Monday, April 19, 2010

Italian Peasant Bread, Breadsticks with Cheese

I think that I am addicted to yeasty bread! These cute little breadsticks completed my antipasti meal. Light and simple.
Italian Peasant Bread
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
makes 2 or 3 loaves
2 packages or 4 tsp. fast-rising yeast
2 1/2 cups tepid water (110 degrees)
6 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour (NOT all-purpose)
1 tsp. salt dissolved in 1 tsp. water
Stir to dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand 5 minutes.
Make a batter out of the water and yeast, together with 4 cups of flour. Beat for 10 minutes with the paddle attachement of electric mixer. It will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Add the salted water and the remaining flour and knead for 5 minutes with the dough hook in the mixer. Add more water as necessary to get a moist elastic dough.
Let rise in a warm place for 1 - 2 hours, until doubled in bulk. Punch down and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
*At this point, I divided my dough into fourths. One-fourth I cut into strips using a pizza wheel to form the breadsticks. Bake breadsticks on baking sheet or stone at 400 for 12-14 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
**Punch dough down again and mold into 2 or 3 loaves. Sprinkle with some additional flour and cover with a dishtowel while the oven is preheating.
Preheat oven to 450. Important: Place a pan of hot water on the bottom shelf. This will assure you of a great crust. When the loaves have risen double their size, place them upside down in the upper third of the oven on a baking sheet or stone.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack.
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