There is nothing better than home-made, Italian-style bread and this recipe is one of our favorites!
Parchment paper that is 15 inches wide and cut with a length of 20 inches
5½ quart or 26 centimeter-diameter-sized, cast-iron, Dutch oven that has a lid. It is critical that the lid is designed to be used in an oven at a very high temperature. We use a Le Creuset Dutch oven, with a special knob on the lid that is specifically designed for high temperatures.
3 cups of Bread Flour
2 ½ teaspoons of Active Dry Yeast
¾ tablespoon of Kosher Salt
1 ½ cup of Warm Water (about 110 degrees F)
1 ½ tablespoon of Italian Dried Herbs
1 tablespoon of Garlic Powder
¾ tablespoon of Black Pepper, freshly ground
In a small bowl, mix the yeast and water and let them sit for about 5 - 10 minutes to activate the yeast. Then in a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients, except the pepper, to make sure everything is integrated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm place for about 12 hours. The dough will be somewhat wet and bubbly.
After 12 hours, flour your working area, and pour the dough onto the floured surface. Pull and fold the dough five or six times sprinkling the ground pepper into the dough each time you pull and fold until the pepper is all integrated into the dough. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the middle of a piece of parchment paper that is 20 inches long/15 inches wide. Cover the dough with a warm damp towel and let it sit for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees – it is recommended to start the oven when the damp cloth is placed on the dough to make sure that the oven is at the right temperature when the dough is ready to bake. Place the empty Dutch oven into the oven while the oven is heating. After the dough has rested for an hour, take the very hot Dutch oven out of the oven, which should now be 475 degrees. Quickly take the lid off, but be very careful because your Dutch oven is very hot. Pick up the dough using the sides of the parchment paper and while holding onto the sides of the parchment paper, lower the dough and parchment paper into the Dutch oven. The dough will bake on the parchment paper. Place the lid on the Dutch oven--some of the parchment paper will stick out of the sides, which is normal. Put the Dutch oven into the oven. Bake the bread with the lid on for about 20 minutes, then take the lid off and bake it for another 20 minutes. Turn the oven off but leave the bread in the oven for a half hour, with the oven door partially opened by about 3 to four inches. Use the lid of a stock pot to hold the oven door partially open for this period, as illustrated in this photo:
Take the Dutch oven out of the oven and place the bread onto a cooling rack or cutting board and cool it for about 20 minutes.
(Note: The use of the Dutch oven helps to create a firm crust.)
The Roasted Elephant Garlic Spread with Olive Oil and Herbs, which is pictured here, is a wonderful compliment to this bread, and is easy to make with the Roasted Garlic Spread receipe, which you can find by clicking here.