Okay, I admit it. I’m a little bread crazy.
(But seriously, it’s so easy! Please trust me.)
I think I’ve converted a few of you out there to bread makers (Kristy – I am so proud of you!) and that makes me very, very happy. So I’m just going to keep making bread and hoping more of you will give it a try.
This week’s bread was a simple Italian loaf to go with Sunday dinner. We were having homemade spaghetti with some friends, so a crusty loaf sounded just about perfect.
Crusty Italian Bread, adapted from Food.com
1 package active dry yeast
1 ¼ c warm water
2 t sugar
3 c bread flour
1 t salt
1 egg yolk
In a large bowl, add water and sugar. Dissolve yeast in mixture and let sit until bubbly (about 5-10 minutes). Mix in flour and salt, and mix in until dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Turn out onto flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Or let your dough hook do the work – if you have a KitchenAid.) 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.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Remove dough onto a floured surface. Punch down and shape into 2 equal round loaves. )If you own a baking stone or unglazed ceramic tile, dust lightly with cornmeal and put into preheated oven.) Put loaves on a peel (large wooden spatula, if you have one), also lightly dusted with cornmeal, or on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will about double again.
In a small dish, add egg yolk 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. If on a peel, slide loaves onto stone or tile; otherwise put cookie sheet in oven.
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. To check if it’s done, thump the bottom of each loaf; if it sounds hollow, it’s done.
Since baking bread has become pretty easy for me, it was fun to try something new using the peel and the pizza stone. (And we’re just lucky enough that Hubs has both.) For those of you unsure what a peel is, here’s a pic:
I don’t have an artistic finished picture, because we had company, and it just seemed weird to make everyone wait while I worked on getting the perfect picture. So you get a ‘fresh outta the oven’ picture instead.
The bread turned out like I’d hoped: crusty-crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. My only issue was that they needed a little more salt, to bring out the great flavor. We used salted butter and that worked, too.
So, my friends, I’m just going to keep baking easy breads and encouraging you to do the same.
I promise you will never regret it.