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Nonna Making Bread

Country Style Italian Bread

Serves 4

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When It comes to making country style Italian bread, this recipe can't be beat. It has a thick, crunchy crust, and a coarse textured interior. This bread freezes also freezes very well. Just remove it a few hours before dinner and it's ready to eat. After it is defrosted, you can place it in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes to get a crisper crust if desired also. Add enough water to create a fairly wet, soft dough. It's difficult to give exact amounts as it depends on the humidity in the air as well as the type of flour you use.

8 Cups Warm Water (about 90 degrees F.)

2 1/2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast

5 Pounds Plus 6 Cups of All-purpose, Unbleached Flour

3 Teaspoons Salt

2 Teaspoons Sugar

Italian Bread Place 1 cup of the water in a large bowl with the sugar, sprinkle the yeast overtop and mix well. Let sit 10 minutes until bubbly. Make a mound of flour on a large board or the counter, and create a well inside. Sprinkle the salt on the flour. Slowly begin to add the water mixture, a little at a time, mixing with your fingers. Begin adding the rest of the water as needed. You should have a fairly wet, soft bread dough. When you have added enough water to moisten all the flour, begin to knead the bread, using a simultaneous pushing and pulling motion with each hand. You can knead as you choose. Cover and let stand in a warm spot for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume.

Turn out your dough onto a floured baking sheet, and without overworking it too much shape into four equal sized either round or oval shaped loaves, using as much extra flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Prepare two baking sheets by either sprinkling with extra flour or cornmeal. Place each loaf on the baking sheet, leaving enough room between the two for them to rise. Cover and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. bake the bread for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Allow the bread to cool to room temperature and serve.

Variation: You can save one of the divided bread balls to make an easy focaccia, or to use as pizza dough. To make the focaccia, simply brush the flattened dough with lots of good olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and oregano. This focaccia can be frozen into squares, and is great as a snack with cheese.

Nonna Lina ~ 2003

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