My current favorite bread to make is this crusty Italian bread. I saw it on someone else’s blog and decided to make it. It’s crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, and soaks up tons of pasta sauce. Those are the basic requirements of any good Italian bread.
I’ll include the basic recipe with my changes, I almost always make changes, and a link to the original recipe.
Rustic Italian Bread
For the sponge:
2 cups bread flour – I never buy bread flour. I’ve been using all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
For the dough:
3-3 1/2 cups bread flour – Instead, I’ve been using 1 cup wheat bran, 1 cup oat bran, 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour and 5 tablespoons of gluten. I also added 3 tablespoons of chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of flax seeds
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
To make the sponge:
Mix the flour, water, and yeast together in bread machine and set program to sourdough starter. After program has completed run, let starter sit at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours.
To make the dough:
Add dough ingredients to the starter in the bread machine. Set bread machine to dough setting. When program is done, it is time to form the loaf.
Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently press it into a 10-inch square without tearing it. Gently roll the dough into a tornado shape. Place the dough, seam down, on a rimless baking sheet (or one that is upside-down) that is lined with parchment paper. Gently tuck the dough into place on the parchment. You should end up with a long thin loaf that is 16 inches long. Lightly mist the dough with cooking oil and then loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
While the dough is rising, prep the oven and your baking stone. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the baking stone heat for 30 minutes (but not longer than an hour).
When the dough has doubled, score the top with a razor blade, diagonally and 1/2 inch deep and spray lightly with water. CAREFULLY slide the loaf and the parchment onto the hot baking stone in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 more minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown.
Cool on wire rack.
These are great directions. You will make a splendid loaf of bread this way. But, aside from the addition of chia and flax and brans, I have also been messing with different sizes of loaves.
On Sunday I made 16 mini loaves instead of one big loaf. I cooked these directly on the baking stone in two batches. Cooking time was 10 minutes at 500 F and an additional 4 minutes at 425 F.
The other difference with Sunday’s batch is that I made the loaves than refrigerated them for several hours. When I came home and had time to cook them, I simply put them on the table to rise for an hour and a half. Can’t tell that it changed anything about the bread.
I wanted to try these mini loaves because I think they will be perfect for my upcoming clambake. The kids tried them. They like them very much.
Because the cooking time is so short, it didn’t matter that I cooked these in 2 batches.
The recipe says to cool to room temperature before serving. My family almost immediately tucks into a fresh loaf of bread. Why would we miss the best time to eat bread? What kind of silly people would pass up an opportunity to eat bread immediately when it comes out of the oven? When the whole house smells like yummy goodness? As soon as these were out of the oven, my family was gathered around the table with butter knives and a tub of Olivio.