Pane fresco (Perfect daily bread)
Those days it might seem something of an anchronism to dedicate an entire section to the ancient art of bread making. However, I thought it was a shame to ignore such an important part of our diet, not only common to every nation but also, after all, the basis of many more imaginative recipes.
1. Make sure that all the ingredients are at the temperature; they should be kept cool at around 18° C.
2. Prepare a basic yeast dough mixture as follows: pour a mound of flour onto the work surface and make a well in the centre; dissolve the yeast in some tepid water and pour into the well. Work the liquid into the flour and knead until you obtain a soft, elastic dough; leave aside.
3. Cover with a cloth and put in a dry, draught-free place to rice.
4. The dough has risen completely when it has doubled in bulk.
5. If adding spices or herbs, these should be finely chopped or powdered.
6. It is a good idea to put a shallow bowl of water beneath the bread while it is baking. This produces steam which not only helps the bread to rise but also prevents a hard crust forming immediately and perhaps even burning.
7. Bread should be eaten when it has cooled completely.
8. The bigger the loaf of bread, the better and longer it will keep. Preparation time: 30 minutes. Raising time for the dough: 2 hours. Baking time: about 30 minutes.
500 plain white flour, 30g dried yeast, 250ml water, 3 tablespoons extra-virgine olive oil, 10g salt.
Sadly, hardly anyone makes their own homemade bread anymore, and yet it really is good idea to try at least once in your life just for the fun of it. The feeling of pleasure and satisfaction you experience when you take your very own crispy loaf out of oven is unique and yet as old as time, indeed it is not too much to say that it is really quite moving.
To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with some warm water. Add the oil, salt and flour and mix together thoroughly. Turn out on to a work surface and knead well; form into a ball and leave to rise, covered, in a warm place for two hours. The bulk of the dough will increase visibly once the yeast begins to work. Once risen, put the dough on a floured work surface and divide into the shapes and sizes you desire.
Bake the bread in an oven pre-heated to 200° C. The time required for backing depends on the size of the loaves you are making, but in general the bread is ready when it is an even golden-brown colour and hollow-sounding when tapped on top. Turn the oven off and leave the bread to cool with the door half open to avoid any moisture forming.
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