How to make a great, light Pugliese bread

Two recipes crossed; don't try this at home

It’s been about two years since I started baking my own bread. No machine, just flour, water, yeast, and salt.

It might have all started the summer that my niece Silvana stayed with me, in between semesters at GMU. She loved to cook, and baking was her specialty. Plus, she worked at the library and brought home oodles of cookbooks.

The first time we tried bread making we started with a simple water/yeast mixture that needed about an hour to gurgle up into a frothy science experiment. It was like magic. That’s when I fell in love with baking.

But I hadn’t found the right bread recipe.

After Silvana left for school that summer, I found a loaf of bread at Bloom that I loved. It was called Pugliese (pool-ee-AY-zee) … light, airy, holy, and unadorned with basil or rosemary. It is a simple country Italian bread. I bought it solidly for two months until Mama Jean, the head baker, told me sorrowfully that the loaf was being discontinued. I panicked.

I began to find recipes everywhere for Pugliese. I made dozens and dozens of loaves, all kinds of recipes. My friends began to mention weight gain. Theirs.

I made small round loaves, wide loaves, loaves on baking pans, loaves on stone. Once I accidentally mixed up two recipes and cooked a loaf at 550• that should have been cooked at 450•. The blackened bread (see photo) was actually tasty in the middle. But the bread stone was history.

Then I found this recipe. It can be made into round loaves, but I’ve enjoyed much more baking in bread pans. It’s a two-day recipe.

Day 1
Make the biga, a starter for your Pugliese, before you go to bed.

  • 1 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp yeast
Mix all and place in an oiled bowl (I use Pam). Cover and leave overnight.

Day 2

In the morning, add the following to your biga:
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp salt

Knead well and cover in an oil-treated bowl.

It’s nice if you can knead during the day, but it’s not absolutely necessary for this very tolerant bread.

I often come home at dinner time, knead, and cover for an hour.

Then, after the hour or so, I knead again, split the dough into halves, roll each dough half and place into a Pam’d bread pan. Let rise for 90 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450•.

Cook for 25 minutes. You can, optionally, for crustier bread, remove the bread from the pans after 25 minutes, turn off the oven, and leave the bread in the oven for another 10 or 15 minutes.

This bread is great for sandwiches and toast. It’s light with a hearty taste.

You can use, of course, other than white bread flours. I’ve found that what works best for me is to make the biga with white bread flour, and then replace one of the four cups of white flour with rye or whole wheat or something else.

You can also keep the recipe the same and add a teaspoon of caraway seeds for a nice variation. Rosemary is always a hit. But, again, I don’t often add other ingredients. I’m crazy about this as a plain sandwich/toast bread.

Please tell me how you like it!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl Johnson
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 06:23:31

    A nice piece to read; your bread is great. Happy baking.


  2. gettysburggirl
    May 10, 2013 @ 20:23:15

    My late mother married a Pugliese (a man, not a bread) when I was young, and I was intrigued when I found this bread at my grocery just recently. No one in the family realized there was a bread named after them and have yet to taste it – being unable to find it where they are. I was looking for recipes and came upon yours which sounds pretty doable to me. I plan to bake for everyone and see if I can do it justice. The grocer makes a good round roll of it, but it’s very expensive there. Thanks.


    • Susan
      May 10, 2013 @ 22:54:51

      Kathy, it’s really a very easy and forgiving bread (although I’ve found the more I knead the higher it rises, of course). I’ve had the best luck with top of the line flour such as King Arthur. Happy Baking!


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