Crusty Italian Loaf

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I love baking bread! There are few things that can make your home smell as delicious as a freshly baked loaf of bread, and it always manages to impress guests at a dinner party. Baking bread isn’t difficult, but it does require you to be around your home for several hours so you can help it through its knead and rise stages. You can avoid some of this by purchasing a bread maker and using the dough cycle (which I often do), but you will still need to be close by for about 1 – 2 hours.

This recipe was delicious and easy to make. I substituted 1 cup of the all purpose flour in the original recipe with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and topped the loaves with basil and garlic infused sea salt I purchased at Granville Island. The original recipe also suggests you use an egg yolk wash to achieve a beautiful crusty exterior, but not having an egg yolk to spare I just used a little bit of olive oil and it seemed to work out okay.

This recipe yields 2 loaves of bread.

Tip: For crustier bread, put a shallow baking pan filled with boiling hot water on bottom shelf of oven.

Variation: To make rolls, preheat oven to 400°F After dough rises, remove to a floured surface. Punch down dough and shape into 12-14 rolls. Place on cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a moist towel and let rise for 20 minutes. Slit each roll once and paint tops with egg wash (or olive oil). Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden and baked through.

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Crusty Italian Loaf

Ingredients:

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil (2 tbsp if you will use olive oil instead of egg yolk to spread on the bread)
cornmeal
1 egg yolk
Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast with a quarter cup of warm water. Pour yeast into a large bowl. Mix in flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  2. Turn out onto flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from draft, until doubled in size, or about 1.5-2 hours.
  3. For bread machine add ingredients according to machine instructions and select dough setting.
  4. Remove dough and place onto a floured surface. Punch down and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a moist towel and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will about double in width.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  6. In a small dish, add egg yolk (or olive oil) and 1 tablespoon of water. Slit tops of risen bread 3 or 4 times, making slits that are a quarter of an inch deep. With a brush, paint tops with egg wash.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower heat to 400F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.
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