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Al's Italian Bread

Courses: Breads
Serves: 4 people

Recipe Ingredients

3 oz 85gFresh yeast
3 cups 711mlWarm water - (to 4 cups) - divided
3 lbs 1362g / 48ozHigh-gluten or bread flour
1/2 cup 99g / 3.5ozGranulated sugar
1 tablespoon 15mlSalt - plus
1/2 teaspoon 2.5mlSalt
2 tablespoons 30mlVegetable shortening - plus more for Greasing if using pans
  Toasted sesame seeds

Recipe Instructions

Dissolve yeast in 2 cups warm water. Combine flour, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Make a well in center of mixture; pour in yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly with hands (Marino's method) or dough hook of mixer. Gradually add 1 to 2 cups remaining warm water; mix thoroughly. Dough should be sticky.

Spread 2 tablespoons shortening on top of dough; knead in.

Cover dough with a cloth and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes. (Marino turns his electric oven to "warm" for a minute, turns it off, then puts the bowl of dough inside.) After 30 minutes, knead dough in bowl for about 3 minutes. Cover and return to warm spot to rise for 1 hour.

Cut dough into 4 equal sections. Lightly flour counter and rolling pin; roll each section of dough into a rectangle. Roll up each piece of dough lengthwise, like a jelly roll. Shape each into a loaf, sealing the seam with the side of your hand or knuckles.

Sprinkle some cornmeal and sesame seeds on kitchen counter. Spread some warm water over top of each loaf with your hand; roll loaf over seeds and cornmeal.

Sprinkle another counter lightly with cornmeal. Place finished loaves on top, cover with a towel and let rise for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (If using oven tiles or a pizza stone, sprinkle them with some cornmeal and place in oven to heat.)

Place risen loaves on hot oven tiles or in lightly greased oblong cake pans, using 2 loaves per pan. (If baking the bread in pans, remove after 15 minutes and place the loaves directly on the top oven rack to finish baking; place empty pans on the bottom shelf to keep the bottom of the bread from overbrowning.) Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - 10-19-1998 - From Al Marino, Chesterfield


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