The whole idea of omitting bread from one's diet is not something in which I would ever willingly take part. I would give up a lot of things before that, things that I love.
I would give up chocolate.
I would give up soda.
I would give up meat.
I might even give up COFFEE before I would ever consider giving up bread.
Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about that nasty long 2lb loaf that you get in a long plastic bags on the bread isle of the super store. I wouldn't have to give that up, I refuse to eat it. I am talking about the hot out of the oven ARTISAN loaf; made with flour, water, sugar, salt, oil, yeast, and love.
Making bread is easy. It takes a bit of trial and error but don't become discouraged because the list of ingredients for a basic loaf of Italian white bread are those that I listed above. To tell you the truth, most breads are a slight variation of those ingredients....then add patience while experimenting with additional ingredients.
I learned the proper consistency of dough by watching my Nonna make bread on her kitchen counter. She simply dropped a pile of flour on the counter sprinkled the salt and sugar in the flour and mixed it together. After mixing the dry ingredients, then a well was made in the center and the olive oil went in followed slowly by the mixture of warm water and yeast. Her hands constantly working the flour into the well making a sticky mess of her fingers
until the entire pile of flour was worked into a ball. Continuing the kneading made for a nice tight ball and the dough would have a glossy sheen and slight spring to the touch. Left on the table to rise, the dough would be then covered with layers of folded table cloths. At some point afterwards, the dough would be punched down but since I was often off playing somewhere, I would miss this part. I was always back inside sitting on the kitchen stool right about the time that the timer would "ding" always waiting patiently to butter my steaming hot end-cut of that delicious loaf. It was always perfect!
Sometimes that dough was a loaf of bread and sometimes it became other things both sweet and savory. How wonderful is the basic bread dough recipe that it can feed one so diversely!
I mentioned in my last blog that I added leftover oatmeal to my last batch of bread and it was heavily grained with bits of nuts and cranberries that I had added to the oatmeal for toppings and slightly sweetened from the honey. It is a favorite with PB&J or as cinnamon toast.
Yet another batch of the basic dough became the crust for some tasty pizzas. By adding a couple of handfuls of spinach and chopped garlic, I was able to add some flavor AND extra veggies to the menu. One pizza got the honor of being topped with buffalo chicken while the other hosted spinach, tapenade, and bleu cheese. A very tasty combo and based on simple ingredients.
My recipe is general and measurements are not finite but I can share with you the basic method to my madness and maybe you can join in the fun. You will have to adjust the recipe to suit you and then you will have your very own family recipe to teach to pass along too.
Basic Artisan White Bread
- 4 c. Flour
- 1 tb. Sugar
- 1 tb. Salt
- 1/8 c. Olive Oil
- 1-1/2 c. Warm Water w/
- 2 tb. Yeast
- 400 degree oven for about 25 min for small hand sized loaves.
Golden Brown is the Look that You Want....
You can follow my Nonna's method or just throw it into a mixer or bread maker of your choice and see what comes of it. Remember that this is just the basics and you can make it your own with a simple tweak here and there.