Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh my God, I've been eating those mints for years!

I love baking my own bread. I really do. There is something very comforting about being able to make something that has literally been around for the last 30,000 years. It's satisfying to make it through 10 full minutes of kneading without breaking a sweat (okay, maybe just getting a little bit of a glow). It's gratifying to patiently wait for it to rise twice over while you go about the rest of your day.

Italian bread has always been my favorite. Crusty and chewy on the outside, with a soft crumb on the inside. Slathered with butter and garlic or peanut butter and jelly, you just can't go wrong.

I've made this recipe for Italian bread a few times. I have to say, using the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid is certainly convenient, but just doesn't do the trick. So roll up your sleeves and get kneading because this recipe is truly how your grandmother would have made bread.

Italian Bread (from How to Cook Like Your Grandmother)
Makes 2 loaves
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1-1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached flour or all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Cornmeal for dusting
Directions

Start with a quarter-cup of warm (110 degree) water.



In a large mixing bowl, mix together yeast and warm water until dissolved. Let stand for five minutes until the yeast has activated. Mix it in with the remaining cup of water. Add the flour, sugar, and salt and stir together until well combined. Once the dough is combined, mix in the oil. After mixing the oil in, turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface to knead. Knead for about 10 minutes. Once the dough is well incorporated, slap it on the surface a few times.


Once the dough is thoroughly kneaded, place it in an oiled bowl. Toss the dough around so it is coated with oil all the way around. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, pressed right up against the dough. Put the bowl someplace warm until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.


Pre-heat the oven to 425°. If you have a pizza stone, put it on the bottom rack. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and punch down to knock out most of the air out. Roll the dough out into a loaf shape and cut it in half.


Roll out the pieces of dough until they are about 6-9 inches long. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal. Place the loaves on the pizza peel a few inches apart so they have room to rise. Cover the loaves with plastic and allow them to rise for another 40 minutes. They should roughly double in width. Cut each loaf down the middle with the sharpest blade you have.

Transfer the loaves onto the baking stone. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400° and bake another 25-30 minutes. To check if they’re done, pick one loaf up and thump on the bottom with your thumb. If it has a hollow sound, it’s done.


When you bake bread, do you usually knead by hand? Do you use a dough whisk? Or do you rely on your trusty stand mixer?

7 comments:

  1. I have never made my own bread successfully, I'm very intimidated by it. I know I shouldn't be, but I am. It LOOKS so easy on blogs though!

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  2. You have made me a bread-making convert. It's so fun to do! I definitely rely on the dough hook on the KitchenAid though!

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  3. I like to rely on my KitchenAid!

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  4. I have the same mixing bowls! Love them.

    You have inspired me to make bread, but I don't feel like I'm great at the kneading part... I rely on Captain Hook for that :)

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  5. I made a very similar bread once and was happy with the results. I just used my hands.

    I think it'd be great to add olives or sun dried tomatoes to this next time.

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  6. I usually rely on my Kitchen Aid too, but for some reason this recipe just calls for some strong arming.

    Michelle - aren't they great! An old roommate of mine had them and once I used them, I had to buy my own.

    Olga - thanks for the tip! Will definitely try adding sun dried tomatoes next time. Alex would love the olives, but I'm not a fan.

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