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From the title you have probably already assumed that this bread recipe requires no particular baking skills or equipment. I have made this Italian Bread many times with great success. There is no kneading, no bread machine, no mixer - just flour, water, yeast, salt and little elbow grease for mixing.
Here is what you’ll need for the simplest version, the recipe comes from Fankhauser’s Cheese Page:
Please see the above link for instructions on this version, which is quite good. I wanted to do something a little more sophisticated this time, therefore the process I followed for this post is a little more complicated but still basically fuss-free. Also, I added a pre-ferment to expand the depth of flavor and make it easier to make (long rising time) over 2 weeknights instead of one long baking day. Here is what I used:
This is the mis en place for my version:
Break up the yeast and dissolve in a small amount of the warm water. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, sift flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the water. Mix well (I used a thin metal knife as I have broken whips doing this before) to fully incorporate the water/yeast mixture and bring to a uniform consistency throughout. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes to activate the yeast before putting them to sleep for the night. Stash covered in the fridge. This is what it looked like just then:
Remove the now cold fermented dough from the refrigerator and allow to rise for 12 hours. It is advisable to remove the dough and lightly oil the bowl at this point. I took it out before work in the morning and baked it around 9 PM that night. After the 12 hour rise gently slide the dough onto a generously floured kitchen towel. Using floured fingers turn it over on itself gingerly a few times and deflate slightly. Allow to rise again covered in the cloth for about 1.5 - 2 hours. Approximately 1 hour before baking, put the dutch oven (with lid) onto a centered rack in the oven and pre-heat to 450 F. When ready to bake, remove dutch oven, open the lid and carefully slide the dough in. It is imperative not to deflate the dough at this time, unless of course you are looking for a cinder-block texture in the final product, in which case feel free!
Place the whole business in the oven, lid on, for 30 minutes, then remove the top and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Still in the dutch oven:
Cooling on a rack:
I used this bread to make crostini, (you got me, I used the same picture for both posts - SORRY!) then I ate some with olive oil, then some with chili, then some all by itself - Sara and I pretty much ate it all up, I hope from the pictures you can see why.
If you enjoy baking with yeast you should check out Yeastspotting where this post is being submitted.