Rustic Italian Bread
Preparation Time: about 20 minutes
Cooking Time: about 30 minutes
Resting Time: about 2 hours
- 3 cups Flour
- 1 pack Dry Active Yeast
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1/8 cup Cornmeal (optional)
- 1 Beaten Egg (optional)
1. Sift flour into a large bowl. Mix in salt with hand. Move the ingredients to the sides of the bowl, creating a large "well" (an empty space) in the middle.
2. Pour the yeast into the "well" and pour 1 cup of lukewarm water over the yeast. Sprinkle about 1 tbsp. of flour over top. Wait (about 10 minutes) for bubbles to appear in the yeast.
3. Once the bubbles have appeared, you can start to mix together the ingredients (hands work best, but you can use a mixer) to form the dough. The best way to do this, is to gradually incorporate the flour that is "waiting" on the sides of the bowl. Doing it all at once will be too difficult. So, go bit by bit, if it's too liquid, just add a bit more flour at the end. You should finish this "pre-kneading" stage with a round, firm ball of dough. Again, if it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
4. Kneading: remove the bread from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead it by pushing your palms into and then turning it one quarter. Keep kneading and doing quarter turns for about 5-10 minutes, or until the bread is supple and non-sticky.
5. Place the bread in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp dish cloth. Let it rise for about 1 hour (depends on the room temperature, you want it to be fairly warm). It should double in size.
6. Re-sprinkle a counter top (or other surface) with flour. Prepare a baking pan by lightly oiling it and sprinkling the bottom with cornmeal (if you don't have cornmeal, just use flour). With your hands, remove bread and place on floured surface. Punch it down once, hard, with your palms. Now, re-shape it into a loaf. Put the loaf on the baking pan. Cover with dish towel and let rise for about 1 hour. It should double in size.
7. If you want, coat the top with the beaten egg. Put in oven at 375°F and bake for 30 minutes (more or less, depending on how much you like it browned).
If your yeast doesn't bubble, it's no longer active or you didn't use lukewarm water. You should start over in this case, because the bread will not rise.
Freezing: If you are planning on freezing the bread, only bake it for 20 minutes. Wait for it to cool, then wrap in tin foil, put in a plastic bag and freeze. When you want to serve it, just preheat oven to 400°F, bake inside of foil for 10 minutes and then remove foil and let brown for about 5 minutes.