Pancarrè – a perfect Italian loaf of white spelt bread
by eat in my kitchen
The Italian pancarrè, or pane in cassetta, is the perfect white loaf of bread. It’s soft and spongy inside wrapped in a thin but crunchy crust. It’s the kind of bread that tastes even better, if not heavenly, when you put slices in the toaster the next morning. In Germany, we also call this kind of bread Toast or Toastbrot and I had a rather funny discussion about this topic with Phia and Josh when we met in their kitchen. They found this name quite confusing as for them, and the rest of the English speaking world, toast only becomes toast when it’s put in a toaster. So we came to the conclusion that a toasted slice of bread, to be correct, would be the equivalent to a toasted Toast in Germany.
No matter what you call it, first you have to bake it. I like to use organic white spelt flour (type 630) for this recipe which I often prefer for my cakes, cookies and pies as well. Spelt grain has better nutrition values than wheat and I find it much easier on the body. My Italian bread’s dough is made with butter and milk which makes it rich and slightly sweet in taste. To allow it to rise to its fullest, I learned to divide the dough into three parts which I braid into a plait. I once made the bread without this technique and it wasn’t as airy as I was used to. After this experience, I never messed with it again!
Although I’ve praised this breads toasting qualities, I can just recommend that you start with a warm, thick slice and some salted butter melted on top. The smell and taste is seductive! Then you can continue as you wish, with marmelade – great for tea time – cheese or Italian mortadella. After I had this pancarrè on my table, I always find it hard to go back to the various loaves of bread I buy from the bakeries. Nothing beats home baked bread!
For 1 loaf of bread in a 20 x 10 cm / 8 x 4″ loaf tin you need
plain flour (white spelt or wheat) 400g / 14 ounces
dry yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
sugar 1 tablespoon
salt 1 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 5 ounces
water, lukewarm, 100ml / 3.5 ounces
unsalted butter, melted, 60g / 2 ounces
Mix the melted butter with the milk and water, the mixture should be lukewarm.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the milk / butter mixture and mix with your dough hooks for about 5 minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) for about 45 minutes.
Butter your loaf tin and dust it lightly with flour.
Take the bowl out of the oven. Punch the dough down, divide it into three parts and form thick sausage shaped rolls. Braid them into a thick plait a bit longer than your tin. Fold down the ends and put the plait into the tin. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for another 30 minutes in a warm place.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top / bottom heat).
Bake the bread for about 40 minutes or until golden on top. If you’re not sure if it’s done, turn the bread around and knock on its underside, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a couple minutes before you enjoy the first slice.