Pan de Cristal

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Pan de Cristal. Cristal Bread. Glass Bread. It's known by many names but it's always a distinctive, high hydration, bread originating from Barcelona in the Catalan area of Spain. 

It's a relatively new bread, developed in 2004 by the Guzmán Artisanal Bakery for the Barcelona Baker, Jordi Nomen. Nomen went on to form his own bakery Concept-Pa in Barcelona. He was tired of hearing the myth that the crumb in bread made you fat, so set out to make a bread with virtually no crumb at all. 

Essentially, Glass bread has a high hydration, uses the double fermentation method and produces a hollow and honey-combed dough - almost non-existent, in fact. It produces a very soft dough and one which, to work with, is notoriously difficult.

So, we need to focus clearly on the formula and the process. 

FORMULA - weigh the ingredients very carefully. 

500 gms of high protein strong white bread flour.  (Protein level should be 12.5% or higher)

500 gms of filtered water at 23⁰C.

10 gms crushed sea salt

2.5 gms of instant bake active yeast

15 gms olive oil

PROCESS - follow carefully

1. In a mixing bowl, mis the flour, yeast and salt until thoroughly incorporated. 

2. Using a spurtle, stick or spatula, add the water and continue to mix until thoroughly incorporated. It will be wet and slack. Don't worry. Actually, wet and slack is something of an understatement. 

3. Take a rectangular baking dish (approximately 10 inches x 7 inches) and oil using 15 gms of olive oil. 

4. Pour the dough into the baking dish. Cover and place it in a warm environment ensuring it is no cooler than 23⁰C. 

5. Allow to rest for 20 minutes

6. Wet your hands. We're going to do a bowl fold. Take a section of dough from one side, lift it up and press it down into the middle. Continue repeating this around the dough - it will need to be lifted and pressed down around 8 - 12 times as you work your way around the dish.  

7. Cover the dish and leave for a further 20 minutes. 

8. Coil fold the dough - lifting the middle section of the dough with wet hands  and stretch the middle of the dough upwards until it is released from the pan. Allow it to fold over itself into a coil. Repeat on each side, turning the pan through 90⁰ each time, i.e. 4 quarter turns.

9. Cover the pan and allow to rest for 20 minutes

10. Repeat the coil fold for a 2nd time. Cover and rest for 20 minutes. 

11. Repeat the coil fold for a 3rd time. Cover and rest for 20 minutes. 

12. Repeat the coil fold for a 4th time. the dough should feel quite strong by this time. Cover and allow to rest for 80 minutes. 

You may not need to perform all four coil folds. If the dough is strong, easy to handle and relatively tight, skip the final fold and allow the 80 minute rest period after the third coil fold. 

13. Heavily flour your work surface. Turn the dough out as gently as possible, trying to retain the rectangular shape of the pan. Take care not to deflate the dough. Generously flour the dough on the top to create a non-sticky surface. 

14. Using a bench knife, divide the dough up into four portions. Flour the bare edges. Using two bench scrapers, gently lift the portions onto cut pieces of parchment paper.

15. Allow the pieces to rest at about 22⁰C - 24⁰C for two hours - uncovered. 

16. Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 240⁰C and place a baking stone or steel on a lower shelf to preheat at the same time. At the same time, place a rack in the upper third of the oven. The oven will take a while to thoroughly preheat, so allow this time. If you are unable to bake all four pieces at once, you will need to batch bake. Leave the remaining pieces to rest in a slightly cooler environment. 

17. When the dough is showing signs of having large bubbles on the surface and  looks light and airy, i's ready for baking. Slide the parchment paper supporting the pieces of dough onto the stone / steel and bake for 15 minutes. 

18. After 15 minutes, remove the bread from the stone / steel and place them directly on the upper shelf. This will allow the stone to get hot again for the next two loaves. Continue to bake for a further 12 - 15 minutes. 

19. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool. Repeat the process with the remaining two pieces. 

20. Cool the bread thoroughly before slicing. 

21. This bread goes stale quickly. If you are serving it the following day, mist it and bake quickly in a hot oven to revitalise the bread. However, it will freeze quite successfully. 

Happy baking. 

Panaderia B. De Guzman, Barcelona. ..

Concept-Pa Bakery, Barcelona. 


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