If you’ve followed this blog for a while then you might have noticed that I truly enjoy baking bread. I particularly enjoy making shaped or scored bread. Though not always good at it, it allows me to get creative with bread. I have made a couple of loaves of Pane Incamiciato this year so far.
Pane Incamiciato is an Italian flower shaped bread. The dough is shaped and scored in such a way that the “leaves/ petals” open when baked. I understand that Pane Incamiciato roughly translates as “bread wrapped in a shirt”! This probably refers to the wrapping of the dough before scoring it. This bread has a crisp crust “leaves/ petals” and a soft crumb. It is quite versatile and works well with pretty much everything. It’s great with soup, makes good toast, and holds up well as sandwiches.
Making the bread is quite easy. The dough is typically divided into two portions – 1/3rd and 2/3rd. The larger portion is shaped into a round. The smaller portion is flattened into a circle and wrapped around the ball of dough. This is then scored like the spokes of a wheel which open up as the bread rises and bakes in the oven.
The scoring is a little involved but can be achieved with a little practice. You have to be careful to score only the outer layer of dough. It is important to do it lightly and without any hesitation. Marking the pattern on the dough before scoring helps. And you can always go over the scoring again afterwards.
Pane Incamiciato is typically a sourdough bread. I do like sourdough breads but they’re not that much a favourite in the family. Once in a while would be fine. So I made my Pane Incamiciato in a non-sourdough version. Ideally use whichever sourdough recipe works for you. A bread recipe using a pre-ferment or poolish or biga works too. Otherwise use the “regular bread” recipe below. Just remember you want your bread dough to be a bit slack for a really nice texture.
- 1 tsp dry active or 3/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- More water for kneading dough
- 1/4 cup black and white sesame seeds
- I always proof my yeast. You can skip this step if you choose and add the yeast directly to the flour. To proof the yeast, mix it with the sugar and warm water. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes till frothy.
- Put the flours, salt, olive oil and proofed yeast in the bowl of your kneading machine. You may knead the dough by hand too. Knead the dough, adding as much more water as is required to form a dough that is soft and smooth. You want a dough that is somewhat slack, not sticky but should be easy enough to shape. We’re not looking for the slackness of a sourdough.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning it well to coat all over with oil. Cover loosely and allow it to rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour and half depending on ambient temperature.
- Gently knead to deflate the dough. Divide the dough into two pieces – 1/3rd and 2/3rd approximately in size. Shape the larger portion into a nice, smooth and tight ball. Using your fingers, flatten the smaller portion into a falt circle that is big enough to wrap around the larger ball of dough. Do not make this circle too thin or too thick.
- Spread the sesame seeds uniformly on a flat plate. Lightly brush the surface of the circle of dough with some oil. This is to keep separation between the dough while scoring. Take the larger ball of dough. Dampen the top and sides of it with a little water. Then roll it in sesame seeds so they uniformly and closely coat the surface.
- Now gently place this ball, sesame seed surface facing down, in the centre of the circle of dough. Bring up the sides of the circle together and seal well so the dough has enclosed the ball completely.
- Place the dough ball on a lightly greased parchment covered baking tray with the seam sides down. Cover loosely and let it rise for 30 to 45 minutes till puffy. Do not let it over proof.
- Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour. Using a piece of string/ twine, mark the surface into six or eight equally spaced spokes, like in a wheel. Using a blade or lame, score firmly and smoothly along each marked spoke, from the centre down to the sides. Cut deep enough to reach the sesame seed layer but not beyond. Make sure the scoring cuts are neat and separated. The oil and sesame seeds will ensure that layers separate on baking.
- You should now be able to see the sesame seed layer through the cuts. Bake the bread at 210C (410F) for about 30 to 40 minutes till the “leaves/ petals” have separated and opened up, the bread is a beautiful brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Let it cool completely. The outer layers should be crisp while the bread itself will be soft. Serve any way you prefer.