European-Style Crusty Bread

On Long Island, this bread would be called really good Italian bread. 🙂 The King Arthur Flour website titled it “The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake.” I think this may be true!

My husband is a bread guy, so I’ve made one of our favorite loaves a few times in the bread machine during this self-quarantine. It may be a little bit easier to use a bread machine, but not significantly. This loaf was a nice change- completely different- crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

This simple recipe is from King Arthur Flour.com. I weighed the flour, made the dough in a stand mixer, and used a proofing oven. My daughter declared that it was the best bread she’s ever had in her life!

Yield: 2 loaves

Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  2. Stir together all of the ingredients (except the cornmeal) in a large bowl, starting with 542g (4 1/2 cups) of the flour. Use a sturdy spoon, or your stand mixer equipped with the beater paddle. Mix until everything comes together in a rough, shaggy mass of dough.
  3. If you’re using your stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead the dough at medium speed for about 7 minutes, until it’s smooth, elastic, and feels a bit bouncy. If the dough doesn’t form a ball that clears the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in just enough of the additional flour to make this happen. (I sprinkled in 1-2 additional tablespoons of flour.) (*If you’re kneading the dough by hand, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, using some of the additional 1/2 cup of flour called for. Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you, then press it away from you with the heels of your hands. Rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this fold-press-rotate process with a rhythmic, rocking motion for about 6 minutes. When fully kneaded, the dough will be bouncy and smooth.*)
  4. Lightly grease a bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl; turn to coat.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or another airtight cover, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. If your kitchen is particularly cold (below 65°F), place the bowl of dough in your turned-off oven with the oven light on. (I used a proofing oven.)
  6. Gently deflate the dough and cut it in half. Pat each half into a rough 6” x 8” oval.
  7. Working with one piece of dough at a time, grab a short side and fold the dough like a business letter (one short side into the center, the other short side over it). Use the heel of your hand to press the open edge of the “letter” closed.
  8. Gently pat and roll the dough into a log about 10” long. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
  9. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; generously sprinkle with cornmeal. The cornmeal will keep the bread from sticking and give it a crunchy bottom crust.
  10. Place the loaves, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheet.
  11. Let the loaves rise, lightly covered with greased plastic wrap, for 45 minutes. They should become nicely puffy. Gently poke your index finger into the side of one of the loaves; if the indentation remains, your bread is ready to bake. (I used a proofing oven.)
  12. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450°F, preferably on convection.
  13. For extra-crusty crust and a great rise, add steam to your oven as follows: While the oven is preheating, place an empty cast-iron frying pan on the lowest rack. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  14. When your bread is risen, use a sieve to dust the loaves with a thin coat of flour. Then make three or four 1/2” deep diagonal slashes in each loaf; these slashes will help the bread rise evenly as it bakes. (Next time, I plan to cut the slashes deeper.)
  15. Place the bread in the oven and pour the boiling water into the frying pan below. Quickly shut the oven door. Wear good oven mitts during this process to shield your hands and arms from the steam.
  16. Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and a loaf sounds hollow to the touch when you tap it on the bottom. The interior temperature of the bread should register at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
  17. Turn the oven off, crack the door open, and allow the bread to remain inside for 5 additional minutes; this helps keep the crust crisp.
  18. Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack. It’s best not to cut into the bread until it’s cooled down a bit; cutting into hot bread can negatively affect its texture.
  19. Store the bread, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days. Freeze for longer storage.

Note: An equal amount of active dry yeast can be substituted for instant yeast. Add it along with the other ingredients, no additional proofing is necessary.

White Sandwich Bread

After all of the heavy eating during the holidays, I was craving a light soup and salad dinner. My daughter is always asking for Tomato Soup, so I made this bread to serve with it so that it would be a substantial enough meal for my husband. It was a bribe of sorts, as I usually do not support the consumption of white bread. 😉

This wonderful bread recipe was adapted from a favorite book, Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads by Kathleen King. I halved the recipe and adapted the recipe to use a bread machine. My family loved it!

Yield: one standard loaf

  • 2 1/2 T warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp bread machine (dry) yeast
  1. Combine warm water, warm milk, and butter in the bread machine loaf pan.
  2. Place flour over the top, using a knife to spread it evenly into the corners of the pan.
  3. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the top of the flour.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast.
  5. Set the bread machine to 1 1/2 pound standard loaf and start.

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Southern Cornbread Dressing

Okay… back to my belated Thanksgiving feast posts…

I struggle selecting a “stuffing” for our Thanksgiving Menu. This version was simple and perfect. I loved that it was a traditional Southern recipe and that it incorporated an unsweetened cast iron skillet cornbread.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Kim Severson. I used medium grind cornmeal. The cornbread is made the night before so that it can harden slightly. I let the cubed white bread sit out overnight as well. We ate it without incorporating meat, but this base recipe could easily be modified to include sausage or even nuts and/or apples. The author suggested eating leftovers mixed with shredded leftover turkey as well.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Cornbread:

  • 4 tablespoons/56 grams butter or bacon drippings
  • 2 cups/340 grams yellow cornmeal, medium grind (use the freshest, best quality you can find)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups/473 milliliters buttermilk, preferably full fat (I used low-fat)

For the Dressing:

  • 3 cups soft white bread, crusts removed and torn or cut into 1-inch pieces (do not pack)
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 1 ½ cups chopped celery (4 or 5 stalks)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups rich chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

Optional Additions:

  • 3/4 pound pork sausage (such as spicy Italian sausage, fresh andouille or spicy Southern-style sausage)
  • 2 1/2 cups of toasted pecans, chopped
  • chopped apples
  1. Make the cornbread: Heat oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Put butter in an 11-inch skillet. Cast-iron is best here, but any ovenproof skillet will do. Heat butter in oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until butter has melted and is just starting to brown.
  3. While butter melts, whisk together cornmeal, salt and baking powder.
  4. In another small bowl, lightly beat eggs, then add buttermilk and stir until mixture is combined.
  5. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir well.
  6. Remove hot pan from oven, pour butter into batter and stir until batter looks uniform.
  7. Pour batter back into the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until the top has begun to just brown.
  8. Remove cornbread and let it cool on a rack.
  9. Tear or cut it into large pieces and place in a large bowl. Let it sit out overnight to dry out slightly.
  10. Prepare the dressing: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cornbread and white bread in a large bowl, tossing to mix, and breaking cornbread into smaller pieces.
  11. Melt butter in a large skillet, and add onions, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes.
  12. Add vegetables to bread mixture and combine.
  13. Lightly beat eggs and add to bowl.
  14. Sprinkle in herbs, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper and toss together.
  15. Add 4 cups broth and stir well.
  16. Using your hands, work the mixture to get a very lumpy, thick, batter-like consistency.
  17. Add another cup of stock if needed. The mixture should be very wet and pourable but without standing liquid.
  18. Butter a 2-quart ovenproof dish. (such as an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. A deeper vessel could take longer to bake; a more shallow dish less time.)
  19. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake until dressing puffs slightly and has browned well around the edges, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  20. If you have drippings from a roasted turkey, spoon some over the top about 30 minutes into the baking time.

Notes:

  • To Add Sausage: Brown 3/4 pound pork sausage in a pan, crumbling it into small pieces as it cooks. Add to the bread mixture along with the vegetables.
  • To Include Nuts: Add 2 1/2 cups of toasted pecans, chopped, to the vegetable and bread mixture.

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