It was cold, wet, and rainy today.  I knew this in advance and actually planned on being in the kitchen for most of the day.  There really is no better place on a chilly day than next to a warm stove and hot oven.  Well…  there is, but …  uh… nevermind…

The day dawned with Victor making pancakes and bacon.  Just what I wanted and just what I planned on making before he beat me to the kitchen.   But I was looking to take them one step further – with a fried egg on top.  I’m the egg man in the house, so I quickly fried up two of them after Victor finished his work and on they went.  Midway through breakfast, Victor mentioned that he had never had a fried egg atop a pancake before!  I was shocked!  Heck, I’ve been cooking them and eating them since forever or longer.

The good news was that he really really liked them.  I see more of them in our future…

After the breakfast dishes were cleared, I started on the bread.  I had made my biga – starter – last night and had everything else in place.  The bread recipe will follow.

After getting all of that cleaned up, it was lunch time.

Lunch was a simple grilled cheese sandwich.  With fontina cheese, prosciutto, and homemade tomato pepper jam.  On crusty Italian bread.  It totally worked on every level.

And while the bread was rising and/or baking, I made soup.

Well…  It started off as soup.  It ended up being more stew-like.  But damn!  It was good!

It contained:

  • chicken breasts
  • andouille sausage
  • onion
  • celery
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • chicken broth
  • pumpkin puree
  • white beans
  • green chilis
  • gold potatoes
  • corn
  • green beans
  • peas
  • black barley
  • black lentils
  • mahogany rice
  • wild rice
  • chipotle powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper

I cooked the grains separately to try and keep the soup from thickening too much, but there was so much going on in that pot, it was impossible to keep the broth even remotely thin.  It was good, because I was going for a thicker soup to begin with, but I just kept adding things and…

I made so much I brought a couple of containers over to our neighbors and will bring some to Victor’s mom tomorrow when I do her shopping.

And we still have plenty for a couple more meals.

And around all this other cooking, I baked one of my more favorite Italian breads – Pane Pugliese.

I usually make all of the biga and freeze what I don’t use, but only make half of the bread recipe.

I also decided to use my Italian “00” flour.  It is noticeably different both in taste and texture.  I needed to add a bit more flour than normal, but the bread came out perfect.  A really chewy crust and a delicate crumb.

Pane Pugliese

adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

  • 1 packet dry yeast (or 1/2 package fresh yeast)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups water; room temp
  • 1 cup biga
  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp salt

Proof the yeast in the warm water. Add 1 1/2 c water and the biga, mix till blended. Add flour and salt, mix till dough comes together and pulls off the sides of the bowl. Knead 3-5 minutes in a mixer, longer by hand. Dough will be very soft and elastic. Let rise about 3 hours, shape into 2 small round loaves or 1 big flattish one. If you have baking stones, place loaves on baking peel or on baking sheets sprinkled corn meal. Let rise about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450°, and 10 minutes before baking flour the loaf tops and dimple them with your fingers. Bake 50-60 minutes for big loaves, 30-35 minutes for small. Tap the loaves to test for doneness (hollow=done) and cool on a rack.

Here’s the biga last night after being mixed.


  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (or 1/10 package fresh yeast)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/4 cup water (room temperature)
  • 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until creamy – about 10 minutes.  Stir in the remaining water and then the flour, one cup at a time.

Mix with the paddle attachment on the mixer at the lowest speed about 2 minutes.

Remove to a slightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise at cool room temperature for 6 to 24 hours.  The starter will triple in volume and still be wet and sticky when ready.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

And then what it was like 12 hours later.

This is the bread after its first rise.  I had just formed it into the loaf.

And then, after flouring and dimpling the dough 10 minutes before going into the oven.

If you bypass this step, the bread will literally go wild in the oven.  This knocks out a lot of the gas and makes for a very fine crumb.