Pannini al pomodoro
Did you know that the word pannini does NOT mean long flat sandwich with cheese that is toasted in a sandwich toaster? I didn't. It actually just means "bun" and the Italians are really masters of the bun. These fantastic buns are delicious, easy, and great for summer picnics and elegant dinners alike.
Ingredients - makes 12
75 g flour
50 g water
Pinch of yeast of any kind
500 g plain white wheat flour
250 g water
2 T olive oil
2.5 g instant/5 g dry/10 g fresh yeast
10 g salt
1 small onion diced sweated in 1 T olive oil (see below)
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
A little olive oil
A little more tomato paste
A handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme…whatever you have on hand) chopped
Day One - make the predough
Measure the ingredients for the predough into a small bowl and give them a stir. Cover and let them sit on the counter for 12-24 hours. This builds the flavour of the bun. You can omit this part and just add the pre dough ingredients to the dough ingredients and make it all up at the same time, but the pre dough makes the buns taste better and have a nice, soft and chewy texture.
Day Two - make the dough
First, sweat the onion: Place a small saucepan over medium heat. When it is warm, pour in the olive oil and let it heat up before adding the onion. Put the lid on the saucepan and lower the heat. Sweat the onion for a good 10 minutes, being careful not to burn it. Turn off the heat and then stir in the tomato paste. Leave the lid off and let it cool down while you prepare the dough.
If you are using dry yeast, measure the flour into a big bowl and make a well in it. Sprinkle in the yeast, pour on 100 g of water and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. A beige sludge may or may not form on the top of the water - don’t worry if it does not. The important thing is that the yeast is fully dissolved in the water.
Pour the remaining water into the bowl with the predough. Using your hands, dissolve the predough in the water to make a milky paste and then scrape this into the big bowl with the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring them all together in a big ball in the bowl.
If you are using fresh or instant yeast, measure all the dough ingredients except the water into a big bowl. Pour the water over the predough and, using your hands, dissolve the predough in the water to make a milky paste and then scrape this into the big bowl with the other ingredients. Bring them all together in a big ball in the bowl.
Pull the dough out on the counter and knead for 10 minutes. Pop the dough back in the bowl and cover it. Let it sit for 15 -20 minutes just to let it soften up a bit. Then, pull it out and knead in the onion and tomato mixture thoroughly. Don’t worry about the dough, it will recover. Pop the dough back in the bowl, cover it, and let it rest for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
To shape the buns:
- Pull the dough out gently onto a non floured surface. Shape it into a tight sausage (see a video about that here)
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and let them sit, under a dry tea towel for 15 minutes
- Shape the pieces into tight balls (see a video about that here) and let them rest under a dry tea towel for 45 minutes
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
Before baking, paint each bun with a light coating of olive oil and decorate each bun with a little blob of tomato paste and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.
Pop them in the oven and bake them for 20 minutes. You know the buns are done if they sound hollow when you tap the bottoms. Let them cool completely on a wire rack and eat them just by dipping them into some gorgeous olive oil.
This recipe is in The Book of Buns published in October 2013. If you like this, you will love the book, available to preorder on Amazon
Another wow! Italians do not dip bread in balsamic vinegar. In fact, they think this is most peculiar. So, if you want to be like an Italian, don’t dip bread in olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar.