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Crusty Italian Bread

Crusty Italian Bread

Makes two 14-inch loaves

 

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • cornmeal

Combine the yeast and water in a mixing bowl and allow to proof. Add the salt and flour and mix, forming a somewhat smooth ball. Continue mixing about 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto the counter, knead by hand for a few seconds, shape into a ball, and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn it to completely coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 24 hours. The dough will double in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to bake, return the dough to room temperature.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Cut it into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.

Pat 1 ball of dough into a rectangle about 4″ x 5″. Fold in half, sealing the dough with your palm. Spin, and fold in half, again, also sealing with your palm.

Fold the resulting piece in half, again, sealing the edges with your fingertips. Roll into a 14-inch-long cylinder with slightly tapering ends.

Place on peel that has been liberally sprinkled with cornmeal.

Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.

Cover with a towel and set aside to rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Make three diagonal slashes with a very sharp knife. Sprinkle lightly with flour and slide onto the baking stone.

Lower the oven temperature to 425°F.

Bake the bread for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp, misting with water from a spray bottle 3 times during the first 10 minutes.

Cool the bread on a rack and serve at room temperature.

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