MEET THE SOUS CHEF
ADAM LEONTI, CHEF DE CUISINE, VETRI
“I did a coin toss,” says Adam Leonti, “to decide whether to attend boat-building school or culinary school.” Culinary school won, and now Leonti, who grew up in Portland, Maine, is the chef de cuisine at Vetri in Philadelphia.
The two professions might seem radically different, but, explains Leonti, “A woodworking studio is a lot like a kitchen--there are different stations in each, but everyone is working to achieve the same goal.” His love of craftsmanship is evident in the recipe for simple homemade bread he shared with Tasting Table, using a recipe that has its roots in Emilia-Romagna, where Leonti has spent time. In Italy, as in Leonti’s home, it’s typically served alongside charcuterie, but it’s also good with nothing more than a dish of olive oil for dipping.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
Sundays are typically Leonti's day off, and he prefers to spend them in the woods. One favorite destination is the nearby Wharton Esherick Museum, the onetime studio and residence of the wood sculptor by the same name.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Leonti’s tender, Italian-style country bread can be baked as a large loaf or portioned into crustier rolls instead, which are made according to the same method but bake in half the time.
Leonti’s loaf is made entirely with all-purpose flour. Says Leonti, “In America, people are always down on white bread, but they love it in Italy.” This recipe, which originated in Emilia-Romagna, makes a mild loaf that is perfect for serving alongside charcuterie or flavorful olive oil, as is the Italian custom.
All-purpose flour, 4 cups, plus extra for flouring the baking sheet, rolling and shaping (if needed)
Fresh cake yeast, 1 tablespoon (loosely packed; or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast--see recipe note below)
Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon
Water, 1 to 1½ cups (slightly warmer than room temperature)
Lard, 2 tablespoons
Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon, plus extra for drizzling
Unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 tablespoon
Kitchen towel or plastic wrap
1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the:
• All-purpose flour
• Fresh cake yeast
• Kosher salt
• 1 cup of water
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, about 1 minute. Swap the paddle attachment for the dough hook attachment and continue mixing on medium-low speed until the dough comes together in a tidy ball, about 2 minutes longer. If the dough still looks shaggy at this time, slowly add a little of the:
• Remaining ½ cup of water
Add just enough water to allow the dough to come together into a slack ball that is slightly sticky. Continue to knead until the dough is very supple and smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 8 minutes.
Lightly coat a large bowl with the:
• Remaining 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Add the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with the:
• Room-temperature unsalted butter
Then sprinkle with a little:
• All-purpose flour
Uncover the dough and turn it out onto a work surface. Shape the dough into a rounded ball by pushing it back and forth on the work surface, slightly kneading it into a firm ball. If the dough becomes sticky, lightly flour the work surface and the top of the dough. Set the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover the dough loosely with 2 kitchen towels and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Uncover the dough and use a chef's knife to slash the top of the dough with an "X." Drizzle some oil over the top of the loaf and bake until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the loaf to a wire rack. Serve warm or completely cooled.
Recipe Note: If using active dry yeast instead of fresh yeast, add the 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast to ½ cup of the slightly warm water in a small bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of sugar, whisk, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 5 minutes. Once the surface of the water looks cloudy and the yeast blooms, add it to a mixing bowl with the remaining ½ cup of water and the other bread-dough ingredients. Continue to make the bread as instructed, adding up to ½ cup more water if needed during mixing.