Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

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Max's Italian Bread

 

Introduction

My friend Laura asked me to document this recipe for basic Italian bread and my method so that she could make it for her daughter.  Basic Italian bread, like good French bread, has few ingredients.  It is the quality of ingredients and the method that makes a great basic bread.  Always use the best possible ingredients.

This recipe is designed to be made with a mixer suitable for bread kneading.  I used a Kitchenaid K5A mixer.  Although this mixer is expensive, you will probably only buy one in your lifetime.  KitchenAid sells refurbished units at their Web site at great savings.  

Approximate ingredients for 1 standard bread pan loaf.  As you read the recipe you will see that the actual amount of flour changes depending on the nature of the flour.  Flour varies a great deal even if you use the same brand all of the time.  It varies even more between manufacturers.  The ingredients scale up to nearly any size.  I usually make 3 large loaves in the KitchenAid bowl.  This recipe also makes a great pizza dough. 

 
1    cup warm water
1    teaspoon salt
2    teaspoons good quality olive oil
1.5 teaspoon Fleishmann's Instant Yeast.  
Approximately 3 cups of bread flour.  I use Gold Medal Better For Bread Flour.  Do not use pastry flour or all purpose flour for this recipe.

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Set up your mixer for bread.  Install the dough hook.
  3. Pour the 1 cup of warm water into the bowl and start the mixer at slow speed.  On my KitchenAid this is the slowest setting.
  4. Add the teaspoon of salt and the two teaspoons of olive oil.  It is the flavor of the olive oil that will give the bread its subtle flavor.  If your olive oil doesn't smell good when you sniff it, it will make the bread taste the same.
  5. Add a cup of bread flour to the mixer bowl.  Mix this first cup until it becomes a white slurry of water and flour.
  6. Add the 1.5 teaspoon of Fleischmann's Instant yeast.  Notice that this yeast does not require dissolving in water ahead of time and that it is added after some of the flour has been mixed with the water.  This yeast is usually sold inexpensively at wholesale clubs in packages containing two 1 pound bags.  It stores well in the refrigerator.  Once you start making this recipe you will go through the yeast quickly.
  7. Add another cup of flour slowly.  This is where you have to be a little careful.  Watch how the mixer starts to form a dough ball around the bread hook.  It may start to pull away from the side of the bowl and then start sticking again.  This is normal.
  8. Add additional flour to the point where the dough ball pulls away from the side of the bowl and doesn't start sticking again.  You may not need the entire last cup or you may need a little more flour.  This is where you let the dough ball tell you how much flour it requires.  Do not attempt to speed up this process by using a faster mixing speed.  The slowest speed is barely slow enough.  A faster mixer speed will change the texture of the dough ball and eventually the bread in negative ways.
  9. The dough ball should be formed around the mixer's bread hook and the side of the mixer bowl should be somewhat clean of bread dough.  Stop the mixer.  Detach the dough hook and remove the mixer bowl and dough hook from the mixer.
  10. Spread half a cup of flour on a flat surface.  Flour your hands.  Sprinkle some flour on the dough ball where it is attached to the bread hook.  Remove the dough ball from the dough hook and place it on the floured counter or bread board.
  11. Knead the bread until it forms a nice ball that is smooth and flesh-like.  This should only take a couple of minutes.  If the dough is sticky add a little more flour.  This dough will be stiff.
  12. Pull the bread dough into the shape of your bread pan.  Mist your bread pan with a little olive oil or spray on oil.  Place the bread into the pan to rise.  If you like a hard crust do not cover the bread when it is rising.  If you like a softer crust, place some plastic wrap or a damp towel over the top of the bread pan.  Let rise on the stove or other warm place until the bread ball is higher than the sides of the bread pan.  Take a sharp knife and cut the top of the dough lengthwise about half an inch deep.
  13. Place bread in oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  You will know the bread is done with the top of the bread turns pale blonde or tan.  The olive oil will not allow the color to turn to a true brown.
  14. When the bread comes from the oven turn it out on a wire rack.  Let cool in the kitchen.  Do not cool in a cold room.
If your bread is successful it will have a heavy texture, wonderful scent of olive oil and yeast.  This bread doesn't last long in households that appreciate homemade bread.  I suggest making a loaf to taste and one to use for everyday bread.  Once you have become successful baking this bread you will never enjoy store bought Italian bread again.  

Notes

  • If you don't like the taste or smell of olive oil substitute good quality vegetable oil or melted butter for the olive oil.
  • If you use this recipe for pizza dough 1 recipe will make a nice medium size pizza.  Make the dough less stiff by limiting the flour to just enough not to have a sticky ball.  
  • If you have a pizza stone you can shape the dough ball into a stiff ball and let it rise, slit the top with two slits crosswise, and then gently slide it onto the pizza stone to bake.  A little corn meal will work wonders as a lubricant beneath the dough ball when you need to slide it around.

 

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