Italian Peasant Bread
2 packages fast rising dry yeast
2 1/2 cups tepid water (about 110 degrees)
2 pounds and 3 ounces good quality unbleached white bread flour,
( about 6 1/2 cups) ( do not use all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
Cornmeal optional, but necessary if you are using a wooden board or peel for sliding the dough onto hot bricks or a pizza stone.
( I use baking sheets dusted with corn meal)
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.
Using a small paper sack on your scale, weigh out a total of 2 pounds and 3 ounces of flour. Make a batter of the water and yeast, together with 4 cups of the weighed-out flour. Beat for 10 minutes with the paddle of an electric
mixer. It will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the salted water. Add the remaining flour and knead for 5 minutes in a good machine, using a dough hook, or 15 minutes by hand. You may need to add more water to get a moist elastic dough. Place the dough on a plastic counter, or on a piece of plastic wrap, and cover with a large metal bowl. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Punch down, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down again, and mold into 2 or three loaves. Place the loaves on a large floured cotton towel. Sprinkle the loaves with additional flour and cover them with a additional towel. ( I let it rise for another hour)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Important: Place a pan of hot water on the bottom shelf. This will assure you of a great crust. When the loaves have risen to double their original bulk, place them UPSIDE DOWN in the upper 1/3 of the oven. You can use baking sheets, pizza stones or bread bricks. ( I use baking sheets) Dust with cornmeal. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the bread is nicly browned and the loaves sound hollow when you thump their bottoms with you finger.
Cool on a rack.
Pairs Well With
I found this recipie in " The Frugal Gourmet cooks Italian" cookbook.
It is my favorate Italian bread , and goes well with pasta.