There comes a point in most people’s boredom when people start to create, deep clean or purge. During this lockdown, I have heard of people starting those unfinished projects. In fact our hardware store was one of the first to have line ups for entry – proving that old adage when people get bored they will build.
Not long ago I decided to deep clean my own home. Something satisfying about walking through a freshly cleaned home. As much as I like a clean house, a clean house that smells like bread is even better. Rustic Italian peasant bread is super easy, and extremely satisfying to eat. It has long since been a favorite in our house. Perfect to serve along side any hot dinner, pasta dish or soup.
Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of GodLuke 4:4
My secret is my romtoff baker. A Romtoff is like a clay roasting dish with a lid. I found mine second hand at a thrift shop for $3. It’s ideal because traps the steam from the bread and creates a crisp chewy crust. If you do not own a clay baker, they can be a bit rare these days, then you can use Dutch oven or add a tray full of ice cubes or cold water to create steam in lower half of oven.
My recipe was originally from cooking school but lost many years ago. I found one a few years back that is very similar, and with some tweaks, works just a as well – thank you to One crazy cookie, for posting the recipe base. I have used it ever since.
I add an extra 2 TPS of gluten to help form those elastic bonds that really help rise the dough. It also gives it a good crumb texture and flavor. Gluten can be found in bulk shops and online. I also replaced the traditional egg wash with cornstarch glaze. I find this is not only vegan but gives that artisan bread look and that fresh bread crackle.
Crusty Italian Bread – makes 2 loaves
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 1 Tablespoon vegan sugar of choice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp wheat gluten – optional
Place warm water, yeast and sugar in mixing bowl. Stir and let stand for a few minutes until it start to bubble and foam a bit.
Add olive oil and salt. Mix and add the flour gradually. You want to add enough that the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. You want to mix it with the dough hook for a few minutes.
Cover and let the dough rise until doubled about 30 minutes.
Punch down dough and divide in two and form into two long loaves (or peasant bowl loaves, depending on shape of your baker)
Cover with a damp cloth in a location free from drafts and let rise until doubled.
- Beat together:
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 Tablespoon water
Brush the risen loaves with the mixture. To give a real artisan look you can dust top with a bit of flour.
Make a single long quick cut down the center of the loaves with a sharp knife.
Pre heat Romtoff clay baker – First by soaking clay water for 15 min then placing in cold oven and bringing up to temp. Set oven to 375 degrees. Once at temp carefully place bread dough on a piece of parchment and place in baker and cover with lid proceed to bake. Resist urge to check on bread too much – it released essential steam used to create that crust. Alternatively, you can use a dutch oven by placing parchment inside and placing dough on top and covering with lid. Again resist urge to check.
Without a baker : Place bread on parchment lined pan and place in oven – Place at least 1-2 cups ice/ cold water in a shallow pan and place it on the rack underneath the bread. The steam will make the crust crisp up. You may need to add a bit more water and or ice during cooking. You do not want it to all evaporate.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the loaves turn golden brown and sound hollow when you tap them. Remove from oven and let cool