Anonymous - Italian Bread
Italian Bread
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La Belle Cuisine - More Bread Recipes

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Pane alla Contadina (Peasant Bread)




"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..."
- M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

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Pane alla Contadina (Peasant Bread)
Bon Appetit Archives

1 yeast cake [or a quarter-ounce package active dry yeast]
1 cup lukewarm water (90-105 degrees F.)
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine yeast and lukewarm water in a large bowl, stirring until completely dissolved. Add 1 cup whole wheat flour and mix well. Cover tightly and let stand at room temperature 3 days, stirring down once each day.
One day before baking, add 4 cups bread flour to starter with remaining lukewarm water, salt and sugar, blending well. Cover and let stand at room temperature 24 hours.
Punch dough down. Add remaining 2 cups bread flour with baking soda.  Transfer to a heavy duty mixer fitted with dough hook and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (or knead by hand on floured surface for 15 to 20 minutes). Divide dough in half. Form each portion into round or oblong shape. Place on floured surface, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled, 1 to 3 hours.
Line oven rack with clay baking tiles. Preheat oven to 400 F.  Set pan filled with boiling water at one side of rack in oven to provide moisture. Place loaves directly on hot tiles and spray lightly with water. Make a 1/2-inch slash down center of loaves with sharp knife. Bake loaves 5 minutes, then spray generously with water. Bake until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, about 45 minutes. Remove loaves from oven and let cool on rack.

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