Recipe: Shast-y Bread (aka Rustic Italian Bread)

Living in a different country means creative folks (comme moi) need to find alternative ways to find their "zen" - I discovered bread baking - something I never would have had time for in the States. But here, in our little dorm, our flour supply is ample, there are at least 14 people to cook for on any given day and plenty of free time between seminars. Enter stage right: the most delicious Italian bread ... ever. The first time I made it, both loaves were gone in 20 minutes. I've made it every day since.


Ingredients:

7.5 cups flour
3.5 cups water
1 Tbsp salt
0.5 tsp yeast

Spices mixture (optional) - garlic cloves (thinly sliced), rosemary, thyme, savory, basil, sage, and whatever else you want to add. It should be enough to coat two loaves, but I don't have an exact measurement, experiment!) You can also buy McCormick's Italian Seasoning from the super market to substitute. 


Directions:

1. Mix yeast with lukewarm water, set aside for 5 minutes

2. Combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly 

3. Add water-yeast mixture to dry ingredients and mix/knead well for 10 minutes

4. Set aside for 4 - 10 hours, punching dough down 2-3 times through out the process. (If you don't have enough time, you can also refrigerate the dough overnight and begin in the morning).


5. The last time you punch the dough/knead it, separate the dough into 2-3 separate loaves and if you like, knead your spice mixture into each loaf. I begin by covering the outside and kneading it into the middle, repeatedly. When I am done, I insert the garlic slices throughout the loaves. 

6. Mold your loaves into their final shape. Place on a greased pan and let rest for 1 more hour, covered. (This final rest is important, otherwise your bread will be very very dense, if you like dense bread, you can skip this step).


7. Preheat your oven to 450F while the bread is in its final rest.

8. Insert bread into oven, cook for 20-30 minutes. Check on it after 15 minutes, every oven cooks differently. Bread is ready when it sounds hollow. 

We eat this bread morning, noon, and night, it's so addicting. Thank you Jesus for this delicious bread - it's sweet, simple and loved by many.