Fabulous Crusty Italian Loaf

Recipe by Cinizini
READY IN: 3hrs 40mins
YIELD: 2 loaves
UNITS: US

INGREDIENTS

Nutrition
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DIRECTIONS

  • In a small bowl, dissolve yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour yeast into a large bowl. Mix in flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  • Turn out onto flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from draft, until doubled in size, or about 1.5-2 hours.
  • For bread machine, just use to mix and do the first rising of the dough, then remove to shape into loaves and do second rise, following instructions below.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Remove dough onto a floured surface. Punch down and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. If you own a baking stone or unglazed ceramic tiles, dust lightly with cornmeal and put into preheated oven. Put loaves on a peel (large wooden spatula), also lightly dusted with cornmeal, or on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will about double in width.
  • In a small dish, add egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water. Slit tops of risen bread 3 or 4 times, making slits that are a quarter of an inch deep. With a brush, paint tops with egg wash. If on a peel, slide loaves onto stone or tile; otherwise put cookie sheet in oven.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower heat to 400F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through. To check if it's done, thump the bottom of each loaf; if it sounds hollow, it's done.
  • Note: Although the original recipe has you bake it at a higher temperature for the first 10 minutes and then lower the temperature, I was able to bake it continuously at 400F for 40 minutes total and mine turned out perfectly. I am including both here so that you can decide, depending on your oven.
  • Don't wait to let it cool; eat it when it's hot! Delicious!
  • Tip: For crustier bread, put a shallow baking pan filled with boiling hot water on bottom shelf of oven.
  • Variation: To make rolls, preheat oven to 400°F After dough rises, remove to a floured surface. Punch down dough and shape into 12-14 rolls. Place on cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise for 20 minutes. Slit each roll once and paint tops with egg wash. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden and baked through.
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