What goes better with lasagna than a big loaf of Italian crusty bread? Not much. Well, maybe a bowl of salad and some wine. Ya, that sounds fantastic! The first loaf of bread I really made was a recipe my sister gave me for no-knead bread. It was super easy to make, but I didn't feel like it rose enough. It was more dense than airy, so this time around I wanted to try a true yeasty bread-y bread. I searched through all of my favorite cookbooks at home and even some of my favorite blogs when I finally came across the ultimate bread that I knew I needed to make - crusty Italian bread. Italian lasagna. Italian bread. What a perfect match!
Let me tell you - this made a HUGE, no MAJORLY HUGE loaf of bread. The outside was crusty and brown and the inside was fluffy and light. Even better, this bread is super easy to make. The one exception to making this bread is that you need to spray it down with water a couple of times during the initial baking phase. I didn't have a spray bottle on hand, so I picked one up at the dollar store for cheap. No need to spend $5 on a "kitchen" spray bottle. There is no skipping this step (it's crucial!), so go and get one. You will most likely need it for other bread recipes in the future, so it will be worth it. Promise.
Now, let me tell you what happened with my bread. I did everything right and followed the directions perfectly. I don't know how crusty this bread was meant to be, but I felt it was just too crusty for my liking. If this happens to you while baking this bread, or in the future, do not throw the bread away. Save it and make bread crumbs or homemade croutons. Can you guess which one I did? Homemade croutons! I must admit, I have a slight crouton addiction. I will just eat them sans salad. Munch, munch, crunch, crunch. So good. When Ryan and I were up in Oregon visiting his Dad and Barb, Barb had made some fantastic croutons. I had never made them before and decided that this was a must. There will be a whole separate blog on this soon, so you will just have to wait until then. Neener neener.
|Just a few ingredients|
|kneading that dough!|
|loaf rolled and ready to bake|
|look how big!|
|it's the growing loaf of bread. now even bigger!|
|see, super crusty|
Crusty Italian Bread (from www.browneyedbaker.com)
2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
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 an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need 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 to 425°F. Place the dough 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. Using a razor blade or 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.
Bet you can't wait for that homemade crouton recipe now. Garlic and parmesan croutons to be exact. I wish I had a bowl of them to eat right now!