I have not had much luck with bread and I was a bit worried but it tuned out fantastic and the recipe is definetly a keeper.
Italian Bread, with Herb & Olive Oil Crust:
adapted from Jane's Sweet & Baking Journal
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast (proof it first in 1 of the 3 cups of the warm water)
- 3 cups warm water
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 cups high quality bread flour
- 4 to 5 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- Cornmeal (half a cup should be enough)
Herb Olive Oil:
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 clove garlic (peeled and finely minced)
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (chopped)
In a bowl mix 1 cup of water with the instant yeast and wait 5 min. if the mixture foams up you can add the salt and remaining water if the mixture DOS NOT foam you need to start over. It just meant that the yeast was old or the packet was opened and it's an inactive yeast. To the water mixture add 2 cups of bread flour, and 3 cups of AP flour. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for a couple of minutes to combine.
Stop the mixer, scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, remove the paddle, and switch to the dough hook. On low speed, add in 1 to 2 more cups of the AP flour gradually, about 1/2 a cup at a time. Keep mixing until a cohesive dough begins to form, about 4 minutes. (It will be relatively loose and still quite moist at this point, but it shouldn't be liquidy.)
On a generously floured work surface, dump out the dough. For about 4 minutes, knead the dough firmly but gently by hand. It's okay to incorporate more flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your work surface at this point, but remember that this is meant to be a pretty soft dough. Once the dough is relatively smooth, place it into a large bowl that's been sprayed with vegetable spray, lightly oiled, or greased. Turn the dough over completely in the bowl, just once, so the bottom and top of the dough are both lightly coated.
Lightly cover the top of the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap that's also been sprayed with vegetable oil. Cover the plastic loosely with a dish towel. Place the covered bowl in a warm place that's free from drafts. Let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk. This will probably take at least an hour.
Gently dump the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board (don't use too much flour at this point if you can help it; just enough to prevent sticking) and knead it for 5 more minutes. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts with a bench scraper or a sharp knife and place both pieces, side by side, back into the sprayed bowl (spray again if you think it's needed). Turn the dough, as before, to make sure it's lightly coated. Cover again with sprayed plastic wrap and a dish towel, and let the dough rise again in a warm spot until doubled; this may take up to an hour.
Gently dump the risen halves out onto a very lightly floured work surface and separate them. One at a time, using your hands, shape each dough piece into a neat oblong loaf. Gently lift and place each shaped loaf onto a cookie sheet also coated with cornmeal.Don't place them too close together (I made mine on two sepearate cookie sheets). Cover the loaves, on the cookie sheet, with the sprayed plastic wrap and the dish towel. Let them rise one last time in a warm place, until almost doubled (about 30 minutes).
Set the oven to 500 degrees and preheat it for 30 minutes, when the loaves have risen and you're finally ready to place them in the oven, turn it down to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Have a pastry brush ready.
Once the loaves have risen, carefully score/slash the tops with the edge of a sharp razor blade. Try not to score too deeply or you may deflate the loaves. Brush the loaves with the herb oil, but only use half of it because you'll need to brush them again a few minutes after they're baked.
A couple of minutes before you're ready to put the loaves into the oven take a spritz bottle of warm water and quickly open the oven door. Squirt the mist into the oven about six times; quickly shut the door. When you finally put the bread in the oven squirt the warm water mist into the oven, above the loaves, about six times. Quickly shut the door, and immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Don't open the oven again to peek for at least 15 minutes.
The loaves are done when they are golden brown all over mine baked about 45 minutes.
Place the hot baked loaves on a cooling rack, and after five minutes or so brush them again with the herb olive oil mixture. This coating will be absorbed into the warm crust quickly but if you'd prefer to skip this second coating you can.