This wonderful Italian bread is named after its “slipper” shape. It is a very wet dough, be careful when you are handling the dough.
3 1/4 cups poolish
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup water (or substitute milk, buttermilk or olive oil for all or part of the water)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
- Remove poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill.
- To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of water. Knead the dough as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.
- Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 8 inches square. Transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour. Wait 2 minutes for the dough to relax.
- Coat your hands with flour and lift the dough from each end, stretching it to twice its size. Fold the dough over itself, letter style, to return it to a rectangular shape. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
- Let rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again, mist with spray oil, dust with flour and cover. Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.
- Carefully remove the dough and cut into 3 pieces, taking care not to degas the dough. Sprinkle the dough generously with more flour and gently lift each piece from the counter and roll it on both sides in the loose flour to coat. Lay the loaves on the work surface and gently fold each piece of dough, from left to right, letter style, into a rectangle about 6 inches (15cm) long. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, dust with flour, and then cover with a towel.
- Proof for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough has noticeably swelled.
- Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and make sure to have an empty steam pan in place.
- Generously dust the sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the pan. Lift the dough from each end and pull the dough out to length of 9 to 12 inches (25-30 cm). If the dough bulges too high in the middle, gently dimple it down with your fingertips to even out the height of the loaf.
- Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the side walls of the oven with water, and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals. After the final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450°F (230°C) and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degree, if necessary, for even baking and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until done. The loaves will feel quite hard and crusty at first but will soften as they cool.
- Transfer the bread from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving.
Note: As you become comfortable with wet dough, you may want to try increasing the hydration and stickiness of the dough. The wetter the better, as long as it holds together enough to make the stretch-and-fold maneuvers.
Source: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart