Mason County News
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The Practical Baker
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 • Posted June 10, 2009

Italian Hearth Bread

(King Arthur Flour Catalog)

First off, I got a couple of calls about my reference to a “cooking crock” in last month’s recipe. A cooking crock is a covered vessel that is generally cast iron, and/or cast iron with a ceramic coating. It will work, regardless of the coating. A good old fashioned Dutch Oven will work just fine. For this particular recipe, (Italian Hearth Bread) I use a small, oval shaped crock.

This month’s offering is a great little one loaf recipe that always comes out well. It’s a bit of a pain, in that it calls for quite a bit of “fussing” around with the cooking process. But the results are well worth it.

Italian Hearth Bread

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ cup semolina or corn meal (I use corn meal, since semolina’s a bit hard to find around here)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons luke warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons non-fat dry milk

2 teaspoons instant yeast

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dough ingredients, mixing until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes; let it rest for 15 minutes, then knead it for an additional 5-7 minutes, until smooth. Add additional water or dough as needed – the dough should be slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise for about an hour. It should roughly double in size during that time.

Lightly grease the bottom of your covered cooking crock and sprinkle it with corn meal. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and quickly work the dough into a 13 inch long log. Place the dough in the crock, put the cover on, and let it sit for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Place the crock in a cold oven and set the temperature to 425. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 for another 15 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes, or until the bread turns a golden brown and its interior temperature measures 190 degrees. Remove the bread from the crock and allow it to cool on a rack.

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