Cesare with Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery (June 2016)
It’s hot in Rome and there are few places more oppressively infernal than
the Metro B next to the ovens at Antico Forno Roscioli. I asked Cesare Agostini for some baker’s tip for keeping cool; Cesare (24) came to Italy from Ottowa, Canada three years ago to intern at Antico Forno Roscioli. He never left. Now he runs the daytime baking program alongside Mauro Modugno. He offered up this recipe for friselle, baked dough rings known for their long shelf life. They are deliberately intended to be too hard to eat on their own, so to eat them, they must be softened, ideally broken up and served with a flavorful seasonal topping. Cesare recommends burrata, grilled peaches, and arugula, but feel free to get creative with the friselle toppings. I love breaking up with friselle and softening them with hand crushed tomatoes, a drop of water, olive oil, and a touch of white wine vinegar, then tossing with capers, tuna, olives, and oregano.
To start, you’ll need to prepare the biga, a classically Roman type of “pre-ferment”, which gives a more complex flavor and a more desirable dough than would be achieved with brewer’s yeast alone. The biga must be made the day before you plan to bake the friselle.
200 grams type “2” flour
120 grams cold water
1 gram yeast
Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine the flour, water and yeast in a medium bowl and mix until incorporated, about 8 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the your refrigerator for 24 hours.
1500 grams type “2” flour
320 grams biga
30 grams sea salt
20 grams yeast
1150 grams very cold water
Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix the flour, biga, salt, yeast, and 825 grams of water in a medium bowl on speed 1 until the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Continue mixing, adding the remaining water about 100 grams at a time until all has been incorporated. Mix for 3 minutes more.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise in the warmest part of your kitchen until it has almost doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 250C/480F.
Meanwhile, dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. When the dough is ready, transfer it to the work surface and cut it into 6 pieces of equal size using a dough scraper or a knife. Gently roll each piece on the work surface to form a ball. Dust with flour, cover with a towel, and allow the dough to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Using your hands, poke a whole in the center of each dough ball and gently stretch the dough to resemble the size and shape of a bagel. Set aside to rest on a lightly floured baking tray for 20 minutes.
Bake the friselle until hard and lightly golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the friselle from the oven and set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 200C/400F. When the friselle are cool, cut in half as though you are halving a bagel. Return to the oven and bake until they are crispy and fully dried, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. To serve, break into pieces and soften with the toppings of your choice.