In my new book, Swiss Bread (available from Helvetiq in September 2020), I’ve included a recipe for Pane Valle Maggia. This special bread originated in the canton of Ticino. My recipe in the book calls for fresh yeast, but if you want to try making it with a sourdough starter instead, I have another version of this recipe for you to try. The recipe below calls for three stages of fermentation, the last of which takes place in your refrigerator, to help give this hearty loaf an evenly distributed, open texture.
Pane Valle Maggia in the Emile Henry Bread Cloche
For an especially crisp crust, I recommend baking the Pane Valle Maggia in an Emile Henry Bread Cloche. This attractive ceramic bread pan has a rounded lid that resembles the shape of a wide bell (cloche means “bell” in French). The ceramic lid, with an unglazed interior, traps moisture from the bread dough that evaporates while it bakes. The trapped moisture becomes steam, which helps gives the bread a pleasing crusty exterior.
Pane Valle Maggia
Makes one round loaf.
- proofing basket
- thin cotton/linen towel
- sharp knife, such as a lame
- vegetable oil (such as canola)
- rice flour (optional)
- 300 g dark flour* / ruchmehl / farine bise / farina bigia (type 1100)
- 100 g rye flour (I prefer using a whole-grain rye flour)
- 12 g salt
- 150 g sourdough starter
- 275-300 g water, lukewarm
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the wheat flour, rye flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the sourdough starter and lukewarm water. Then, stir all the ingredients together until a dough forms.
2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes or use an electric mixer with a dough hook, until it becomes smooth and elastic. The dough will be quite wet, so you may need to use a scraper at times if you’re kneading by hand.
3. Place the dough in a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil. Cover tightly and let it rise for approximately 2 hours at room temperature. About halfway through the rising period, with wet hands, pull the dough out from one side and fold it into the middle. Repeat this pull and fold method from three other sides of the dough.
4. After it has risen in the bowl, place it in a round proofing basket lined with a thin cotton towel dusted with flour (rice flour works well), to prevent the dough from sticking. Let it rise at room temperature for approximately 8-10 hours. Then, place it in the refrigerator for 8–12 hours (e.g., overnight) for a long, cold rise.
5. After its long cold rise, preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F (top / bottom heat). Generously sprinkle the Emile Henry Bread Cloche with flour, to prevent the bread from sticking to the pan.**
6. When the oven is hot, take the proofing basket out of the refrigerator. Remove the cover from the proofing basket.
7. Gently invert the proofing basket onto the ceramic platter, which has been generously dusted with flour. With a sharp knife, make three quick slash marks across the top of the dough. Next, cover the platter with the lid and put it immediately into the hot oven to prevent the dough from deflating.
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 240°C / 475°F. Next, remove the lid and bake for another 5-10 minutes. It’s ready when the bread has a dark brown exterior and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Continue to let the bread rest on the ceramic platter, uncovered, to help the crust remain crisp.
*In Switzerland, type 1100 flour generally refers to a degree of grinding that ranges from 30-85% of the grain of wheat, according to the Association suisse des patrons boulangers-confiseurs. This flour contains more of the outer husk of the grain in comparison to a white flour (type 550), for example. In France, type 1100 flour is labeled as T110. If you cannot find this exact type of flour where you live, perhaps you might try some version of “white whole wheat flour” or a mixture of white and whole wheat flours.
**You can also bake this bread on a standard baking sheet, lined with a non-stick surface suitable for high temperatures. Using this method, bake the bread in an oven preheated to 250°C / 500°F for 20 minutes and then drop the temperature to 220°C/450°F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.
Please note: I received the Emile Henry Bread Cloche as a gift from Schwarz Kitchen in Geneva, Switzerland. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.
Updated: May 18, 2022