We had such success making baguettes last time, so we thought we'd try another straight dough recipe. We decided on Ricotta Bread, a basic yeast bread--no sourdoughs or starters--enriched with milk and ricotta cheese. Yum! The dough was pretty sticky at first and difficult to work with. (Despite Leader's advice in the introduction to not be afraid of wet doughs, we're still working on overcoming our fear.)
We persevered, using the hand-dipping method for adding flour, and the dough ended up coming together just fine. Still a little tacky, but definitely workable. Plus the ricotta-flecked dough had such a wonderful sweet-sour aroma as we kneaded it that our mouths were already watering.
The baked loaves had a soft crust and a moist, spongy interior. There was a subtle nutty flavor and slight tang from the cheese. It was delicious both freshly baked and as butter-smeared toast the next day.
One oddity (we felt) in the instructions: After the shaped loaves have proofed, Leader has you flip the rounds upside down and bake them like that. He doesn't give any explanation for why this is necessary or what benefit it serves.
Since the recipe makes two loaves, we tried flipping one as instructed and baking the other as it was. The un-flipped loaf had slightly more oven-spring, but both loaves ended up much wider and flatter than we expected.
We assume that these Italian loaves are traditionally flat instead of domed, and flipping them deflates any large pockets of air.
Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers by Daniel Leader is available for $23.10 on Amazon.com.
Related: Recipe--No-Knead Challah
(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)