Stecca * stick or small baguette
Great for as sandwich bread- (olive oil, arugula, asiago cheese with prosciutto di parma. Also as side bread for pasta dishes or dipping with olive oils.
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 3/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 1/2 cups cool water (55 to 65 degrees F)
- additional flour for dusting
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp coarse sea salt
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, table salt, sugar and yeast. Add the water and, using a spatula or your hand, mix until you have a wet sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Fold the dough over itself two or three times and gently shape it into a somewhat flattened ball. Brush the surface of the dough with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the coarse salt (which will gradually dissolve into the dough).
Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place in warm, draft free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, with a rack int he center. Oil a 13 by 18 by 1 inch baking sheet.
Cut the dough into quarters. Gently stretch each piece evenly into a stick shape approximately the length of the pan. Place on the pan, leaving at least 1 inch between the loaves. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the stecca to a rack to cool thoroughly.
VARIATION: Stecca pomodori, all'olive, o al'aglio (stecca with tomatoes, olives, or garlic)
Push 10 cherry tomato halves, cut side up, 10 large pitted olives, or 10 lightly crushed garlic cloves into each formed stecca, spacing evenly down the length of the stecca. Brush enough olive oil over the stecca to create a thin coat of oil on the surface. For the tomato stecca, top each tomato halve with a thin slice of garlic, and a couple of fresh thyme leaves (or basil), and sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle the garlic stecca with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Do not salt the olive stecca- it's already salty from the olives.