Sunday, May 1, 2011

Herbed Italian-style Sandwich Bread


To tell the truth, this is not true Italian bread. It's Italian-style bread, and by that I mean I have loaded itup with herbs and spices like oregano, basil and garlic. Nothing says Italian more than that. And lately I have been trying to create the perfect sandwich bread for specific occasions... soft, sweet breads for breakfast, for instance. And thick-crusted heavy rye breads for smoked meats. This bread has a soft crumb and a semi-chewy crust. Not the almost leathery crust of some East European breads. Not the soft almost spongy breads of the Southern US.

Many months ago I reminisced about the local bakery in the small town where I grew up in Nova Scotia. Bernie's Bakery was a small family business run and owned by a Polish immigrant who could bake bread like  nobody's business. Well, it was his business, but you know what I mean. He made good Polish rye bread. And bagels and bialys. He made cinnamon rolls and he made Italian-style sandwich bread like this one I am posting here.

This bread is a tribute to Bernie's Bakery, long gone but not at all forgotten. The bread is delicious and perfect for savory sandwiches. Smoked meats and pickles. Sharp cheeses and hot peppers. Not cream cheese and jam. For that there are other breads, not this one.

Here's What You'll Need:
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 \tbs. honey
1 Tbs. dry yeast
about 3 1/2 -4 cups AP flour
3 Tbs. butter or margarine (melted)
1 1/2 tsp.salt
2 Tbs. dry milk powder
1 tsp. each dried basil, oregano and garlic

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Stir the honey into the warm water to dissolve. Then sprinkle the yeast over the water and honey and stir in. Let this mixture stand for about 10 minutes to get good and bubbly.

2. Pour the yeast mixture into a large bowl and stir 1 cup of the flour  into it vigorously to create a smooth slurry.

3. Add the melted margarine, the spices and milk powder and finally the salt. Mix to combine fully.


4. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a shaggy but homogeneous dough. The dough will be only a little sticky.

5. Knead the dough for about 10  minutes until completely smooth and soft. You may need to add small amounts of flour to keep the dough from becoming too sticky to handle, but try not to add too much that it becomes dry. This is what makes for heavy bread.

6. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, toss to coat, then cover and let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume.

7. Form the dough into a loaf, being careful not to remove too much 'air', and place in a loaf pan. Cover and let the dough until it come about 1 in (2.5 cm) over the edge of the pan.

8. Bake the bread for about 35 to 40  minutes in a preheated oven at 350 F (175 C).

9. Cool on a rack.

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