The other week I went to one of the neighborhood “gourmet” supermarkets to buy some bread to go with my cauliflower soup. I selected an innocent looking sundried tomato baguette. It looked good – toasted brown in color, a crusty looking outside, and I could see bits of sundried tomato peeking through. I brought it back to the office, and tore into it only to discover a thoroughly disappointing loaf. The crumb was terrible and it was devoid of any flavor. I felt disheartened, my cauliflower soup deserved a better companion. This got me thinking about bread and how so many people have never had a quality loaf of bread. One that’s dense and moist with a heavy crumb and a wonderful chewy bite, the kind of bread that elevates all sandwich meats and makes the perfect vehicle for dunking into soup. I have a handful of bread recipes that I turn to on a regular basis, they are easy to make but the final product is outstanding. This Italian batter bread is at the very top of my list in terms of favorites. It is easy and oh so delicious that the boy and I have been known to finish half a loaf minutes after it emerges from the oven, which is a shame because it keeps well, ensuring that you can have homemade bread throughout the week (that is if you have better self control then me, which most people in this world do).
Italian Batter Bread
Recipe from Bernard Claytons New Complete Book of Breads
1 ¾ cups hot water (120 – 130 degrees)
4 ½ cups bread flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
Pour hot water into 2 cups flour in the mixer bowl and mix at high speed for 3 minutes. Measure in additional flour by ¼ cup increments, switching to the dough hook when the batter becomes too heavy for the flat mixer.
Beat at high speed for 25 minutes, watching to make sure the dough does not climb the hook of the machine gets too hot. If that happens, turn the machine off and let rest for 5 minutes, and then resume beating.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic, and let rise at room temperature until tripled in volume, 2-3 hours.
Uncover the bowl, but do not stir or punch down the dough. Gently pour it onto a baking sheet, which has been greased and dusted with cornmeal or flour. Carefully tuck the dough edges to shape the rounded loaf so it is 12 inches in diameter.
Sprinkle the dough with flour and covered with a floured cloth. Let rise at room temperature until doubled and very puffy, about 1 hour.
Preheat the over at 400 degrees 20 minutes before baking.
Bake on center shelf until golden brown and crusty, about 50 minutes. Turn the loaf over to be certain it is well browned on the bottom and sounds hollow and hard when thumped.
Cool on a metal rack.