Monday, May 9, 2011

Rustic Italian Bread - step by step

This bread is really, really good. It's from The New Best. It is a lengthy process, but so worth it to have a fresh Artisan Loaf right out of your oven with a tender crumb and crispy crust. The hardest part is remembering that you have to start the bread the day before you want to eat it. And, you need a pizza stone to bake it on, but I'm sure a sheet pan would be fine if you don't have one.

2 cups bread flour
1/4 t instant yeast
1 cup water, at room temperature

3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 t instant yeast
1 1/3 cups water, at room temperature
2 t salt (I like to add an additional teaspoon, but it's your choice)

The day ahead - make the sponge. Combine the flour, water, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead at the lowest speed until the ingredients form a shaggy dough, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the sponge to a medium bowl, over tightly with plastic wrap, and let it stand at room temperature until it begins to bubble and rise, about three hours. Then refrigerate the sponge for 8 up to 24 hours. It should look like the picture above.

The next day - take the sponge out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature while you make the dough. Combine the flour, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, and knead at the lowest speed until a rough dough is formed, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off, and without removing the dough hook or the bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, and add the sponge and salt to the dough, and continue to knead at the lowest speed until the ingredients are combined and the dough is formed, about 4 minutes. Should look something like the above picture. Then transfer the dough to an oiled bowl 3x the size of the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until puffy, about 1 hour.

After an hour, you need to turn the dough. Just pick it up around the side edge, and fold 1/3 over, then do the same to the other side. Cover the dough back up, let it rise for another hour, and turn it again, then let it rise for one more hour. (2 turns total, but the dough will rise for 3 hours before you shape it)

The dough has risen, turned, risen, turned, and risen again, and now you need to shape the loaf.
So, dust your work surface generously with flour, as well as your hands, and gently invert the dough onto your board. Carefully push the dough into an 8-10 inch square. Mine is closer to a rectangle, but it's not really important, so just do your best.

Take the 2 top corners of the dough and fold down the center together.

Then grab the point at the top and roll the dough down into the shape of a log.

It will look like this, with the seam underneath. Now you need to get a sheet of parchment paper, and transfer the dough.

With the dough on the parchment, shape the loaf into an oblong football by tucking the edges underneath. It should be about 16 inches long. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Then set your oven to 500, with your baking stone set on a rack in the middle of your oven, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

When your dough has risen a final time, and is ready to go in the oven, make a slit down the top of the loaf, starting 1 1/2 inches from the end, going 1/2 inch deep. Spray the loaf with water, and transfer it to the baking stone on the parchment. Bake at 500 for ten minutes, then open the oven and rotate the loaf around to the other side (using the parchment). Then lower the oven temperature down to 400, and bake the bread for another 30-35 minutes, or until the dough reads 210 on an instant read thermometer.

When it's finished it will look like this! Then, you should let the bread cool on a rack for about 2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature. However, I have never let this bread cool for more than 30 minutes. Who can resist hot bread out of the oven?

This recipe makes a HUGE loaf that is delicious for dipping, and mopping up soup and sauce. You can eat it by itself, or you can cut part of it to make croutons, or grill slices and top them with bruschetta.

Do whatever you want with it, you will enjoy it.


Amy said...

Honey, this looks so good even I am going to try it, Dad will love this, nothing like good homemade bread to sooth the soul! And it is so pretty.

Amy said...

I mean soothe, I'm having to do this too much.

Jon, Meghan, and Emory said...

this looks absolutely divine. thanks for sharing!