Italian Bread

Rick Beach

2 cups warm water
3 tsp Rapid Rise Bread Yeast
5 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon Agave Syrup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten for bushing dough prior to baking  (Do not use the yoke)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds or Cornmeal


Combine the water and yeast in the bowl and allow the yeast to work for about 5 minutes.

Add the Agave and oil to the warm water and yeast mixture.  Start mixing in the flour on low speed until dough starts to form (Use Dough hook). Once combined and dough is wet sprinkle the salt onto the dough, and knead with dough hook on medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or until dough is firm, smooth, and elastic.

Place the dough in a large heavy lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to raise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. Remove the wrap, punch down.   Turn out on floured board.  Flatten and roll up. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well.. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

A heated or pizza stone can be used for baking directly on the stone.  Alternately, an inverted baking sheet may be used.  I prefer a double perforated French Bread Pan and make 2 loaves from this recipe.

Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a damp towel, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.  This can be done on a piece of foil that is coated with spray (Pam).

I raise my dough this second time right in the double Perforated French Bread Pan. The perforated pan is sprayed with oil as well as coating the dough.  Remember to cover with a damp towel.

Once raised double again, brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds or cornmeal over the top. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, score 3 (1/4-inch deep) slashes across the top of the dough at a 45 degree angle.

Spray the dough loaves with water from a water bottle and place in the oven.  Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough ensures a crisp golden brown crust). Bake the dough for 45 minutes or until a hollow thud is heard when the bread is whacked with the bowl of a wooden spoon.  Water spraying can be omitted and you will still turn out with excellent bread.  Allow the bread to cool slightly before serving.