Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tuscan Herb Bread

This was my first attempt at making a real old world Italian bread. I was absolutely amazed at the work that goes into making bread, but even more amazed at the reward I felt from making a bread from scratch. Guess I was feeling brave that day. Here is the recipe:

Tuscan Bread
(makes 1 loaf)

2 cups warm water
2 envelopes active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon crushed sage
pinch of salt

Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water (105 - 115°) into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast; let stand until dissolved, about 5 - 7 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Blend white and whole-wheat flour in a separate bowl until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the salt and sage. Add and stir 1 cup of the flour mixture at a time into the yeast mixture until a dough forms and the mixture cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead dough on lightly floured surface using as much flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and shiny, about 15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, place in a warm spot and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch dough down, let rest about 5 minutes. Flatten dough into an oval shape, fold loosely into a baguette. Transfer seam side down to a lightly floured baking sheet (you can use corn meal as well), place in a warm spot, cover with a towel and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Bake in a pre-heated 375° oven for 55 - 65 minutes, until crust is very brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Bread can be stored in a tightly closed plastic bag for one or two days or frozen for longer periods.

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