Saturday, March 5, 2011

Whole Wheat Crusty Italian Bread

In case you all haven't figured out... I really like to make things from scratch. I am a 'creator' if you will. I really enjoy the act of taking simple ingredients and blending them in a way that makes something delicious and nourishing. 

But this time I screwed up and I'm here to tell you all about it so you don't make the same mistakes I did. It took me about four weeks to get up the courage to admit this big snafu. So, please be gentle alright?
You see how these Crusty Italian Bread Loaves look more like flat bread? Well, it all started when I was making the Bolognese and Homemade Pasta noodles (as you all have already witnessed on the blog and hopefully tried for yourselves) when I thought "We don't have bread. I'll call my honey to pick some up on his way home from work."

Then I stopped, "No Abby, I'll make some from scratch!"  It sounded like a good idea at the time. I might have been drinking...  Or I should have been. Either way.

I started searching for recipes. I'm sure you all might be somewhat concerned that I'm talking to myself. And answering myself too. It is a little bit concerning and might have been part of hte problem, but can we move on anyway? 


Okay, so here is the recipe. I learned a few things while I was making this that I want to pass on so you don't have to repeat my mistakes. They were somewhat big snafu's. Let me explain...

Lesson #1: There is such a thing as too much rising. When a recipe says 'let it rise for 30-35 minutes' they mean it. What happens when you let the bread rise too high? Well, this info I know (from experience). Too much air gets trapped in the bread and it falls. (That's why this bread looks more like flat bread than crusty Italian Bread.) But it was still delicious, just a little flat instead of round you know?

Lesson #2: Don't admit that you screwed things up. I called my honey panicked (he thought I burned the house down) and said, "Maybe you should pick up some bread on the way home." He wanted to know what happened, but I was distracted looking at my cute little loaves and couldn't let them down. I changed my mind quickly and said, "Never mind. The bread will be delicious, I don't need anything." And hung up. 

He brought bread home anyway... 

And my cute little loaves were delicious (albiet flat) and his store bought went untouched (until the next day).

Alright, now that you've learned from my mistakes, let's get started!

Whole Wheat Crusty Italian Bread (adapted from

1 package (1/4 ounce, 2-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (105°-115°)
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water. Make sure it's not too hot or you can kill the yeast (you don't want to commit murder today do you?) If it's too cold it won't activate the yeast. It has to be just right. It should feel about like the temperature of a babies bottle when you test it on your inner wrist. (Not that I have kids or should know about this, but I've done some time as a babysitter).
2. In a larger bowl combine the yeast with the rest of the warm water. 
3. Add the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine. If you need more water to get it to the desired consistently add about a tablespoon at a time until all of the flour is incorporated. When using whole wheat flour it absorbs liquid at a faster rate so this is normal.
4. Then add the olive oil once the dough is formed (this is important for chemistry purposes... if I understood it I could explain better, but I don't. Just do it this way okay?)
5. Turn the dough into a clean floured surface and knead for about 4-5 minutes, pushing and folding the dough into itself. Slap it every once and a while (there's chemistry here too). Yeah, I said slap it baby until it's silky!
6. Turn the dough into a greased bowl and coat the dough with the olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place (top of the dryer works great for me, but turn it on first, okay?). Allow to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours when it has doubled in size.
7. After about an hour and a half, turn it back onto the floured surface and punch it a few times. (I know it sounds really abusive all this punching and slapping, but I promise the dough likes it. It's into S and M.) 
8. Then roll it into a long loaf. Cut it in half and then cut each half into thirds. Take those thirds and stretch and roll them into six cute little loafs. Then place them on a cookie sheet giving them enough space to rise some more. Cover with plastic wrap and once again set in a warm place and allow to rise for another 40 minutes. This is where I screwed up kids! Watch the clock here! They should about double again. Be careful here not to 'over rise' the bread-- it will collapse. I learned this the hard way. Just look at the photo. Please don't let yours look like this! Please learn from my mistake! I baked them anyway. I couldn't stop the train that had already started.
9. Preheat oven to 425 once the bread has started to rise. If you have a pizza stone let that heat in the oven as well. If not feel free to use a regular cookie sheet.

10. Transfer the dough to the cookie sheets or pizza stone and cut a slice along the top of each loaf so that they don't burst in the oven. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 425. Then turn the oven down to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes. If you want a crispier crust place a pan of water on the bottom on the oven (insert more chemistry I don't understand..).
11.When you tap the top of each loaf and there is a hollow sound you are ready to take it out and set it to cool for a moment, then eat dipped into the Bolognese sauce! Just tear pieces off or slice it. I prefer the breaking bread style, but do as you like!

Servings: 6 loaves (individual serving is about a 1/3 of a loaf) 18 individual servings

Nutritional Skinny:

66 calories / 1 g fat / 17 g carbohydrates / 1 g fiber / 2.3 g protein 

Mental Health Tips: When you screw up, just take a deep breath and keep moving forward. Just today I had a finished blog all ready to go and it suddenly dissapeared! Deleted into the greater unknown. Was this a sign that I should quite, throw in the towel? Instead you know what I did? I took a deep breath and decided to share my mistake with all of you and I guess I have to make that recipe all over again! Oh well! All's not lost and neither are you. We all have set backs in the kitchen and in life. It's up to us, though, how we decide to handle these road blocks. Today I decided to not throw things and loose my cool. Instead I made breakfast and decided that everything is going to be okay.

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