Friday, October 28, 2011

Anna Sultana's Crusty Italian Bread

Is there anything more basic than bread?

Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos included a few bread recipes, 
including a recipe for a loaf of Easter Sweet Bread in the Holidays chapter.
But, there wasn't a recipe for basic Italian bread.
Bread to accompany meals.
Bread that, with a chunk of cheese and a bottle of wine, could be a meal in itself. 

Maybe Carmela had a really good Italian bakery nearby.
Maybe she put this cookbook together while she was on the Atkin's diet.
Maybe, she thought that, if she baked bread, she wouldn't have time for baking anything else.

Well, I have a recipe for you.
This recipe has been an old favorite.
Especially handy when there wasn't a good Italian bakery nearby.

                        Crusty Italian Bread

Makes 2 loaves
Grease 2 large baking sheets
Sprinkle each pan lightly with
Yellow corn meal         

In a large bowl, pour
2 1/2 Cups warm water (@ 110º F)
Sprinkle over the water
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
Let stand about 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve.
1 Tablespoon salt
Stir in 
4 Cups flour
Turn the dough out on a floured surface.
Knead in
About 2 Cups flour
Knead until it is smooth and elastic (about 20 minutes).
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.
Turn to cover all sides.
Cover and let rise in a warm place, about 1 1/2 hours.
It should be about doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough and let rise again, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and turn the dough out on a floured surface.
Cut it into 2 even pieces.
Roll one piece into a rectangle 10 x 15 inches.
Starting on a long side, roll up tightly, pressing dough at each turn.
Pinch the ends and loose edge to seal.
Roll ends between hands to taper them.
Place on prepared pan.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cover with a tent of aluminum foil.
Place in a warm place and let rise, about 1 1/2 hours.

Heat oven to 400º 
With a sharp knife, cut a lengthwise slash down each loaf.      
Bake 25 minutes
Remove pans from oven. 

Increase oven temperature to 450º
Beat together
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
Brush loaves

Bake 15 minutes, until brown
Remove loaves from pans.
Cool on a rack for 5 minutes.
Slice and serve, just like regular bread.

Would I make Crusty Italian Bread again?
And serve it with cheese and wine.
By candle light.
After all that work, he'd better not expect a lasagna, too.

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