It’s been a while since I posted any cooking ventures, so I thought that I would share a recipe for homemade Italian bread. Bread making is easy as long as you follow the directions. In most of my bread-making, I use All-Purpose flour and/or wheat flour. For this recipe, I use bread flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content than other flours, which is useful in bread-making because it creates longer and strong chains of gluten. High gluten content helps to make bread that is airy and light. Bread flour is bad for baking because it can make baked goods that are chewy and dense.
1 cup of hot water (between 100-110 degrees)
1 tablespoon of yeast (or 1 package of yeast)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp butter, melted
Add the yeast to the hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Most hot water heaters are set to 120 degrees, so just letting your faucet heat up is sufficient for getting the correct temperature of water. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast. Too cool water will not trigger any yeast growth. Mix together remaining ingredients (except butter) and add yeast mixture when it is ready.
Once mixed turn on to a floured surface and begin kneading. Knead dough for about 10 minutes. The kneading process is what builds the gluten strands. If you cheat and knead for less time, your bread will be dense.
Once you’re finished kneading, you should have a ball of smooth dough. Put into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
After it has doubled, punch down the dough and turn it on to a floured surface. Cover the dough ball with the bowl and let it rest of 15 minutes. Then shape the dough ball into a 12″ baguette shape. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
After it has doubled in size again, melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush it on top of the loaf. Bake it for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees until bread seems hollow when tapped.
My bread could have used a little more flour to hold its shape. When it rose the last time, it seemed to spread out rather than get higher. Regardless, it was still light and flavorful and enjoyed by everyone in my family. Bread making is interesting because the same recipe can turn out differently from one attempt to the next. The most important thing to remember is to knead, knead, and knead your dough. The first couple of times of kneading for 10 minutes can seem like forever, but it is crucial to make light and airy breads. Enjoy!