Beth's Italian Bread
I absolutely take no credit for this recipe. Beth found it somewhere online and I played with it, as always. The results are a hearty bread with a dense texture. Beth made them for subs/hoagies. We ate one loaf hot with butter & jam, then two later with spaghetti. I froze the final loaf to save for stuffing, strata or a French Toast casserole. Pepperoni Rolls? See Step #11. =^..^=
2 cwarm water (110-115 degrees f.)
2 Tbspactive dry yeast (or just use 3 packets)
1 tspwhite sugar
4 1/2 c(up to 5 cups) bread flour, with more for sprinkling
someshortening or cooking oil
1 tspcornmeal (or cooking spray)
somepepperoni, cut into "sticks" or slices
somepizza sauce, optional
someshredded mozzarella cheese, optional
How to Make Beth's Italian Bread
- Measure out 2 cups of warm water & test to make sure it's not too hot. (Baby's bath water is the right temp.) Add the yeast & sugar, stir, and let set for about 10 minutes to "proof" the yeast and make sure it is working. If it is, it will rise up a bit and you can tell something is going on with it. If the yeast isn't alive, you need new yeast. It's better to know this than to waste all of the other ingredients. =^..^=
- In a large bowl, measure out the salt & 2 cups (only!) of the bread flour. Once you are convince the yeast lives(!), add it to the bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth.
- Add the next 2 1/2 cups of bread flour a little at a time, combining well with the mixer, until you can't use the mixer anymore. (If it's an inexpensive hand mixer like mine, you'll get about half of this flour in.) Add the rest by hand, mixing with a large sturdy spoon. Add up to another 1/2 cup (if you really need to) to make a soft dough. (5 cups of bread flour total.)
- Sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface and dump the dough onto it. Set the timer on the microwave for 7 minutes, flour up your hands, and start kneading that dough. Only add more flour if you have a truly sticky dough. Less is more when it comes to flour. The end result should be smooth & elastic.
- Grease the bowl you just used to mix the dough, using shortening or cooking oil. Put the dough into the bowl and flip a few times so that all sides are "greased." This makes for a better rising.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap misted with cooking spray or a dish towel and set in a warm place. I like to bake bread while doing laundry because setting the bowl on the warm dryer is just perfect. The bread should rise and double in about an hour, depending on the temperature around the dough.
- Punch down the dough to release the air trapped in the yeast bubbles. Divide into 2 or 4 loaves, shaping them as you like. I'm thinking of making round "bread bowls" for soup next time. They would also work to hold Spinach Dip. You can also make dinner rolls and Pepperoni Rolls from this dough. (See Step #11.)
- Either sprinkle a large baking sheet with dry cornmeal or spray with cooking spray. Place loaves on the sheet, not touching. Take a sharp knife and make a few shallow cuts on each loaf. Cover and place back in the warm place to rise for another 30 minutes or so, until the loaves have doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (CHECK EARLY), or until lightly browned and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. Cool on racks to avoid sweating & a soggy bottom to your bread. IF YOU WANT A SOFTER CRUST, butter the crust of the bread while still hot. If you like your bread crusty, don't.
- NOTE: For Pepperoni Rolls, prepare 1 or 2 baking dishes (like 13 x 9" pans or cake pans) by misting with cooking spray. Divide the dough into 12-24 pieces, depending on the size of roll you want & remembering that the dough will double. Flatten each dough piece in your hand and add pepperoni "sticks" (or slices, if you must). Continue until all rolls are made. That's it, if you are from my corner of West Virginia.
Try making Pizzaroni Rolls, if you are adventurous. Just use more dough, add a little pizza sauce, and some mozzarella cheese with the pepperoni. Pull the dough around them and place seam side down in a prepared baking dish, allowing room between the rolls for raising. Continue until all rolls are made.
Cover & set in a warm place until dough rises and doubles, around 30 minutes or so. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 15 or so minutes, until rolls are browned, especially on the bottoms. (Lift up a corner with a spatula to check.) Remove to cooling racks and butter the tops of the hot rolls, if you want a softer crust. Eat while warm. Be careful because the melted cheese might be really hot! Photo credit to Cindy M., who happened to be making Pepperoni Rolls last night.
Trivia: Pepperoni Rolls were invented in central West Virginia as a lunch item for the coal miners' "lunch buckets." The original rolls were stuffed just with pepperoni "sticks." (Think of cutting off a 2" piece of a long pepperoni, then cutting that into 6 long sticks. Two pepperoni sticks per roll.) Sauce & mozzarella cheese wasn't added to Pepperoni Rolls until much later, when the pizza craze took over America. I personally like my Pepperoni Roll with just pepperoni and a little butter on the inside. =^..^=