Robust Italian Rustic Bread…music to my ears. This recipe is sometimes known to be coccodrillo bread. It gets its name from the fact that it looks like a crocodile when all is said and done. This bread is fantastic with soups, salads, heavy or light meals, as well as a stand alone with homemade butter.
Baking is one of my all-time favorite ways to relax. I don’t know what it is about baking that makes me just feel so perfect. It is as if I am doing what I was meant to do. Maybe it is because I know the result of my physical labor in the bread-making process – fresh bread smells, warm crusty light airy textures with freshly churned butter satisfying my soul.
Bread is the symbol of life in many cultures. Bread is universal to every civilization and is nearly the perfect product for human nourishment. Every culture has its special way of preparing bread. Those without the conveniences of electricity make wonderful flatbreads straight over the fire or loaves of bread in earthen ovens; others make extravagant braided loaves in fancy bakeries.
There is no limit to the imagination in the world of baking bread. It is a connector to cultures around the world as well as a creative outlet for bakers or those who just want to provide nourishment for their families. Happy Breadmaking!
Robust Italian Rustic Bread
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
3/4 cup dark beer
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
About 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for work surface
For the sponge:
In a large mixing bowl, add all-purpose flour, semolina flour, yeast, and beer and whisk until well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight or for 18 hours at room temperature.
For the dough:
1. Dust the work surface with a little all-purpose flour for kneading. Add flour only as needed to keep from sticking to the work surface.
2. Add the all-purpose, semolina flour, and salt into the bowl with the sponge and stir until the dough and sponge form a loose, shaggy ball. Scrape the dough out onto the floured surface.
3. Knead the dough for about 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. The dough should be soft.
4. Spray a large bowl with cooking oil and place dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap in a warm, draft-free spot for about 2 hours.
5. Dust the work surface with about 3/4 cup of flour. Dust the peel or sheet pan (without sides) with about 1/2 cup of the flour.
6. Punch down the dough then pour dough out onto the surface. Shape the dough into a large, round loaf by bouncing it around on the flour. The dough will be light and airy, not tight like a lot of bread doughs. Spray a towel with non-stick spray and place over the loaf. Let the dough rise until about doubled in size (45 minutes).
7. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the towel and sprinkle the top of the dough liberally with flour. Using a pastry scraper or sharp knife cut through the dough length wise and roll the dough onto the sheet pan or peel. If your sheet pan or peel is large enough place both of the loaves onto them making sure they are spaced far enough apart. They should be placed with the cut side up on the pan. Sprinkle a little extra kosher salt on the top of the loaves.
8. Bake the bread in the oven for about 35 to 45 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Turn off the heat and let the bread “crust” for about 10 more minutes. If using an earthen oven, place bread in the earthen oven for about 10 minutes. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool. (I have a hard time with this! I like warm bread with lots of herb butter).
Watch me prepare this recipe and make in earthen oven!