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  • Writer's pictureSheryl Ness

Rustic Italian Bread

If you love crusty Italian bread, you are going to adore this bread recipe! Vincenzo has been perfecting this for a few weeks now, and we finally have the recipe and video ready to share with you all to enjoy.

Many of you have traveled to Italy and know what it means to take a bite into a crusty Italian bread. The outside has a deep, dark color and the inside is tender and full of lovely air bubbles that catch the perfect bit of olive oil or juicy tomato that you might be enjoying with it. This bread has a smoky, dark crust and reminds me of the wood-fired bread I used to buy from the little bread van that would visit our village every day.

The recipe is so easy and does not require a lot of complicated steps or kneading. The only thing you need with this is a bit of patience as you start the dough one day and bake it the following day. It is totally worth the wait. You will make this bread over and over again once you give it a try. This recipe works with all purpose (unbleached) flour or any whole wheat or other combination of flour that you'd like to try.

The secret to getting this just right is the resting time for the dough (no cheating on this) and using a very hot oven with a cast iron enamel Dutch oven. We use a Staub La Cocotte and it works fantastic! We can't wait for you to make this and enjoy it. Even if you are a first-time bread baker, this recipe is very forgiving and practically no fail.

Enjoy the bread with a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil or as a base for a tomato bruschetta. Or simple slice it and enjoy. You will be transported from your kitchen to Italy for this moment in time!

Rustic Italian Bread

3½ cups all-purpose flour (any type of flour will work great)

1½ cups warm (tepid) water

1 tsp. dry (instant) yeast

2 tsp. sea salt

Make the dough:

· In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients in the order listed. This recipe is so simple, there is no kneading involved, simply stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes until it forms a rough ball of dough.

· Cover the bowl completely with plastic wrap and poke a few small holes in the top with a knife.

· Next, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel.

· Let sit at room temperature for 20 to 22 hours.

The next day:

· After the first rest period (20 to 22 hours) is complete. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface.

· With your floured hands, gently push the dough out to form a rectangle (around 12 to 14 inches by 6 inches).

· Fold the dough from one side into the middle to about 1/3 if the rectangle. Fold the opposite side into the middle on top of the first fold. Now, you will have a neatly folded dough rectangle that is about 6 inches long by 3 to 4 inches wide.

· Gently place the dough (use flour on your hands) onto a well-floured clean tea towel and cover the dough completely. Use a lot of flour for this step to keep it from sticking to the towel.

· Let the dough rest again on the counter at room temperature for 1 hour.

Prepare the oven and enamel cast iron Dutch oven for baking:

· Preheat oven to 480-500 degrees F.

· Once the oven is hot (about 15 minutes before you want to place the dough into the oven to bake), place a 4-5 quart enamel cast iron Dutch oven (empty) into the oven to get hot. We use a 5½ quart Staub (La Coccotte) Dutch oven

· After 15 minutes, remove the Dutch oven from the oven (careful, it will be very hot) and place it near the resting bread dough.

Baking the bread:

· Gently place the dough by using the tea towel to transfer the dough into the Dutch oven. Center the dough in the middle of the Dutch oven. No oil is needed as the flour from the outside of the dough will keep it from sticking.

· Put the cover back on the Dutch oven and place into the oven for 30 minutes.

· After 30 minutes, remove the cover from the Dutch oven and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes. This will create a dark outer crust to the bread.

· After 10 to 15 minutes, remove from the oven, gently turn out the bread from the Dutch oven (use a large spatula) and place on a cooling rack.

· Cool for 15 to 20 minutes or more before enjoying.

· Store the bread in a light plastic inside a cloth bread bag and enjoy with your favorite olive oil or as a bruschetta!

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