Thursday, May 23, 2013

Single Italian Crusty Loaf

I make a lot of bread.  In my humble opinion, I'm getting pretty good at it, such as 'it' is.

People, the dreaded "THEY", say you should make many loaves at one time if you're going to ALL that trouble.  Well, it is NO trouble to get a single delicious crusty flavorful crispy soft airy dense fantastic loaf of bread on your table.  If you think you might like to have a bread, cheese and wine lunch or if you want to have a fresh loaf for dinner, you really don't need much time, hardly ANY effort and the payoff is miraculous.

Sure, from beginning to end it takes a couple of hours but your actual investment in time of actually DOING something is about 3 minutes.

This is my 'go to' quickie crusty loaf.  It's delicious, doesn't use a machine and there's no fuss or muss with it. Trust me, you can do this, easy. Ok, here we go:

Tracy's Single Crusty Italian loaf

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast (ok, I heap it a bit)
1 cup warm(ish) water

Throw it all in a tub and stir it around.  It's VERY wet.  It's not like a normal bread dough at all, do not fret, it's supposed to be so yukky!!  Mix it around with a spoon then with a very wet hand, flip it over itself a couple of times if you feel the need to be more involved.  Put a lid on your container of choice and leave it for about 45 minutes? 60 minutes?  Until it poofs way up... check out my time lapse pics, just for you!

In the tub, nice action shot!  Seriously, just dump it all in and mix it up.  It's like superthick batter more than dough.  Don't fret, remember, I've got you here...
Put a lid on it.  This is my Home Depot mix bucket, perfect.  I took these pictures at 12 minute intervals, because 10 seemed too often and 15 seemed too far apart.  Don't judge, I've had a rough couple of months. This is a 48 minute rise.

Ok, that's risen enough, dump it onto a well floured board or cloth.  This is a linen bread cloth I treated myself to.  It's great but not worth the money at all.  I went to the fabric store, bought a piece of linen, cut it and it works just as well for a fraction of the price.  Still, since I make so much bread I thought I deserved the real thing. 

Dump it onto a board/cloth. It's gooey and VERY stringy, look at all that happy yeasty goodness.  Try not to squash the air completely out.  Just dust the top with flour and it won't stick if you're gentle, sprinkle lightly as needed but really, try to avoid adding too much, you're really just flipping it around here.
Fold it over with fingertips.  Roll it gently and then flatten it slightly in the middle with the side of your hand.
Flip/Roll the dough over so the folded side is down.  Tuck the sides, top and bottom under a bit to make it neat, cover it with a towel and leave it.
Night night! AND, here it is about 30 minutes later.  A little poofy.  Lovely. 
Roll it gently onto a floured or cornmeal covered peel.  The seam side is up now and that is what will give the loaf it's signature pull apart seam, you'll see.
Slide it into a 450 degree oven, on a stone OR you can use a cookie sheet. and bake it about 40 minutes.  Spin it at 15 minutes and then flip it upside down for the last 5-10.  Pull it out and LOOK what you did!
See what I mean about the seam giving it the pullapart line down the middle?  Oh yeah, we're pros now!  No slashing with knives or razor blades, just let it proof seam side down and bake it seam side up.  Ya Baby!
BEAUTIFUL!  it's crusty, tasty, light, crisp, airy, flavorful and WAY easier than getting into your car to drive to the store to find a crusty loaf that doesn't taste ANYWHERE near as good as this.This is the underneath, mmm  so crusty and wonderful.
Just for you, I cut into it to show you the innards.  I ALWAYS wait at LEAST 20 minutes before cutting into any bread, it is still cooking in there and cutting it can give you a gooey loaf, not this time though, oh man look at this...... 

I can't even tell you how good it is.  Even if you aren't a bready, you HAVE to admire the crumb on this loaf, the crust to innard ratio,you know how good it is just by looking. 

The crust is crisp and crunchy and the middle is soft soft and airy and full of flavor.  you NEED to make this.  Here's my standard beauty shots.  Oh and we had to taste without and with butter, just for science :)  

Go one, go make yourself a single loaf, it's so easy, doesn't need any machinery and you'll be delighted with how delicious it is.  


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