very first time that my risen dough had the exact characteristics that the recipe described. Either way, I have read enough lately about the benefits of weight measurements that I think I will be doing this from now on. I know this sections notes a sharp-tasting preferment – although I didn’t taste it, there was certainly no mistaking the incredibly sharp aroma that it was putting off!]

Preparing the Potato: For efficiency, you may want to prepare the potato the night before. Quarter it, then boil it in water to cover until it can be easily pierced with a knife tip, about 20 minutes. Drain; if desired, reserve the water for the dough. Press the potato through a ricer or sieve to puree it and remove the skin. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You will need only 1/4 cup puree.

Bake Day: Mixing the Dough

Ingredients Volume (English units)
3 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
Pre-ferment
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup packed Potato puree
1 Tbsp salt

Ingredients Weight
20 ounces unbleached bread flour
14.6 ounces Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
Pre-ferment
0.4 ounces honey
2 ounces Potato puree
0.5 ounces salt

Ingredients Metric
575 grams unbleached bread flour
420 grams Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
Pre-ferment
14 grams honey
60 grams Potato puree
15 grams salt

Ingredients Baker’s Percentages
100% unbleached bread flour
73% Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
30% Pre-ferment
2% honey
10% Potato puree
2.4% salt

By Hand: Use your hands to mnix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in a large bowl. Cover the dough and let rest (autolyse) for 10 – 20 minutes.

Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato, and salt, and knead the dough until it is smooth, 5 – 10 minutes. It will start off feeling rubbery, then break down into goo; if you persist, eventually it will come together into a smooth, shiny dough. If you do not have the skill or time to knead it to smoothness, the bread will not suffer. This is a tremendously wet and sticky dough, so use a dough scraper to help you but do not add more flour, for it will ruin the texture of the bread.

By Stand Mixer: With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in the work bowl of your mixer. Cover the dough and let it rest (autolyse) for 10 – 20 minutes.

[Chelle’s Note: I was tempted to not add in all of the flour because the mixture didn’t seem that wet, however Mary specifically noted to make sure you add all of the flour, and am I ever glad that I did!]

Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and the mix the dough on medium speed for 15 – 20 minutes, or until very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splaterring back around the bowl. This dough is almost pourably wet.

[Chelle’s Note: This takes patience, you must believe that you have not just made bread-dough-soup! I kneaded on Speed 4 of my KA, and Mary said that at a lower speed it probably would not come together. This took me about 12 minutes to get to come together in a loose ball.]

Fermenting and Turning the Dough:

Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour. Place it in a container at least 3 times its size and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours. Using plenty of dusting flour, turn the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, the leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time. Do not allow this dough to over ferment or forment to the point of collapse, for the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

[Chelle’s Note: I just had to say how happy I was to see big bubbles in my dough! I knew I was on the right track!]

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, round it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a couche or wooden board generously with flour. Slip a baking sheet under the couche if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the center of the ball. Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, the rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. The bread should have about 12 inch diameter.

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour. Drape it with plastic wrap and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheating the Oven:

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven’s second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (230 C)

Baking the Bread:

Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper. Do not worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover int eh oven as long as it is not overproofed. Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross. Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 -50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake. Let the bread cool on a rack.

[Chelle’s Note: I am unsure of the need to flip this dough onto something other than the baking stone? I had an awful time getting the bread to slide from the parchment paper onto the baking stone and my dough ended up a little deformed in the process. In retrospect, I would have just flipped it onto the baking stone the first time.]

29 Responses

  1. Yay!! I’m glad the bad yeast didn’t stop you, your bread looks fantastic!

  2. Nikki – Thanks for the advice on the yeast, I’m glad I stuck it out too!

  3. That looks like a really great loaf of bread. About slashing – I’ve started using a serrated knife to slash loafs, and it works a lot better than a straight knife. I guess my regular knives just aren’t sharp enough. I’ve tried using a razor, but the serrated knife works just as well.

  4. bridget – Thanks so much for the tip on slashing, I haven’t tried my serrated knives. I will do that next time and see if that’s any better.

  5. Now that is a Royal Crown Tortano! You did a great job and I can taste that bread.

    Thanks for all the kind comments. You can bake with us anytime you want😉

  6. Mary – Thank you!🙂 And you’re welcome – you were a huge help!

  7. wow chelle! looks wonderful. i’m always amazed by all the complicated things you try. you’re my baking hero😉

  8. kayte – Thank you so much!! I figure I’ll never learn anything new if I don’t venture outside of my comfort zone!

  9. Chelle, this looks great! Congrats on continuing to grow your bread baking skills. I wish I had more time to devote to things like this. Maybe while I’m on maternity leave🙂

  10. congratulations on your fantastic Royal Crown. It’s royal indeed. Love the interior…very, very good job!

  11. Annie – Thank you! I’m sure you’ll do lots of fun stuff on your maternity leave!

    Lien – Thank you very much!!🙂

  12. This looks great! The crust looks perfect! I can imagine the sense of accomplishment you must have felt when you finished this. I have recently become interested in bread baking and improving my skills. I just bought Peter Reinhart’s The Baker’s Apprentice and I think I’m going to challenge myself to try once recipe each week from it so that I can start mastering the art of bread baking!

  13. Erin – Thank you!! I have that book on my list to buy, you’ll have to let me know how you like it!

  14. Wow Michelle! You’ve done it! Great loaf and that crust and crumb is amazing!

  15. I so wish I could have done this with you!!! It turned out gorgeous Chelle. Seriously, thats an awesome looking loaf of bread. Kudos to you, I wish I could taste it!

  16. It’s GORGEOUS! I’m also a big fan of the weighing method for baking.

  17. baking soda – Thank you! I was so excited to make this!

    Laurie – Next one we’ll have to do together! And thanks for the compliments🙂

    Kate – Thank you! And I am totally sold on weighing now as well!

  18. Wow! It looks beautiful, both the crust and the lovely holes in the crumb. I sure wish I had some right now. That was a fabulous bread!

  19. sher – Thank you! I can’t wait to have some tomorrow with our spaghetti and meatballs… it will be perfect for sopping up the sauce!

  20. I know you just got this award, but you make my day, too! I made the tirimisu tonight, and it turned out perfectly! Thanks for making my day!

    http://cookingandeatinginthewindycity.blogspot.com/2008/03/my-first-blog-award.html

  21. I made this, too, and I’m so glad that I did! I’d never baked anything like this, and I was so proud of myself. Hope you are, too!

  22. Erin – Thank you so much for the award! That’s so sweet! I hope you enjoyed the tiramisu🙂

    Madam Chow – I agree, it was a wonderful bread to flex some un-used bread-baking muscles! I was incredibly proud! Congratulations to you as well!

  23. You did a fabulous job with this! Agreed, it was definitely a different dough and wet just wasn’t the word, but wow! yours turned out fantastic!!! Cannot wait until the next month!

  24. Gretchen – Thank you very much! I am very excited about what the next month will bring!

  25. Michelle! Wow! That is simply awesome bread!
    I’m so glad you baked with us. You can certainly consider yourself a bread baking buddy with this loaf!

  26. Tanna – Thank you very much!🙂 I’m proud to be a Buddy!

  27. Wow, just wow. I would love a piece of that right now!

  28. Ally – You are more than welcome to jet up here to the snow zone and I will share my bread with you🙂

  29. Wow, this looks fabulous Chelle!!! Wonderful looking crumb and one heck of a crispy crust.

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