Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Italian bread -- it's amore!

After experimenting with whole wheat bread a couple times (and not super-successfully, I might add), I was reminded of a very rare, very beautiful, very forbidden experience...eating crusty-on-the-outside-hot-and-chewy-on-the-inside Italian bread.

OMG (as in goodness!) Hot out of the oven, with butter slathered and half-melted on top? One of life's best experiences ever? Possibly!

In my opinion it's a shame that the mere mention of white bread now causes raised eyebrows and "tut-tuts" (does anyone still tut-tut? Probably not...) in North American society.  We are a blame-game culture and when we see that muffin top, what do we do? Blame the baguette! It's so unfair...poor processed flour, it deserves a break.

And so...with a borrowed recipe in hand (slightly modified because I'm cheap and lazy), I went to town.

*Note to self: When it says "score 1/4 inch", try to follow instructions more carefully to avoid (as my sister calls them) "gaping mouths". The only mouth that should be gaping is mine, just before I swallow my first mouthful of processed, starchy, carb-filled goodness.

Bread: one of the most fundamentally pure and basic foods can (and should!) be made from grain that's been processed the heck out of.

Here's the recipe...

2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup yeast
approximately 5 cups bread flour
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP salt

sesame seeds
1 egg white

Let yeast bloom in water for 5 minutes. Then add sugar and flour and knead (or mix with a dough-hook if you're lucky enough to have a KitchenAid--I just have forearm muscles, which are hopefully getting stronger! ;)--when dough starts to form, add olive oil and salt.

(*Note to self: Don't wait until dough has already formed, then it's SUPER hard to add the olive oil, especially without said KitchenAid!)

Grease dough-ball, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. Knead down, form into an oval loaf (rolling is easiest, just make sure seam-side is down) and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.

Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
Brush with egg white, cut three 1/4 inch scores and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Once the dough has risen to double its size, bake in a 400 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes.

* A tip I got was to sprinkle/spray (if you have a spray bottle) the loaf with water 3x during baking. Once after 3 minutes, once after 6 minutes, and once after 9 minutes. Supposedly this makes the crust crustier. I'm not sure if this is weird cooking juju, but I did it and it seemed to work. (I just flicked water over the loaf with my finger tips).

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