One of the most overlooked parts of European cooking are the simple joys of a good loaf of bread.
Bread in North America is a bland thing, and real bakeries are usually a thing of the past. In countries like Italy, where food remains a craft, the humble loaf of bread is celebrated, and that loaf is not the “Italian bread” of the local supermarket.
Italy is a country that is well known for its grain and bread. Central Italy, with its Campanian Plain, is the best place for growing wheat in the Mediterranean World. Long before pasta came along, a good loaf of bread was the cornerstone of the Italian diet, and sopping up a good dish of seasoned olive oil with bread is still a common, simple way to have a quick snack in Italy.
A lot of Italian bread recipes have olive oil and some form of herbs in them, so the variety is usually found in the subtleties.
The standard Italian Bread Recipe requires a standard 7-gram package of yeast, 2 teaspoons salt, 6½ cups flour, and some olive oil. The yeast and salt are mixed together in a bowl with about 2½ cups warm water.
Then the flour is added and thoroughly mixed. Once the dough is made to a consistent texture, move it to an oiled bowl, and coat the top with oil as well. Then let it rise. After about half an hour, return to spread flour across the counter, get out the rolling pin, and start kneading.
Once the dough has been thoroughly kneaded, it can be split in half, and shaped into a pair of loaves. Put them on an oiled cookie sheet, split the tops with a knife, and let them sit for another half hour to one hour.
Heat the oven to 375 Degrees and bake for 45 minutes. That is all it takes to make the classic farm-style rustic Italian bread.
This is a recipe that opens itself up to a great deal of improvisation.
It can be bent towards the Italian Summer Bread recipe simply by adding a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese, 2 loves worth of grated garlic, and 2 tablespoons of chopped basil.
Italian flat bread uses the same basic recipe, with the only changes being that the dough is spread out on the cookie sheets, and not formed into loaves.
recipe, with the only changes being that the dough is spread out on the cookie sheets, and not formed into loaves.
These recipes can give an authentic Italian touch to any kitchen, and are a good introduction to the simple and easy pleasures of home baking.
Once you have baked a loaf of your own Italian bread, take it outside with a dish of olive oil and a nice bottle of Chianti, and see what you think.