In Italy, bread is taken quite seriously. Italians have rigid standards when it comes to what a loaf of bread should be. The basic standard Italian bread consists of yeast-leavened, unsweetened and baked in a loaf shape with tapered ends. A typical Italian loaf is thick and has a thin crust. The inside of an Italian bread loaf is moist and porous, which is perfect for absorbing toppings of tomatoes, olive oil, and cheeses. In the United States Italian bread arrived in the 18th century. Italian bread became quite popular very quickly. Today it is frequently used for sandwiches, as a side for soup, for dunking with olive oil and as a side for many Italian pasta dishes accompanied with a glass of wine.
|Nanni and myself years ago|
In the baking world, there are many different types of bread flours on the market that make the difference to a successful loaf of bread. The most common of the baking flours used in households today is called all purpose flour. There is cake flour which is very good for baking cookies and cakes. Sourdough and pumpernickel breads use rye flour. Bleached flour has been treated with agents that make it whiter than other flours. (I personally use un-bleached flour) Self Rising flour is used regularly when baking, which is a combination of all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. There is flour that is labeled as bread flour and is used for baking breads or rolls. Soy flour is especially made for those who have gluten allergies as it does not contain gluten.
Whatever the role bread plays in a meal, the delightful aromas fill a home and it stirs all the senses. I remember when my grandmother (who we called Nanni) would come over; she would make us a pizza with onions, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. She also used the best fresh herbs she could find. Instead of a round pizza pan, she would make the pizza in a baking pan. Her crust was always soft, and thick something like a Sicilian pizza would be. It was always a treat making pizza with her, as she would always tell a few stories about her Italian roots as we were eating. She never wrote her recipes down, so when she passed so did her recipes. She always said that her Italian dishes were all in her head. I found this recipe from MaryAnn Esposito at “Ciao Italia,” which is very similar to her recipe. I hope that you enjoy your pizza and make some bread; it really makes the house fragrant. It is what I would call, “real comfort food.”
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water (110°-115° F)
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Allow the yeast to proof until it is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of flour, salt and sugar. Mix the dough with your hands or use a mixer with a dough hook. Add the remaining flour as needed to make a dough that holds together. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. Grease a bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough a few times in the bowl so the oil coats the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 hours in a warm place. Then punch down the dough and knead it for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface. Use the dough to make one large pizza or divide it in half to make 2 small ones.
Now that your dough is made you can make your pizza with any ingredients you wish. Just make sure the ingredients are fresh and you will have a mouth watering pizza that you can’t wait to eat. Mangia!
Till Next Time….
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