A Warm and Crusty Loaf of Bread

Cheese making and bread making are almost one in the same. Where we use milk , bacteria and heat to make cheese, in bread it's flours and bacteria ( yeast) and heat. Both take time and patience, and both are the most ancient and basic of foods. I'm going to write more about our cheese making process soon. But today on this cold, cold, winter day, I think a nice loaf of bread is just the ticket. Yes, it takes time, but if you start with the "starter" tonight, you can have a wonderful loaf of bread tomorrow with dinner.
Here's the recipe (It looks more intimidating on paper than it actually is in real life) :

Italian Bread

2 cups unbleached white flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup warm( not hot) water

3 cups unbleached white flour, & extra for dusting work surface & hands
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water.
3 teaspoons salt

Flours: substitute no more than 1 cup whole wheat for your first few times.
Parchment paper ( not wax paper!!)
Pizza stone

1. For the Starter:
Combine flour, yeast and water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead on lowest speed until it forms a dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temp. until it begins to rise, about 3 hours. Refrigerate ( no need to stir it down or anything) at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours.

2. For the Dough:
Remove starter from the refrigerator and let stand while making dough. Combine flour, yeast, and water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook; knead on lowest setting till it forms a dough, about 3 minutes, Turn mixer off and, without removing bowl or hook, cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap; let rest 20 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap, add starter and salt to bowl, and knead on lowest setting until ingredients are incorporated and dough is formed, about 4 minutes. Continue to knead until dough forms a more cohesive ball, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and let rise in a draft free spot until risen, about 1 hour.
Remove plastic, punch down dough ( push it down in the middle, and turn over… you can put some flour on your hand if its too sticky). Let rise 1 more hour, punch down again and let it rise again.

3. To shape the Dough
Dust work surface liberally with flour. Turn dough out of bowl onto surface. Dust dough and hands, and, using minimal pressure, push dough into a rough 8-10 inch square. Fold top left corner diagonally to middle, repeat same with top right corner, Begin to gently roll dough from top to bottom. Continue rolling until dough forms a rough log. Roll dough onto its seam, slide hands underneath each end, transfer dough to parchment paper. Gently shape dough into 16 inch football shape by tucking bottom edges underneath. Cover loaf, and let rise about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425. Make sure baking stone is in oven, and you have a pan on the bottom of oven that will hold about 2 cups water

4. To Bake
using a single edged razor, cut 3 or 4 ½ inch deep diagonal slashes. Slide parchment sheet with loaf onto a baker’s peel or upside down baking sheet, then slide onto hot baking stone. Pour 2 cups water into hot pan that’s in the oven . bake 10 minutes, reduce oven temp. to 375, and spin loaf around using edges of the parchment paper. Bake until deep golden brown, about 45-50 minutes longer. It should be a rich, golden color
Cool on rack

To give you an idea of the time involved, I've added a bread making time line:

Day 1 : Make starter, let sit for 3 hours than refrigerate overnight
Day 2:
0:00 Remove starter from fridge and set on counter. Mix the flour, water and yeast for the dough 3 minutes, then let rest 20 minutes.
0:25 add starter & salt. Mix 5 minutes, transfer dough to large bowl and allow to rise
1:25 punch down dough and let rise
2:25 punch down dough and let rise again
3:25 shape the dough, place on parchment paper, and let rise
4:30 slash and bake dough
5:30 cool bread on rack


Anonymous said…
I have always loved your bread (and butter) - thanks for sharing the recipe! The smell alone is comforting.
PS Nice snow, yes?
Compost Maven said…
Hello Orb Weaver Ladies!

What we need is a scratch n' sniff computer screen so the amazing aroma of your bread can lull us! Thanks for posting your recipe. And thank you for linking to my website! See you Tuesday I hope!


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