Italian Bread with Chestnuts
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 20 minutes Resting and Rising Time: 2 hours 30 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes
This bread is crusty, light, and delicious. The sweet meatiness of the chestnuts makes it a real delight. Fear not about the starter. It’s a recipe that takes time, but is guaranteed to give you an amazing rise. Stand by the oven in amazement. And just wait until the aroma begins to waft through the house; your neighbors will be knocking down your door. This biga technique is adapted from La Cucina Italiana, a wonderful resource for approachable and delicious recipes.
Biga (the starter)
1½ cups (215 grams) unbleached bread flour
1 (¼-ounce/7-gram) packet active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
¾ cup, plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water (between 85º to 95ºF, see Kitchen Tips)
1 teaspoon honey
1¾ cups (250 grams) unbleached bread flour
½ cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (160 grams) roughly chopped pre-cooked chestnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Make the biga:
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour and yeast and mix until well combined. Add the water and honey; then mix until a sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Make the dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine the biga, flour, water, honey, and salt. Mix until a soft dough forms, and then add the chestnuts. Knead at low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and completely pulls away from the sides, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Brush a large bowl with the oil; then transfer the dough into it and turn to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Lightly flour a work surface and transfer the dough onto it. Knead the dough a few times to release the extra air. Form the dough into the desired shape and place on the prepared baking sheet. Loosely cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot, until almost doubled in volume about 30 minutes.
- Place a small pan filled with boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven (this will create steam that will give you a great rise and crust). Bake until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer the bread to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before serving.
- Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it—between 85° and 95°F—but if the water is too warm, you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
- This bread will keep for up to 2 days at room temperature or may be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Try it with our recipe for Chestnut & Honey Butter.
- Discover more great recipes at La Cucina Italiana.