Anyway, I am a stickler for breads. It has to be chewy yet crispy, dense but not a brick, moist but not underdone. Okay, so I'm a little bit of a bread snob. I absolutely LOATHE commercial food chain "Italian bread" or "french bread". That slop is the furthest thing to real Italian or french breads.
Fortunately for me, I have some connections and get great bread when I don't feel like making it. I'm actually pretty passionate about good bread and will even build a meal around it. The smell, the color, the sound....yes, the sound of good bread makes me do an "oh dear God" eye roll into the back of my skull. See below......
Anyway, I have tried lots of recipes and lots of "tricks" and methods, and I think that I have got down a pretty great recipe for an artisan bread that is great for sandwiches, panino, croutons and crostini. Just a few simple ingredients, and a little effort, and you've got amazing bread. And seriously people, this bread is SO easy! Don't be afraid of it!! So what are you waiting for? Get your asses in the kitchen and make this bread!!
Rotund Artisanal Bread
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 15-18 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
2 cups warm water (110-115 deg. F.)
1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
5 cups of flour (give or take)
Cornmeal (for dusting pan)
**It should be noted that I only make this recipe in my Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook. I have never tried it in a bread machine or by hand.**
Measure 2 cups of warm water. (You want the water to be between 110 and 115 degrees F. Water that is too cool or too hot will have an effect on the yeast.) Sprinkle the packet of yeast evenly over the warm water, and allow to "bloom" or activate for around 5 minutes. (You will notice the yeast will be bubbly and have a very strong smell).
Using a standard baking sheet, sprinkle a light dusting of corn meal evenly all over the pan. Set aside.
Add sugar, salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture and begin to mix slowly to incorporate.
One cup at a time, start to add your flour to the mixture, careful not to mix on too high a speed or your flour will go everywhere.
What you are looking for is a dough that is not sticky, and pulls away from the sides in one mass.
Dust a board lightly with flour. Dust your hands with flour and release dough from hook and bowl and place on floured surface. Knead gently for about 3 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, and slice evenly to make 2 dough balls.
Place on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Using a knife, slice a criss-cross pattern into your bread and set in a warm place, covered lightly with plastic wrap, for 1 hour. Do not allow to rise longer than 70 minutes. This is the only rise this bread needs. It should double in size. If the bread does not double in size, you may want to start over. Your yeast has not been properly activated and your bread will come out like a brick.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Uncover bread and place baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven. Take 5 ice cubes and throw them into the bottom of the preheated oven. Quickly shut the door and DO NOT OPEN FOR 15 minutes!!!! (I know this sounds crazy, but this moisture will make your crust chewy and crusty.....trust me. It's an old secret from an old South Philly pizza parlor I grew up on.)
After 15 minutes, open the oven door and check out the color of the bread. It should be a nice deep golden color. You may need to cook for another few minutes depending on your oven.
Allow bread to cool and store uncovered that day until ready to use. This will allow the bread to get even more crusty.
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