Is there anything more amazing than fresh, out-of-the-oven basic Italian bread with its crunchy crust and tender, soft center? Nope.
If forced to choose one starch to eat for the rest of my life, I’d have a hard time deciding between rice and potatoes. Or maybe not. It just hit me that in addition to being able to bake, boil and French fry a potato it can also be turned into an incredibly yummy chip snack. Okay, it’s official. Rice would have to go.
When I tossed the question to my husband, he didn’t have the same hesitation I did. His response was immediate. He’d go for the bread.
His answer surprised me a bit because we don’t have a lot of bread around the house unless I count the loaf of sandwich bread and a package of English muffins in the cupboard. But the fresh, homemade, straight out of the oven stuff? Around here, that’s rare.
Which made me feel bad. That’s why page 50 in the February issue of Tastes of Italia earned a little sticky tab last month. I needed to make my man some bread.
Basic bread means basic instructions. Mix, rise, knead, rise, shape, rise, bake, eat.
Since I own a stand mixer, the mixing went quickly (other than flour being tossed all over the counter when I added the last cup). It can be mixed just as easily by hand with a good, sturdy wooden spoon. I baked my bread for 25 minutes and it was perfect.
The first loaf was gone in less than 20 minutes. That’s how good this is. The crust is deliciously crunchy and the insides are soft and tender, a perfect surface for spreading butter on before eating. All three of us enjoyed slice after slice.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
Basic Italian Bread Recipe
- 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- In a medium bowl, combine starter ingredients and stir until a loose dough is formed. Cover and let rise for two hours at room temperature, or overnight at room temperature.
- In a mixer bowl, combine the starter with 1 cup of warm water. Begin mixing on low speed using the paddle. Begin adding olive oil, salt and one cup of flour at a time. mix for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove using a dough scraper and turn out onto a floured surface. Lightly knead for 2 minutes.
- Oil a bowl with olive oil and turn the dough into the bowl. Cover and allow at least 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Shape each into the form of a disk and place on a baking sheet with a little flour on the surface. Let the dough rise again, uncovered, for 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Place a small pan of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Move the second rack to the center of the oven.
- With a sharp knife, make an X in the top of both loaves. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool on racks.