Monday, April 11, 2011

Rustic Italian Bread

This is by far my absolutely favorite bread recipe  It does require you to start it the day before you want to actually eat it though so it isn't something you can just throw together with no thought.  It may sound like a lot of work but once you do it a few times it really just takes time but requires minimal effort on your part.  


2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. yeast
1 c. warm water

3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. yeast
1 1/3 c. warm water
2 tsp. salt

For the Sponge:  Combine flour, yeast and warm water in a bowl and mix until combined with a wooden spoon until a shaggy ball of dough is formed.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours.  The refrigerate the sponge overnight (minimum 8 hours, maximum 24 hours).

For the Dough:  (Take sponge out and allow to sit out while you make the rest of the dough)  Combine flour, yeast and water in a standing mixer with dough hook.  Knead at lowest speed for a few minutes until just barely combined.  Cover top of bowl (even leave dough hook in) with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.  After then 20 minutes, uncover, add salt and the sponge and knead at lowest speed or one notch up from lowest until the dough is combined and the dough is clearing the sides but still sticking to just the bottom of the bowl.  You may need to add a bit more flour, only 1 tbsp. at a time, if necessary.  Increase speed to medium and knead for another minute or two only.    Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1 hour.  I like to place dough face down first and get that part covered in oil then flip it face up so the top is oiled as well. 

After the 1st hour has elapsed remove plastic wrap and gently lift and fold the dough onto itself toward the center.  You are basically taking the left side of the dough and pulling it over to the right, then taking the right side of the dough and pulling it over to the left.   Then take the front part of the dough and pull towards the back and the back part and pull towards the front.  Just do this once to each side.  Then cover the dough again with plastic wrap and let rise another hour.  When that hour has elapsed repeat the folding of the dough onto itself and cover with plastic wrap and let rise one more hour. 

Now place flour on your work surface and dump the dough onto it.  Put a bit of flour on top of your dough as well.  Press the dough out into a rough 8x10 square.  (You can separate this dough into two pieces if you rather make two loaves as well.  You would do that part now and just shape both loaves following these instructions).  Fold the top right corner and top left corner diagonally to the middle of the dough.  Then begin to roll the dough from the top to the bottom until it forms a dough log.  Roll the dough onto the seam and slide your hands under each end and transfer to parchment paper.  Shape the dough into a rough 16-inch (just eyeball it really, you don’t have to measure) football shape by tucking the bottom edges underneath it.  Allow to rise an addition hour.  If you do just one loaf know that it is a really big piece of bread.  I like to do two loaves, partially bake one and freeze and completely bake the other for that night. 

Preheat oven with baking stone inside to 500 degrees.  Use a knife and slit ¼ inch deep length wise along the top of the loaf but not going all the way to the ends.  Mist loaf with water before sliding loaf with parchment paper into the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, turn the loaf and lower heat to 400 degrees.  Bake an additional 25 (usually 25-30 for large loaf and 20-25 for smaller loaf) minutes.  Internal temperature should be roughly 200 degrees when cooked completely.  If you want to partially cook one and freeze for later use, after the initial 10 minutes at 500 degrees, let it bake another 10 minutes at 400 then pull it out cool completely and freeze.  When you want to reheat, bake at 400 for another 25 minutes.

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