Monday, May 11, 2009

Italian Bread

All my kids love to cook with me - and bread is their favorite - sticking their little hands in the soft flour... and eating the rewards when they are done!

I used to avoid any homemade bread recipe – because I don’t have a bread maker – or a KitchenAid. BUT – I have found great recipes where a good wooden spoon – a big bowl – and my 2 little hands do the trick! You have no excuse!! I mentioned my “Italian bread” recipe when I made my lasagna last week and Krystal asked me to post my cinnamon roll recipe. My hubs boss (which is coincidentally her father in law) was in town last week. He stopped by the house a few hours after I’d made these cinnamon rolls. Both my hubs and Krystal report that he said “they were the BEST he's EVER had” Woo Hoo!

I can’t take credit for these recipes though – I got both of them from one of my fav cook books “The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner” by Liz Edmunds. I have actually gotten almost ALL of my bread recipes out of this book. They are all easy and delicious. Without further ado…
This bread makes friends! Ha-ha. It makes 2 large loaves – so one for your family and one for a friend – or to freeze.
3 c warm water
¼ c butter, melted
1 ½ T yeast
7 – 9 cups flour, divided
2 T plus ½ t sugar, divided
1 T salt

In a small bowl combine the water, yeast and ½ t of the sugar. Stir just until the yeast is dissolved. Cover with a small plate of towel and let stand until the mixture is bubbly or foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the salt, the remaining 2 T of sugar, butter, the yeast mixture and 3 ½ c of the flour. Keep adding flour, ½ c at a time, up to 3 ½ cups, for a total of 7 cups. The dough should be firm(ish) if the dough is still sticky, add more flour ¼ c at a time up to the remaining 2 cups.
Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover with a towel and let it rise until doubled in bulk about 20 – 40 minutes.
Punch down dough and divide in half. On a lightly greased pan, form each half into a thick baguette shape, about 10” long. With a sharp knife, make 3 angled ½” deep slashes on the top of each loaf. Let loaves rise until doubled again – about 20 to 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350°. When the dough has doubled, bake for 30 minutes. For a crispier crust, spray water in the oven with a spray bottle just before baking and again a few times during baking.
Turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack – and enjoy!!

*To make rolls, pinch off about 1 ½” balls of dough for each roll and place side by side on a greased sheet pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 30 – 45 minutes. Bake at 350° until the rolls are lightly browned 10 – 13 minutes.

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