Italian Bread (Pane Italiano)

This recipe after I lost the one for my bread bowls stood out for the crispy crust. I’m always trying to copy that bakery bread, the french loaves , the sour dough as well. Well this recipe, I’ve found just that!
*If You’ve never made bread, this is not the recipe to start with, the recipe gave very little directions, so everything is done by knowledge of when dough/bread is done, I’ll try to add as much as I can*

Italian Bread (Pane Italiano)

2 packages active dry yeast or 2 cakes compressed yeast
2 1/2 water (warm water for active dry yeast 110-115f)
1TBS salt
7 1/2 to 7 3/4 shifted
Yellow cornmeal
1 slightly beaten egg

In large bowl soften active dry yeast in warm water or compressed yeast in Luke-warm water (I bet the cakes have a water temp on them to go by, use it or the yeast will either die if the water is too hot, or it won’t rise if it’s too cold) Stir together 2c of the flour, beat well, add salt. Stir in about 4 1/2 cups of remaining flour (dough should be stiffer than ordinary bread)
Turn out on lightly floured surface. Cover let rest 10 minutes. Knead 15-25 minutes or until very elastic. Kneading in remaining 3/4c flour (The longer kneading time develops gluten more, makes a more typical Italian bread) Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover let rise in warm place until doubled 1 1/2 hrs (I put plastic wrap then 2 towels to keep heat in) Punch down. Let rise again until doubled (about an hour) Turn out on slightly floured surface. Divide in half and form each part into a ball. Let rest another 10 minutes.

Shape into two balls, place on large baking sheet prepared with sprinkling cornmeal on them (it gives the bottom a crunch!) Take a SHARP knife and score the loaves, 4 shallow cuts, 1in apart (I did that wrong, lol, oh well) And make another 4 crosswise. Brush the round loaves with beaten egg white, let rise for a 3rd time.

Now, use a dampened cloth and “tent” it over the dough, you can’t have the cloth touch the dough. I took a bunch of herbs & spices bottles placed them around the baking sheet and hung the cloth over that. I guess the dough wants to know what it’s like to camp out on the stove 🙂 Let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hrs.

*When ready to bake place a large shallow pan on lower rack of oven fill with boiling water. This makes the crust crisper

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