This classic bread from Tuscany, which requires three rises, including one rather long rise, is a labor of love. But as with all things you love, it is well worth the labor.
One distinctive feature of this bread is that it is saltless, which makes it ideal for dunking into flavorful sauces like, say, a pesto. I adapted the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, which says that this bread is also great for bruschetta. And with its crusty, crunchy crust and pillow-soft, airy crumb, it is easy to see that it would be.
I’d advise starting on this bread the evening before if you plan to have it for lunch the next day, or rather early in the morning if you want it in time for dinner.
This Tuscan loaf goes out to my It’s A Vegan World: Italian event. I’ve got some lovely entries from you folks, but am still hoping more of you will pitch in. I think for many, the idea of Italian food without cheese is a challenge. But it really is not that hard, and here’s your chance to flex that creativity: I know all of you have plenty of it!
- Mix the whole wheat flour, 3/4th of a cup of bread flour, yeast and water in a large bowl by hand or in a stand mixer. Set aside to rise about 8 hours.
- Add 2 cups of bread flour and first one cup of all-purpose flour and more if needed.
- Add olive oil.
- Knead by hand about 15 minutes, or with the dough hook set to medium speed, about 8 minutes. The dough will be smooth but still rather sticky.
- Place the dough in an oil-coated bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours or until it's doubled.
- Lightly oil a baking sheet and cover it with some cornmeal (I used some rava, which is coarsely ground rice, because I didn't have any cornmeal on hand).
- Punch down the dough and shape it into a round by pulling on the sides and tucking them underneath.
- Place the loaf on the baking sheet, cover loosely with an oiled plastic sheet, and set aside in a warm place to rise, about 1 1/2 hours.
- About half an hour before baking, heat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place a small pan (a pie plate or cake pan would do perfectly) in the lowest rack of the oven.
- With a sharp knife, make two quick gashes, like a cross, on the top of the loaf, taking care not to deflate it.
- Now place the bread into the preheated oven, and immediately add a cup of water to the pie plate/cake pan you'd already placed in the lowest rack of the oven.
- Bake the bread for 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
- Slice with a serrated knife, and enjoy!
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