Thursday, September 10, 2009

Italian Peasant Bread

We had some friends over for a bread and wine dinner. The kids, even though the don’t get any wine, really love this meal. I make the bread and every one brings something to enjoy with it. Cheese, carpese salad, sun dried tomato pesto, proscuitto, balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip, caponata and fruits. Of course, everyone brings a favorite wine to taste along with the food. Unfortunately I tossed all of the wine bottles the next morning, or I could give you a run down on our favorites. Next time.  If you have bread left over, it is fabulous  for breakfast, toasted with butter and honey.

The bread is a family favorite. It comes from the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian by Jeff Smith. You do need a good stand mixer for this recipe to develop the gluten in the dough. Pizza stones or bread tiles are ideal for baking this bread, but it does works fine on a baking sheet. It takes about 5 hours from start to finish.

Italian Peasant Bread.

2 packages fast-rising dry yeast (2 Tablespoons)
2 ½ cups tepid water (110F)
Pinch sugar
6 ½ cups unbleached white bread flour or unbleached flour not all purpose flour
1 tsp salt dissolved in 1 tsp. water

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water, add sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, yeast should look creamy.

2. Make a batter of the water /yeast mixture together with 4 cups of flour. Beat for ten minutes with the paddle of electric mixer. It will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and cling to the paddle.

3. Add salted water. Add remaining flour and knead for 5 minutes using a dough hook or 15 minutes by hand. The dough should be moist and elastic.

4. Place dough on plastic board and cover with a large bowl. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours or until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

5. Place pizza stone, if using, in the upper third of the oven and pre heat the oven to 450F. Place a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven, this will ensure a great crust.

6. Punch down and mold into 2 or 3 loves. I make 2 round loaves, but don’t worry about the shape, it doesn’t matter. Place the loaves on a large floured cotton sack towel, or a piece of cotton fabric. Sprinkle with flour and cover with an additional towel or fabric. Let rise until double, about 25- 30 minutes.

7. When bread has doubled place them upside down on the baking stone and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned register 200F on an instant read thermometer. Let cool before slicing.  Enjoy!