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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Italian Bread

This is basically the same recipe we used for the pizza dough and breadsticks. For the bread, we will provide a step-by-step photo tutorial, complete with a video about kneading dough. (It's pretty much 7 minutes of me kneading dough. But if you want to see what the process looks like, give it a watch!)

1 cup water between 80-105 degrees
1/2 tsp suagr
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (2 heaping teaspoons)
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
Cornmeal for dusting
Water in a mister bottle

(Pictured - Flour and salt mixture, olive oil, and nicely bloomed yeast.)

Mix water and sugar, add yeast and stir. Let that sit for 5 minutes, until it's foamy like the head of a beer. 
In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Add olive oil and the yeast mixture. Combine the ingredients with your hands until they hold together; allow the mixture to rest and hydrate for 5 minutes.

Turn the dough mixture out onto a floured surface. Knead for 7-10 minutes, working in no more than 1/2 cup of flour while kneading. Your result should be smooth and elastic, and it shouldn't stick to your hands or your work surface. To see how it's done, watch my video:

Clean the bowl you used to mix the ingredients, and coat it with some olive oil or cooking spray. You want enough to coat the sides of the bowl and your dough ball. Put your dough in the bowl, grease it up, and cover with a dish towel moistened with hot tap water. If your oven has a light, turn it on. If your oven doesn't have a light, turn the oven on high for 20 seconds, then turn it right back off. Place the bowl in the oven and shut the door, let it rise for 1 hour. Once it has doubled in size, punch it down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Punching down is exactly what it sounds like.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll into footlong logs. Place them on an upside-down cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal (if you have a pizza stone, by all means use it.) Cover with a dishtowel and let rise for another hour.
Place a pan of water in the bottom of your oven and preheat to 450. Allow the oven to heat up for at least 10 minutes.
Score the bread 4-6 times diagonally, or one long cut lengthwise, with a sharp knife.
EDIT: If you can, let the pan heat up in the oven and slide your loaf onto it when you're ready to bake.

Spritz the loaves with water, then quickly get them into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

Your end result will be lovely...Crisp and crusty outside, tender and flavorful inside. Enjoy.