My family is Italian on both sides, and boy, do we have some great recipes. The first one I want to share is my favorite thing in the world: bread!
Bread seems intimidating, I think, but it really isn’t. It just takes a while - letting it rise for about 2 hours in total then baking for another 45 minutes. It’s worth it!
This is my Grandma T’s recipe - I’ve made bread with recipes I’ve found on Pinterest, but this is the first time I’ve used hers. And both of my little old Italian grandmas have given me recipes that basically have no measurements, like “some vanilla” or “enough flour”. When I’ve asked questions, the response I usually get is “you’ll know”.
First, we’ll start with a cup and a half of warm water. Not hot, because that’ll kill the yeast - basically, be able to dip your fingers into it without burning yourself. Please, don’t burn yourself.
To that I added one and a half tablespoons of sugar and a packet of dry yeast (about two and a quarter teaspoons). I mixed them around and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
While the yeast did it’s thing, in a big bowl I mixed three cups of flour, a half tablespoon of salt, and a tablespoon and a half of olive oil. I made a well (God, did Grandma T ever love making her flour wells) and dumped the yeast mixture in.
I mixed it with a wooden spoon, and it sort of formed a sticky, shaggy dough. This is where the instructions become unclear - because Grandma T would say “use as much flour as you need”. ???? Okay den.
If you have a Kitchenaid mixer, for the love of God, use it. In my current WIP the main character is a cook in a sort of medieval fantasy world and does everything by hand, so I thought I’d sort of use her as inspiration to not use mine. And I already went to the gym today but I got another workout in, I guess.
I turned the mixture out into about a half cup of flour and started to knead. To be honest, I didn’t keep track of the time because I didn’t want to know. But I kneaded a lot. And I gradually added flour as I went, probably using 4.5 cups in total (including the initial 3). You want it to be smooth and hold as much flour as possible. It shouldn’t be sticky at all.
Here was my finished product. If you use a Kitchenaid mixer and let it go for about 10 minutes, it’ll be smooth as a baby’s butt (and should stick to the bottom, but not the sides). If you choose to hand-knead, like I did, you might lose feeling in your arms and think, hm, this isn’t very smooth but it’s going to have to be good enough.
This is one of my favorite tricks - Grandma J told me when letting dough rise, turn the oven on the lowest setting and right before you put the dough in, turn it off and close the door. It’ll create a nice, warm draft-free environment for the dough.
Don’t mind the picture of my oven. It’s older than I am, I think, and is splattered with bacon grease. I need to clean.
i put my dough ball in a nice, big metal bowl that I smeared a drizzle of olive oil around in, put it in the oven, and skipped off to my living room to watch Dumplin’.
Here it is after an hour of rising. There’s nothing like throwing your fist into a warm, risen ball of dough.
When Grandma T said to punch it, she meant punch it. Right?
I shaped it into my loaf and let it rise in the oven for another hour.
Beautiful. Then, I scored it and preheated my oven to 350 degrees, then let the loaf bake for about 45 minutes.
Yum! And that’s it! I would recommend moving the loaf to a cooling rack so that the bottom doesn’t trap heat and get soggy, and also to let it cool before cutting into it.