There are so many versions of Italian bread. I have been perfecting my own version by trial and error. Baking bread takes a fair amount of time. My suggestion is to have a good book to read while the bread is rising. Pre-heat oven to 375-400°F.
Here are the ingredients:
- 2 ½ cups of tepid water
- 2 ¼ tbs of dry yeast
- 6 ½ cups of white flour (more or less, varies with the flour you are using)
- 2 tbs of butter
- 2 tbs of Semolina flour
- 1 tbs of sugar
- 1 tbs of salt
- 1 egg white
- 1tsp of cold water
This recipe can also be done by hand, but if you have a mixer with a dough hook it makes it a lot easier. In the mixing bowl, add the warm water, sugar and yeast, let sit for 7 minutes. Start adding the flour gradually while mixing on low to medium low speed, till you have about one cup (give or take) of flour left.This will take around 10 minutes, give or take.
Remove dough to a floured counter top and knead in by hand the rest of the flour, or till it is no longer sticking to your hands or the counter top. This will take 10-20 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.
In a second large bowl, butter the inside of the bowl and then put the dough in it, and roll it around so it is covered with butter. Make 3 cuts across the ball with a sharp knife. Let rest for about 1 hr or till it has doubled in size. It should be in a warm draft free area.
When the dough has doubled in size, remove to counter, punch it down and knead for a minute and turn into a ball again. Return to the buttered bowl and make sure to roll the dough around again to get it covered with butter. Make another 3 cuts across the ball to help the rising. Let rise as previously for about an hour or till doubled in size.
After it has doubled in size for the second time, remove it to a floured counter top, punch it down and knead it for a minute. make a ball and cut into two pieces.
Now you have two options:
- Make into a round ball, tuck in at the bottom.
- or roll with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle, I know you will have one of those) into a rectangle of approximately 16 x 8 inches by ½ inch thick. It does not have to be perfect. Roll it up tightly into a loaf starting a the smaller end. Seam at the bottom.
If you have made the ball type loaf, make a few cuts across each loaf to get a # sign or maybe just one or two cuts or leave it with out any.
If you make the rolled up type loaf, make one little cut in the middle stopping 3-4 inches from each end.
Let rise for another hour or till double to its size.
Just before you are ready to start baking, boil some water and put in an oven proof dish, and stick it in the oven on the lowest rack. Then gently add your loafs on the middle rack. Bake at 375-400°F for about 40 minutes.
The loafs are done when tapped at the bottom and they sound hollow.
Wine Pairing and Recommendations.Serve with a big wine, like a full-bodied Italian wine from the Pichierri Winery produced from the Primitivo grapes in the Puglia region of Italy. The “Tradizione del Nonno” or in English “Tradition of the Grand Father” is an excellent choice. This wine is incredible.
Kiss the cook,