Friday, July 23, 2010

Italian Bread


 Italian Bread
makes 1 loaf*
What's an Italian meal without a loaf of yeasty, crusty Italian bread.  Having moved to a very rural area of Southeastern Utah, an area not known for its Italian communities, it was very difficult to find the bread of my youth . . . most of the "Italian" bread from the local markets were more like  unsliced "Pullman" white bread shaped to look like rustic Italian loafs so I developed this recipe to bring some of  my culture to Scandinavian Utah.
1 ½ envelopes (¼ -ounce each) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F.)
3/4 tablespoons salt
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup glutton
4 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1.  Combine the sugar and the warm water in a measuring cup, when the sugar is totally absorbed sprinkle the active yeast over the surface and allow it to "bloom" (bubble and form a head) and proof.  (if the yeast fails to "bloom" discard the mixture and start again)
2.  Meanwhile place the bread flour, glutton, and salt in a sifter and shift into the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a dough hook.   After the yeast "blooms", pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture and turn the mixer on low until the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium-high to high (knead on my mixer) and mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and begins to crawl up to dough hook.
3.  Turn off mixer and remove the dough to a lightly floured, smooth, cool work surface and knead the dough (sparingly adding flour as necessary if it's too sticky) for 15 minutes.
4.  Lightly grease a mixing bowl with the oil, form the dough into a ball and place the dough ball into it and turn once to coat the ball with oil so it won't stick to the plastic wrap. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 ½  hours.
5.  Remove the dough ball from the bowl to a lightly floured, smooth, cool work surface. Roll, using the palms of your hand, the ball out into a 18 to 19-inch log  (if more than 1 loaves are being made, roll the balls out to a 16-inch log).
6.  Sprinkle a 17x12-inch baking sheet evenly with 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal. Place the loaf diagonally (if more than 1 loaves are being made place the loaves perpendicular to the long sides of the baking sheets) on a large baking sheet.  Cover the loaf (loaves) with a damp cloth and allow the loaf (loaves) to "proof" (rise) until it doubles in size, at least 1 hour (to a degree, the longer the loaf proofs the more cavities will form in the bread . . . that's a good thing!).
7.  Preheat your oven to 425° F.
8.  When the loaf (loaves) has proofed remove the cloth and make  3 or 4 diagonal slashes on the top of the (each) loaf (, about ¼-inch deep.
9.  Make an egg was by combining the white of 1 egg with a tablespoon of water and, with a pastry brush, brush the egg wash evenly over the top and sides of the (each) loaf. Place a 2 cups of hot water in an oven-proof container on the bottom of the oven.  Place the cookie sheet into the oven and bake the loaves for 35 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
* to increase the yield simply increase all ingredients

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