Friday, March 18, 2011

Italian Bread

I told you I've been on a roll lately! I'm enjoying this last week of cooking before the baby comes. I tried this bread awhile ago and it was very fun! It's similar to french bread, but it has a little thicker crust and it's a little more dense and chewy. It would be great for a very saucy pasta, soup, or something else with juices you want to soak up. We had it with some Greek Chicken Salad and then again later with some yummy pasta. It requires you to start it overnight, and then it has a lot of rising times, but the actual time you spend doing something is very minimal. It was fun for a change!

Italian Bread

The night before (called the "preferment"):

1 c. water
1 c. bread flour (all-purpose will work)
1/2 tsp. instant yeast

For the rest of the dough:

5 c. bread flour (again, AP is fine; you may need more or less)
1/2 c. nonfat dry milk
1 T. brown or white sugar
1 T. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 T. olive oil
2 cups water, room temperature

To make the preferment, combine the water, flour and yeast in a medium bowl. Mix well to blend, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature at least 4 hours and up to 16 hours.
When you are ready to make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the preferment, 4 cups of the flour, dry milk, sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water. Mix on low speed until a sticky dough has formed. Add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time. Continue kneading on low speed until the flour has been incorporated (you may need to add even more than 5 cups) and you have a dough that is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky. The total kneading time should be about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a well greased bowl, turning once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Allow to rise at room temperature until approximately doubled in size, about 2 hours. Deflate the dough, cover once more, and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough once or twice and divide into two equal portions. Cover the two pieces of dough with a damp towel and allow to relax for 20 minutes.
Shape the two portions of dough into the desired final shape (I did 2 long loaves) and transfer to a baking sheet. Cover again with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until approximately doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Just before placing the loaves in the oven, brush or spray them lightly with water. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes before rotating them. Bake another 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200˚ F. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Source: Annie's Eats

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