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Homemade bread the Italian way

Today is a bread baking day. The idea actually started yesterday when my friend, Joanie Manzo, a Loveland reader, brought me a loaf of homemade cinnamon bread. Divine!

So it got me in the bread baking mood. I didn’t have time for cinnamon bread but knew I’d have time to make this easy recipe for Italian bread. I kept one loaf for us and sent the other to Tony and Debbie, our neighbors. With this wicked icy weather, a warm loaf of bread with a bowl of steaming stew is a comforting supper.

Italian bread for beginners and everyone else

I like this recipe for its simplicity. The flavor and texture is like the kind you get at a bakery. The crust is a bit crisp and pale gold. I’m giving detailed instructions here. Check out my blog for tips on kneading and step-by-step photos. If you want, sprinkle poppy seeds on the bread after shaping.

1 package (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast

2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)

Pinch of sugar to feed yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Stir yeast in warm water, adding a pinch of sugar to “feed” the yeast. It’s ready when it looks foamy on top, a few minutes. Pour into mixing bowl and add sugar, salt and 3 cups flour. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Pour in remaining flour and mix on low to form soft dough. On very lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes or so. It may be sticky at first, but will get smooth, like a baby’s bottom. Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease top.

Bless the dough!

Bread before rising - Bless the dough!

 

Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour or so.

First rise

 

Punch dough down.

Punched down

Divide in half. Shape each into a loaf. There are two ways to do this: simply make loaf shape with your hands about 12” long, or roll dough into an approximate 12×7” rectangle. Roll up tightly from long side, pinch seams to seal and place seam side down on sprayed or parchment lined pan.

Loaves formed

Cover and let rise until doubled, 30-45 minutes. With sharp knife, make four shallow slashes across top of loaf. Bake at preheated 400° for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Brush with butter.

DSCN3618

 

Tips:

Make this by hand? Of course, and you get a workout, too!

Measure accurately. Flour settles as it sits. Whisk a bit or stir before measuring. Measure by spooning lightly into cup and leveling off with knife.

How warm is 110-115 degrees? Best to use an instant read thermometer, which is inexpensive and accurate. Water is just right when you put some on your wrist and it’s warm enough for a baby to drink from a bottle.

How to tell when dough is doubled. Rising time is a guide only. Use fingers to make indentation about 1/2” into dough. If the indentation remains, the dough has doubled. For the second rise after shaping, make a small indentation in the dough near its side. If the dent remains, the dough is ready to bake.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://abouteating.com/homemade-bread-the-italian-way/

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