…remember the sauce recipe from last week?
You know. This sauce recipe. Sidenote: You all refer to it as “sauce”, too. Which warms my heart. And the heart of my husband, who I figured as an Italian would call it “gravy”. He doesn’t, and as a matter of fact feels very strongly about the subject. But that’s another story.
Anyway, when you have all that beautiful sauce in your life, you really ought to have a spectacular bread to mop it up with. Or is it just me?
No. I didn’t think so.
I’ve been playing with various bread recipes and preparation techniques for a long time and, according to Rob, I’m getting kinda good at this bread business. And so, allow me to bend your ear and teach you the most important of all bread baking techniques. Ready?
LEAVE IT ALONE.
When the dough is rising? Leave it alone. When it’s rising again? Leave it alone. And after you form the loaf and make your little slashes in it? You guessed it.
Just leave it. The dough will use its own intuitive wisdom and everything will turn out just fine.
And here’s the secret to a fabulous crust: After painting with egg wash, spray the loaf liberally with water. Then, after placing it in the oven, drop (or if you’re me, toss) several ice cubes onto the oven floor and immediately shut the door. As they melt they’ll give off steam, which is what makes for a nice, crusty loaf. A few minutes later, toss another handful in and shut the door quickly.
And that’s it! After a mere 30 minutes more you’ll have a hot, steamy, fragrant loaf of freshly baked bread.
Your family will weep tears of joy, your spouse will demand that the two of you renew your vows, angels will sing. And you will pat yourself on the back for being a clever baker who knew enough to leave the dough alone.
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
Prep Time: 20 minutes Rise Time: 3 hours Baking Time: 30 minutes
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (approx 2 1/2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Mixture should be foamy.
In the meantime, combine flour and salt. Once yeast is finished proofing, add flour mixture and olive oil. Using the dough hook, combine all ingredients until dough forms and clears the sides of the bowl. If dough looks very sticky/wet, add extra flour, one tablespoon at a time. Knead dough until smooth and elastic.
Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl which has been coated with olive oil/spray. Turn once to coat dough. Cover and allow to sit in warm area for 1 hour to rise until doubled in size.
Punch dough down, spray or lightly coat with oil again, then cover and allow to rise for 1 more hour.
After second hour is finished, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle. Roll dough, jellyroll style, starting from long end. Pinch the seam to seal. Tuck ends underneath.
Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal. Place loaf on sheet. Make three diagonal slashes, cutting around halfway through the loaf. Cover loosely and allow to rise for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix egg and water. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers?), gently coat the loaf in egg wash. Before placing in oven, spritz entire loaf with water.
Carefully move baking sheet into oven (any strong jarring of the loaf will cause it to fall). Toss a handful of ice cubes onto the oven floor and quickly close door. After 5 minutes, repeat with more ice cubes. Bake for 30 minutes total, or until crust is browned and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.