This is a recipe for a classic Neapolitan no-knead, crusty bread with a chewy crumb. You’ll want to eat immediately out of the oven. I like bread that has a significant crust and a chewy interior. It’s a standard in Neapolitan bakeries and it’s often referred to as pane cafone, meaning peasant bread.
The basis for this bread is Type 00 flour. It’s a mix of hard and soft wheat finely milled to a consistency of baby powder. While it may not contain bran, it’s a nutritious flour with a high gluten (a protein) content.
This flour is the gold standard flour with which Neapolitans make pizza. The high gluten content gives the body and chewiness to good pizzas we love. These properties also make it a terrific option for bread, pasta, and cakes and pastries, including the delectable classic Neapolitan babà.
Using Type 00 flour yields a loaf with a crunchy crust and a springy, airy crumb with a good bite. This recipe is inspired by a variety of baguette and Neapolitan bread recipes I’ve tried and combined over the last two years. In particular, the ones I kept coming back to were Miyoko Schinner’s baguette recipe from The Homemade Vegan Pantry and this recipe from La chiave nel pozzo, which a friend sent to me.
My favourite Italian Type 00 flour is from Molino Pasini. It’s not the easiest to find, especially since Brexit. I used to buy it in 10kg sacks from Feast Italy. I’ve swapped to Shipton Mill, which I also buy in bulk.
If you’re looking to make pizza, I use the dough recipe from The Sexy Vegan‘ s now out of print Seriously Legit Vegan Neapolitan Pizza.
You will need to set aside a bit of time to make this bread. It’s mostly inactive time, so you can multitask easily.
What you’ll need
- 750g Type 00 flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 530 ml water
- Semolina, cornmeal or whole wheat flour for dusting to assist during baking
- A deep cast iron (or cast iron and ceramic) saucepan with a lid; or Dutch oven
- A tea towel to cover the dough for the first rise
- A tea towel for lining the bowl for proving or a proper proving basket
- Cooling rack
Making the dough
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Once you’ve done as much mixing as you can with a spoon or other implement, you’ll need to use your hands to finish the process. The dough will be sticky. Once mixed, cover and set it aside somewhere relatively warm and let it rise for at least 12 hours.
Ready for the oven
You’ll need approximately 2½ hours to complete the baking process. That sounds like alot of time, but it’s mostly inactive. So you can be doing lots of other things. Pre-heating the oven is a critical part of the process.
When you’re ready to begin the baking process, first dust a surface with whole wheat flour. Using whole wheat flour means you’ll not need another type of flour to sprinkle into the cast iron saucepan.
Prepare a proving basket for proofing (aka, the second rise) or use a tea towel generously sprinkled with whole wheat flour (or plain flour).
Pour the sticky dough onto the lightly dusted surface, using the semolina, cornmeal or whole wheat flour for dusting, and gently fold a few times, shaping the dough into a ball. With the seam side down, transfer the dough to the prepared proving basket or to the dusted tea towel. If you’re using the latter method, then just grab the four corners of the tea towel and place it all back into the bowl you used for rising. Cover and set aside to proof until the oven is ready in 90 minutes.
Turn the oven to 225C (fan assisted). For the first 45 minutes, it’ll be empty. Set the timer. When the 45 minutes is up, put your cast iron saucepan, without the lid, into the oven for another 45 minutes. Set the timer.
Heating the saucepan is critical to sealing in the moisture at the bottom of your bread. If you’ve not used whole wheat flour, keep some semolina or cornmeal nearby, you’ll need it when ready to bake.
When the timer rings again, carefully remove the super hot saucepan from the oven. If you’ve used semolina, cornmeal or whole wheat flour for proving, then you can just plop the dough, seam up, into the scorching hot saucepan. There will be enough textured flour there to prevent sticking along with the super hot pan.
If you’ve not used one of the suggested types of flour for dusting, you’ll need a generous pinch of semolina or cornmeal sprinkled into the scorching hot saucepan before putting the dough in the saucepan, seam up.
Before covering with the lid, you can use a sharp knife or razor to score the dough as you like.
Cover with the lid and put into the oven for 25 minutes. Set the timer. After 25 minutes, take the saucepan out of the oven, remove the lid. Then, place the uncovered saucepan back into the oven for 25 minutes. Set that timer one final time.
When baking is complete, take the saucepan out of the oven and tip the bread onto a cooling rack.
A few notes: each oven is different and each Type 00 flour will also be slightly different in terms of how much water it will absorb. You’ll need to get to know how your oven cooks and notice the variations in stickiness of the dough whenever you use a different brand of flour. The temperatures, timings and measurements in this recipe will broadly work, but you might have to tweak them ever so slightly
Use 300g rye flour and 450g Type 00 and 500ml water. You can also add one tablespoon rye or coriander seeds for additional savouriness. This recipe, which a friend sent, inspired me to incorporate rye bread into the Type 00 pane cafone
I’ve really come to love using Orkney beremeal. Beremeal is a type of barley grown, It’s grown and milled, as the name suggests, on the island of Orkney in Scotland. Use the same proportions of flours and water as the rye bread
Turmeric has a distinct flavour I very much enjoy. Combining it as above with the beremeal or simply with all Type 00 is a nice change. Add 2 teaspoons to the dry mix or a full tablespoon for more intense flavour. Adding 1 teaspoon of nigella seeds to turmeric bread is also a nice touch
“Being vegan is neither a guarantee of health nor of illness. It is an ethical choice, not a magic bullet.” From Think Like a Vegan: What everyone can learn from vegan ethics