My husband is reading a series of books that are set in the 1300s amidst the politics of feudal England and France. Darrell’s normally a fairly quiet guy but something happens when he gets involved in the plot of a good book. It seems he has to talk about it (sometimes incessantly)….and this time (dare I say it out loud) I think he may fancy himself in the story as some sort of chivalrous knight.
Is it any surprise then, as he’s been blabbering about the days of lords and ladies, that I turned to my King Arthur Cookbook to see what it had to say about Italian bread?
The recipe that follows originates there (although just like Darrell rambles on about what he reads, I seem to do the same about what I bake). I hope my notes and pictures help.
This Italian bread isn’t like the crusty, more rustic, loaf I wrote about in Saturday Morning Ritual, but it did have a great crust and was loved by everyone at the supper table.
This bread recipe begins with an overnight starter that will take you about 2 minutes to stir together the night before you make your dough (and will help create a more delicious bread, too).
The finished loaf makes this bread look more difficult than it is. Because it looks so beautiful, you’ll get accolades when you serve it!. Just smile and soak them in! No-one needs to know that it wasn’t really that hard!
I served mine with pulled pork and a mid-winter potato salad. It brightened all our spirits and may very well do the same for those you share it with!
Seeded Italian Bread
Overnight starter: Stir together 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, and 1/8 tsp yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature til you’re ready to bake the next day).
2 tsp yeast
2/3 cup water
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
Mix the starter with the remaining ingredients til combined. Knead it until smooth and supple (5-8 minutes) using a bit of oil on your hands as necessary. I found this dough to be a little stiff but stuck with it letting it rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten a bit and then resuming my kneading. (It’s always a good reminder for me when that happens. Sometimes I just need to take a break for a few minutes before plowing ahead in many other areas of my life!)
Cover the dough and let rest about 90 minutes. You can turn it over and lightly degas it after 45 minutes if you want (that’ll get the yeast going a bit again and develop even more flavor in the final loaf). If you forget to do this, so-be-it.
Roll each piece to 18 inches long.
Pinch the ends.
When you come to the end, pinch and tuck again. (Does it sound like I’m a plastic surgeon or a bread baker here?)
Place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet and let it rise, covered, until it is doubled in size and puffy.
Brush with a lightly beaten egg white mixed with 1 T. water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds generously. (you could also use poppy seeds…or a combination of both) Bake in a 425 degree oven for 25-35 minutes (til deep golden brown).
I like to heat a cookie sheet in the oven while it’s warming up. Then when I load in my bread, I add a cup of water to the hot pan to create some steam. This seems to add to the crustiness of the the final loaf. The moisture in the oven for those first few minutes slows down the crust formation to help me get a better spring in my dough, too!
Cool on a wire rack at least 20 minutes before slicing.
I’m thinking this would be great for SuperBowl Sunday. Just get some cold cuts and make a giant sub on your own seeded Italian bread.
I haven’t forgotten about that really crusty Italian bread that I wrote about in Saturday Morning Ritual so I’m keeping it on the list to try later in the year.
Let me know how your bread comes out either here or on Kneading Life’s Facebook page. I’m off to plan a staff development bread baking day for the Brockport Child Development Center! Hmmmm….what might people who work with little ones like to make??? Maybe one of these recipes?
As always, I hope to gather around the bread bowl together soon!