Monday, September 12, 2011

Crusty Italian Bread

Adapted from “at home café” by Helen DeFrance and Leslie Carpenter (I swiped it from the Swap Table at MOPS the other day!). I’ve been on the lookout for a better homemade French bread recipe (the one I’ve been using can be fickle and doesn’t have very good texture). This one not only tastes great and has good texture (the “crusty” part is slightly crusty, not hard like some store-bought breads…it’s a nice, happy medium) but it’s really easy too, with little kneading!

I’ve found the best place for rising bread is in a cold oven with the light turned out. Stick the oiled bowl in there while you mix up the bread. It’ll be nice and warm when you’re ready for it!

When making bread, bread flour is an absolute must! Believe me, it DOES make a difference!

1 package rapid-rise dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with ½ teaspoon salt, warmed
cornmeal, for sprinkling—about 2 teaspoons

Place the yeast and sugar in warm water and leave for 5-10 minutes (when it has a little foam on top, it’s ready).

In a food processor, using the mixing blade, put in the salt and flour and pulse to mix. Add the yeast, sugar, and water mixture and vinegar. Process 15-20 seconds, until the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a lightly oiled board (no flour) and hand-knead a few times.

Place dough in a bowl that’s been oiled and turn the dough to coat. Cover and rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch dough down and cut into 2 pieces. Shape into 2 slender loaves.

Place the two halves on a greased (sprinkle with some cornmeal) stone or other baking sheet (or you can use French bread pans, greased and sprinkled with cornmeal). Brush with warmed oil and salt. Make 2-4 slits in each loaf (a sharp, serrated knife works great for this). Allow to rise until doubled again, 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 425 (preheated) for 15-20 minutes or until brown. I baked for about 15 minutes on the middle rack, then moved the loaves to the bottom for 5-8 minutes so the bottom would get a little crusty. Next time I’ll probably bake the loaves on the bottom rack or next-to-the-bottom rack.

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