I was never a big fan of lasagna until Dennis made one for me. It’s one of his favorite dishes, and since I hate making it, he decided to find a recipe that would win me over. It worked, so I requested it for our Christmas dinner.
He won’t let me share the recipe (sorry guys!) but I can share the Italian bread I made to go with it.
Let me start by saying that there are a many different recipes for Italian bread. Some call for a ‘biga’ which is basically a starter like when you make sourdough, and some did not. I contemplated making one that called for a biga because it seems like that would have been the most authentic, but one person said that although the bread was good, it wasn’t exactly like what you buy at the store. Normally this would have been fine, but since it was my first time making Italian bread, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.
It was actually quite easy, and a recipe that a high school friend passed along. All I had to do was mention that I was looking for an Italian bread recipe on Facebook and within an hour I had 5 recipes in my inbox. Oh how I love social media.
It was very good and stayed fresh for about 4 days covered in aluminum foil and in a zipper bag in the refrigerator. But if you’re not a fan of dense bread, keep looking because this bread was very very dense
Homemade Italian Bread (recipe courtesy of an old high school friend)
Makes one large, bakery sized loaf
2 cups lukewarm water (about 110 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups bread flour ( I used 5 1/2)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.
Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer. (I used my Kitchenaid) Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed for 7-8 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.
Preheat the oven lined with a baking stone to 425°F.
Place the dough on a baker’s peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Brush the dough with the egg. Using a sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle.
Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).
Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.
Admire its beauty folks.
It made one massive loaf (next time I will make this two smaller loaves) but the flavor was great. It was very dense and was great toasted. I used it to make an egg sandwich the next morning and the flavor held up very well. I have to say I’m quite proud of myself on this one.
Happy Friday everyone! I hope you all enjoy your weekend. I’ll be recovering from this crappy cold I have.