Ftira: Maltese bread
Prep Time: 20 minutes over 2 days
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Keywords: bake bread flour
- 4 oz. / 113 g sourdough starter refreshed in the morning (see below for details)
- 4 oz. / 120 ml water at room temperature
- 1 g instant yeast
- 120 g King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour (this is the flour I always use to make bread)
- 10 g whole-wheat flour
- All of the preferment
- 7.5 oz. / 212 g water + up to .5 oz. / 14 g more if needed (see below for details)
- 1 oz. / 28 g high gluten flour
- 2 oz. whole-wheat flour
- Enough King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour to reach a total of 260 g flour
- 1.5 g instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons / 10 g fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml olive oil
- sesame or poppy seeds
InstructionsPreparing the starter
The morning before you plan to bake the bread, when you refresh your sourdough starter, put in a small container:
2 tablespoons / 30 ml sourdough starter from the day before
2 oz. / 60 ml water
2 oz. / 56 g all-purpose flour
Cover the container and let the starter ferment in a draft-free place (in my case, the top of the refrigerator) until the evening, when you'll make the preferment.Preparing the preferment
Weigh 4 oz. / 113 g sourdough starter prepared in the morning and put it in a mixing bowl. (The leftover can be used to start a new batch of starter.)
Add the rest of the preferment ingredients and mix until well combined. Cover the mixing bowl and place it in a draft-free place (in my case, the top of the refrigerator) until the morning after, when you'll make the bread.Preparing the bread dough
The morning after, you will see that the preferment is quite bubbly.
Mix all the ingredients of the final dough, using 7.5 oz. / 212 g of water. This is a wet dough and mixing it by hand, like I do, requires some care. Adding flour without having a sense of how much is a risky proposition, so I hold some water (the original recipe had 1 cup / 8 oz.) and mix all the ingredients.
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes and in the meantime, oil a food-grade plastic tub with lid. This will allow you to manipulate the dough later. You need a rectangular container that will allow you to stretch, fold and flip the dough: not too high and large enough (see example).
After the 10 minute rest, mix the dough again for a couple of minutes and decide whether it needs some more water. Keep in mind, again, this is a sticky dough.
Pour the dough into the oiled tub. Wet your hands. If you have never done this, it feels counterintuitive, but indeed the way to handle wet dough is to have wet hands and a wet scraping tool. Stretch and fold the dough:
Slide your hands under the side of the dough farthest from you, raise the hands and stretch the dough, then fold it over onto the side closer to you.
Slide your hands under the side of the dough closer to you, raise the hands and stretch the dough, then fold it over onto the side farthest from you.
Turn the tub 90 degrees and repeat step 1 and 2.
Slide your hands under the dough, flip it and at the same time turn it 90 degrees. (For this step, you may use a wet scraping tool as helper.)
(In this video, Peter Reinhart shows the stretch and fold technique. He does not use a tub, but the concept is the same.)
Cover the tub and let the dough rest for one hour.
(A) Fold the dough again as described above. Cover the tub and let the dough rest for 30-45 minutes.
Repeat the steps described in the previous paragraph (labeled A) 2 more times.
Lightly flour a silicone baking mat. Uncover the tub and flip it over the baking mat: the dough will slowly drop onto the mat.
With wet hands and delicately, shape the dough into a flat disc and make a hole in the center, as shown in the photo above. Cover it either with the tub upside-down (which is what I do) or with some oiled plastic film. Let proof for half an hour, while you warm up the oven.
Place an oven rack on the lowest level of the oven. Place a small round pan on the oven bottom. Place baking tile on the rack. Preheat the oven to 450 F / 232 C and keep it at that temperature while the dough rests.
Prepare a glass of water. With a mister, spray some water on the surface of the dough. Optionally sprinkle some sesame or poppy seeds on the dough. Transfer the baking mat with the dough onto the hot baking tile. Pour the glass of water into the hot pan on the bottom of the oven: this will create some steam in the oven and give more time to the bread to rise before the crust sets.
Bake for about 20 minutes. The final internal temperature should be about 210 F / 99 C.
Transfer the ftira to a rack and let cool completely before cutting. (I don't allow the knife to touch it for at least two hours.)
Slice and enjoy.