It is a bright sunshine-y day — somewhat rare for March on Cape Cod. I can see the signs of spring — the few brave crocuses in a sunny corner, some stalks of green daffodils, and tulip leaves in another protected spot. We are near some wetlands, and the first peeper piped up just the other night — a little early. So with all of this spring awareness, one would think that I am in the kitchen making up all sorts of goodies with lemon and asparagus, some lamb…but no, I am actually still looking back over my shoulder at winter — my favorite time of year to cook. Comfort food: stews, soups, bread, roasted chickens and vegetables. So today, since I am preparing lunch for a group on a Lenten Quiet Day, I thought it would be a good time to post my favorite “Italian” bread recipe. (I’ve actually made it into bread bowls as well!) This is not a crispy crusted bread, but it’s a nice dense moist bread — perfect for pairing with soups, stews, spaghetti, or toasting up on a morning with your favorite homemade jam. It also can be frozen, and pulled out for later use, and works well as french toast or in bread pudding. My indulgence is to warm it slightly, spread on some butter and our Cran-Strawberry Jam. Add a cup of coffee and you have a great breakfast!
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
- 2 cups water very warm (almost hot) from the tap
- 2 tbsp. yeast dry
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. olive oil (plus more for brushing)
- 1 tbsp. salt Kosher
- 4 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
- Put water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a mixer, and let sit for about 10 minutes.
- With a dough hook and at low speed, add olive oil, salt, and flour.
- Mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, and is just tacky, not sticky. (You may need to add a bit more flour, you want a firm but not dry dough.)
- Let rise in the same bowl until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 and a half hours.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Turn out onto floured surface.
- Divide in half and form into 2 long thin loaves. (punch down into oval, fold the sides into the middle, and then roll tightly into a thin loaf, using your fingers to pull the dough into the middle.)
- Let rise until almost doubled. Brush with olive oil.
- With a sharp knife, make about 8 diagonal slashes along the top of the loaf.
- Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped.
- Divide dough into 5 equal pieces.
- Form these into balls, brush with olive oil, slash 3 times on top, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped.
- To serve, cut off the top, scoop out the inside to within about 1/2 inch of outside crust, and ladle in your favorite soup or stew.