I needed a easy bread for my upcoming sandwiches, so I went Italian today. I liked the last Italian bread I made, but I didn’t want to use brown sugar again. I went with an Italian bread recipe from Amanda’s cookin, but loosely followed Brown Eyed Baker’s directions for baking. I preheated the oven (at 400, to compromise) with the baking sheet inside. I should have let the loaves rise a second time on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or flour, but I forgot. So the transfer to the oven was a little messy. My slicing of the top was just as horrible as last time, the edges were ragged and ugly. I brushed with egg white before baking and rubbed with butter afterwards.
I should have spray the loaves with water before putting them in the oven, that’s pretty standard for Italian breads. Btw, I learned that Italian breads are traditionally used to soak up pasta sauces, so they have few holes and a smooth crumb. The oil, or shortening in this case, makes the bread a little richer and softer than French bread. The bread was chewy and the crust was thick and crunchy, and it made me thirsty! I loved the flavor too.
Major plus was that the dough was really easy to work with. I kneaded it with the dough hook for about 7 minutes after mixing.
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 T. shortening, melted or oil
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
4 c. flour (I used half bread flour, half all purpose)
Sprinkle yeast on water in large bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt, and half of flour. Stir to combine.
Add melted shortening and rest of flour. Mix well. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes.
Place dough into a greased bowl in warm place and cover with towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down and knead for one minute. Divide in half and shape in loaves (roll up and pinch very tightly).
Place on greased cookie sheet, seam side down, slice top with white sharp knife, then cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Can be brushed with butter afterwards or brushed with egg white before and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.
Allow to cool on a rack for at least 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Here are the directions for my old Italian bread recipe. (From Brown Eyed Baker and Dawn’s Recipes)
Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.
Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.
Preheat the oven lined with a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles to 425°F.
Place the dough on a baker’s peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle.
Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).
Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.