Pat's Basic Italian Bread
When I was newly married and was given these pans by my mother-in-law, I thought,
"Goodness these things need to be scrubbed clean!" Thank goodness I didn't succeed, since those black pans made THE best crust on the loaves.
2 pkginstant dry yeast
3 1/2 cwarm water (110° to 115°f)
8 - 10 cunbleached all purpose flour or bread flour
3 Tbspolive oil, extra virgin, give or take a tbs
How to Make Pat's Basic Italian Bread
- In a large bowl, dissolve the dry yeast and teaspoon of sugar in 1/2 cup of the warm water. Allow the yeast to proof until it is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining water.
- Add 3 cups of the flour and the salt, stirring with a wooden spoon. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Continue adding the flour, one cup at a time, stirring after each addition until you have a sticky, hard to stir dough. (You may not need to add all of it, depending on humidity and temperature of the room, so watch when you get close to the eighth cup so you don't add too much.) Work the mixture until it comes together in a ball. Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it for 5-10 minutes, folding the dough over on itself, until it is shiny and elastic. Add flour as necessary to keep from sticking to the surface. It should still be slightly sticky but workable.
- Grease the bowl generously with olive oil. Put the dough in it and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and cover that with a towel. Place in a warm place away from drafts. Let the dough rise until double in size. The more slowly the dough rises, the tangier the flavor will be. Punch the dough down, cover again and let rise again, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare pans by oiling the loaf pans, greasing the baking pans or sprinkling the stones with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 400°.
- When the dough rises the second time, remove from the bowl and knead a few times. Cut in half and shape the dough into 2 loaves. sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on the work surface and roll the loaves in the seeds. Place the loaves in the pans or on the stones/baking sheet. Spray a little water on the loaves to keep the seeds from falling off. You can also beat an egg white with a teaspoon of water and brush on the bread before sprinkling with sesame seeds. The seeds tend to hold better with the egg white.
- Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes or until double in size. Spray the loaves with water again and place in the hot oven for 30-35 minutes, until the crust is a golden brown and the loaf is hollow sounding when the bottom is tapped with your knuckles. Transfer loaves to a wire rack and let cool completely.