Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back to Italy - Scali Italian Bread

Ok. I can't help it. Really I can't. I love Italian breads.  Not what they call 'Italian Bread' in supermarkets and bakeries all over America. Usually this is really just a variation on a classic French loaf but maybe a little softer. In fact, there are many, many kinds of wonderful bread from Italy, some famous (Ciabatta, for instance) and some less so. But what goes for Italian bread in America usually isn't. Sorry.

This bread, called Scali and justly popular and quite famous in the Boston area is a classic Italian loaf. It is a rich brown color, with a slightly chewy crust, a soft interior, and a tang that comes from the fermented dough. It uses a starter that does not have to sit that long. Just overnight. But of course, the longer it ferments, the sharper the tanginess. What gives it that extra special nutty flavor is the sesame seed coating. If you want, you can knead the sesame seeds right into the dough and then coat (generously, of course) with even more seeds. This is a great sandwhich bread and, when made correctly, it is eminently satisfying. A real favorite in Italian neighborhoods, I am sure you'll love it too!

Here's What You'll Need for 2 loaves (or 12 rolls):

for the starter
1 cup AP flour
about 1/3 to 1/2 cup warm water
a pinch of yeast

for the dough
all of the starter
2 cups AP flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. dry milk powder (Sometimes I use Baby Formula when I want to avoid dairy for this bread)
2 tsp. yeast
2/3 cup warm water
2 Tbs. olive oil

for the topping
1 large egg white beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Start the day before baking with the starter. Mix it together (essentially this is a biga that I have used before) and let it sit at room temperature, covered, overnight.
2. The next day...add the fermented starter to the other dough ingredients, and mix, then knead them into a smooth pliable dough.
3. Place this dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it stand for about 90 minutes or until about doubled in size.
4. To make 2 loaves, remove the dough from the bowl, divide in 2 equal pieces, then divide each piece into 3.
5. Roll each piece into a 'rope', then pinch the ends together and braid the 'ropes' into a loaf.
Coat the loaf with the beaten egg white, then sprinkle generously with the sesame seeds. Finally, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let the loaf rise until very puffy, about 90 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) about 20 minutes before the end of the rise. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until it is a deep brown and the toasted sesame seeds smell heavenly. If making rolls, the baking time is about 15 minutes.
7. Cool on a rack.


  1. I like the German breads, real German, not American- German - especially the darker ones, those you can eat for an entire week without freezing, and they just get better and better.
    I ate Tuscan bread and it was horrible. I hope (and it sure looks like that) that this bread is a good one, after all I have your word. :-(

  2. This bread is delicious especially because it requires an overnight fermentation of the dough. This gives it a chewiness and nice tangy flavor. Try it I'm sure you'll like it. :)

  3. Love this recipe, thank you! What do you think of this: