Matteo Bologna, Mucca Design
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HAVING WORKED WITH the likes of star restaurateur Keith McNally, it seems as though Mucca founder Matteo Bologna would be right at home in the gastronomic world. Nope. “I was deported from Italy because I don’t know anything about soccer and I don’t cook,” Bologna jokes. “This [bread] is the only food that I know how to do.” He adds, “I think the reason for me not cooking is because preparing a meal is too similar to preparing a design presentation for a client, and I don’t like to do either of them. And also with cooking there is no undo button.”
Were the ingredients you used expensive or cheap?
Making bread is not expensive.
After you prepared this meal for our photo shoot, did you share it with guests or anyone else? If so, what were their reactions to the dish?
After the photo shoot Ian Allen (the photographer for this piece) and I shared the bread with some oil from my wife’s father’s Tuscan estate (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?).
Do you cook often? Do you enjoy preparing meals? Is there someone you cook for, beside yourself?
I suck at cooking and usually my wife does it. My dream is to became so rich to have a personal Japanese chef (and, of course, a Swedish nanny).
How important is presentation to you? Are there certain types of dishware you favor, or ways of arranging food?
Food is about food. No bullshit.
4 cups unbleached organic white flour
1 packet organic active dry yeast (Rapunzel brand)
1 tsp. organic sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt or 1 tsp. sea salt
2 cups warm water
In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt thoroughly. Sea salt has a much finer grain than kosher salt, hence the different quantities.
Heat the 2 cups of water and add the teaspoon of sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Within 30 seconds, the water should be warm enough. Test with your finger. If it is hot, but does not hurt, it is ready. If it hurts, then the water will scald the yeast. We must treat the yeast with respect.
Slowly pour the water over the large bowl of flour. Stir with a wooden spoon (preferably a flat spoon). Mix thoroughly until the mixture is fairly uniform and sticky but scrapes away from the bowl with ease (this is the hardest part).
Clean off your wooden spoon and prepare a cast iron pot by lining it liberally with butter. Tilt your large bowl over the cast-iron pot, and with your wooden spoon begin gently assisting the dough into the pot. Start by releasing the dough at the top and work your way down slowly. The idea is to disturb the dough as little as possible. Once the dough is in the pot, spin the pot and gently guide the dough into a round.
Soak a clean kitchen towel in extremely hot water from the kitchen faucet. Squeeze dry and cover the cast iron pot making sure that the towel does not sink in to touch the dough.
Place the cast iron pot somewhere warm for one to two hours. Once the time is up and you see that the dough has risen sufficiently (your discretion) you have a choice: Either bake now or put the covered pot into the refrigerator until the next morning. You can leave the pot in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours without worries. Make sure whenever moving the pot to do so gently to prevent your risen dough from collapsing.
When you are ready to bake, uncover the cast iron pot and liberally sprinkle flour over the dough. Do not rub it in. Take a little piece of dough and flatten it with a rolling pin. Slice it to create the stems of the letter you are planning to use as a decor. I suggest to make Slab serif letters because are easy to make.
Prepare a separate oven-ready dish, bowl, or pan with 2 inches of water. Place the dish of water on the bottom rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Once temperature is reached, place the cast iron pot on your middle rack. Let the bread bake for 25 to 30 minutes (note that the water is left in the oven). This timing depends on how powerful your oven is. If the top of the bread starts going from deep brown to black, pull it out. A little blackening is no harm; it can easily be scraped away with a serrated knife and it adds a little flavor.
Once the bread is done, pull it out of the oven and carefully ease the finished boule out of the pot and onto some kind of perforated surface. The bread will exude water for 15 to 20 minutes. If you simply leave the boule on the counter, the bottom will become soggy. You can start digging in within 10 minutes.