Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Italian Bread

This recipe is delicious.  It isn't very difficult but it does take a considerable amount of time due to all the rising time.  But if you plan to be around all day, like on a Sunday, it's not too bad.  I did everything by hand but if you have a bread machine or a dough hook attachment that would make this even easier.  I kinda of combined several different recipes I came across.

7 1/4-7 3/4 cups all-purpose flour - I probably used closer to 6 1/2 but it depends on how sticky your dough ends up.  I also sifted my flour but it didn't say you had too.
2 packages fast-rising active dry yeast - there is approx. 2 1/2 teaspoons in a packet
2 1/2 cups water (110 degrees)
1 tablespoon salt
yellow cornmeal - I forgot to use this and it turned out find.  
1 slightly beaten egg white
1TBS cold water

1. In large mixer bowl, combine 3 c of flour and the yeast.
2. Combine the water and salt
.3. Add to the dry mixture.
4. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds, scrapping the sides constantly.
5. Beat at high for 3 minutes.
6. By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make dough only slightly sticky.  You can always easily add more flour but it is hard to take it away
7. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and very elastic (15-25 minutes).
8. Shape into a ball.
9. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough.
10. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).
11. When dough has doubled, punch it down (deflate it), and cover and let it rise a second time, until doubled in size. This will take around 30 minutes.
12. Punch down the dough again and knead 1 minute on a lightly floured surface. cut the dough into 2 equal pieces. Roll each piece into about a 15x12 inch rectangle. Roll up jelly roll fashion and pinch the seam together. Tuck the ends underneath. Grease baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.
13. Place the bread on the prepared baking sheets: cover and let rise until doubles again, about 30 minutes.
14. Make several evenly placed diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Beat together the egg white and the 1 tablespoon of cold water: brush over each loaf of bread gently with a pastry brush.
15. Place a pan of hot water on bottom shelf of the oven. Place baking sheet with loaves on shelf above the water.
16. Bake in a hot 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from baking pans and cool on wire racks. Enjoy!

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