There’s no getting around that January is pretty deary for most of the northern hemisphere. A hunk of really good bread, crunchy crust and chewy inside, with some amazing soup goes a long way to perk a body up. And did I mention it was easy?
Italian Bread – this is best done by hand without a mixer and there is no kneading required!
- 3 cups warm water (you should be able to stick your finger in it without yelping)
- 3 teaspoons yeast
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 6 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- A few drizzles of olive oil
Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water in a glass, plastic, or ceramic mixing bowl, wait or stir until the yeast is dissolved
Stir in the salt
Stir in 3 cups of the flour until is is all incorporated
Stir in the remaining 3 cups of flour – if you had generous cups to begin with stop at about 2.5 cups. The end result should be wet and sticky not floury. If you have a dry mass where you can still see flour add just a bit of water. It’s better to be too wet than too dry
When you have something about the consistency of congealed oatmeal, cover the bowl and let rise for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the weather. It should be about doubled in bulk.
When the dough is done rising, drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top and dip a bit onto your hands. This will keep the sticky dough from sticking to your fingers. Gently separate the dough into two halves. Manipulate one half into a rough oblong and place it gently in one half of a french bread pan (the semicircle shaped one with the little holes) Repeat with the second half -don’t worry too much about your technique as long as its not drooping over the sides it will taste fine. Set the pan to one side.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
When the oven is ready put the bread in and leave for five minutes. Then turn the oven down to 400 degrees
Bake another 15 to 20 minutes until the bread has a brown crust and sounds hollow when tapped
Break it apart into chunks and serve hot with butter or olive oil or let it cool like a civilized person! Since you have two loaves you can afford to go wild with the first – nobody else will know…