A meal pertaining to Italy that does not include a baked yeast loaf is generally considered incomplete. The following passages provide enough information on how to make Italian bread with utmost ease.
“I feast on wine and bread and feasts they are.” –
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer)
Ancient ovens and tools are a proof of the fact that man has been making breads for hundreds of years. Romans were believed to be the first ones to produce flour. The Italians have really very high standards for this food item, and there are almost over fifty varieties available. This baked food item holds an important place in their cuisine, and almost no religious festival or ceremony is complete without the inclusion of a loaf. A lesser known fact is that, people of Italy, value the size of their loaves, prefer their loaf to have a moist and soft interior, and allow the yeast to fully rise over the course of several hours which leaves a thin crust.
An Italian bread is a crusty yeast loaf. The dough usually contains some oil to soften it up.
Making The Dough
- Active dry yeast: 1 packet
- All-purpose flour: 4 cups
- Water: 1¼ cups
- Cooking oil: 1 tablespoon
- Salt: 1 teaspoon
- Sugar: ½ teaspoon
- Cornmeal: ¼ teaspoon
- Dissolve the yeast in about ¼ cup of water. The water should be lukewarm to ensure proper activation of the yeast. Once the yeast begins to bubble, mix it in with the remaining water.
- In a large bowl, sift flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt together. Next, add the yeast-dissolved water and mix thoroughly. Next, pour the oil into the mixture.
- After adding the oil, place the dough on a flour-smeared surface, to knead it. Make it uniform by stretching, folding it, back and forth a couple of times till it feels and looks smooth.
- A well knead dough results in a more aerated bread. In a bowl, big enough to accommodate the entire stiffened mixture, add just a few drops of oil. Roll it a couple of times to evenly coat the oil.
- Now, tightly cover the entire mixture with a plastic wrap. Keep it in a warm place for around two to three hours until the dough doubles in size. After this, the stiffened mixture is ready to be rolled out and made into a delectable bread.
- Make use of the dough from the above recipe. Massage it once more by punching it down a couple of times before using it.
- Roll it out into a loaf shape, and make two halves by cutting it lengthwise.
- Next, take one cut piece, and roll it out in an elongated shape. Ensure to not make it too thin or too thick.
- Repeat the same procedure with the other half. Next, place them on a plate, and do that carefully to avoid overlapping.
- Now, cover the entire plate with a plastic sheet, and allow it to rise for an hour until the dough doubles in size.
- Later, remove the wrap and with one sharp cut, about a quarter inch deep, make an incision length wise in the two pieces.
- Bake the loaves in batches at around 425° F for about 10-15 minutes. After that, turn down the heat to 400° F and bake until done. The baked loaf should sound hollow when thumped upon with a finger.
You can now experiment with some more shapes and different toppings to add that extra flavor to your delicious homemade Italian bread.