Simple baking from scratch.
This is one of the simplest recipes for Italian bread I have found and it tastes delicious. This recipe makes two loaves. I usually bake one and put the other batch of dough in the freezer for later.
· ¼ oz active dry yeast
· 2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
· 1 tsp sugar
· 2 tsp salt
· 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. If the water is too hot, it’ll kill the yeast. If it’s not warm enough, it won’t dissolve it. Use a thermometer to get the water temp. right. Let it set for 5 minutes. You don’t need to stir it.
After 5 minutes, add the sugar, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Mix for 3 minutes with either an electric mixer or by hand.
Add 2 more cups of flour and mix by hand until dough takes shape.
Put the remaining ½ cup of flour on your counter and turn the dough out. Knead for 6-8 minutes.
Really. 6-8 minutes. Kneading produces the gluten your bread needs to rise and have great texture.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and cover it with cling film. Let it rest in a warm area for about an hour until it doubles in size. I put mine near the woodstove in winter or in the greenhouse in summer. Setting the bowl on a heating pad also works well.
After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and lightly knead it on the counter once or twice (this is called punching it down). Cut it in half and shape two loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet.
If you’re going to freeze one loaf, do it now. Later when you want to use it, let it thaw out in the fridge then let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes before baking.
Cover the loaf or loaves and let them rise for about 30 minutes while the oven is preheating to 400F.
Make 4 slashes across the top of each loaf and bake for about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
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*Options: You can use an egg wash on the dough and add sea salt or sesame seeds to the top before baking. You can also add herbs or garlic to the dough before the final rise.