Rustic And Crusty Italian Bread

I personally think it is easier to whip up a batch of dough, let it rise, shape it, let it rise some more and slide it in the oven than it is to get dressed, put on tights, boots, my coat and gloves and drive to the grocery store for a mediocre day-old loaf of bread. Add the aroma of baking bread to my home and I'm sold. This bread has 5 ingredients. That's it! Granted, baking bread can be daunting, especially when we're so used to buying "perfect bread" at the store, with it's annoyingly perfect ends and bottom and perfectly chewy middle. But no matter how perfect store-bought bread is, it is still just that - store-bought. There is nothing like homemade bread. Even if it fails to turn that golden brown color, and even if your oven takes forever to preheat so you just stick the bread in once the oven is really hot and hope it turns out okay (I would never do something like that!).

Makes: 3 Loaves

Ingredients:

3 cups warm water

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon table salt

7 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. Add sugar and yeast to a large bowl. Add warm water and let proof.

2. Add 4 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and knead until smooth. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Sprinkle in salt and flour, and knead until smooth.

4. Lightly coat a large bowl with oil or cooking spray (can be the same bowl that was used for mixing, as long as it has been cleaned), cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

5. Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper, and sprinkle with corn meal.

6. Punch down dough and divide into three equal portions. Form into whichever shapes you'd like (I did two baguettes and one round loaf). Sprinkle with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

7. Sprinkle water on loaves, and continue to sprinkle with water every 3 minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. 8. Let bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped.

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