There’s nothing better than a hunk of really good bread with a meal. One of my favorite memories of my Italian grandfather was watching him sop up juices from meat, or remnants of pasta sauce with bread. He truly savored those last bites of the meal.
When my Italian grandmother (and her 13 brothers and sisters) moved to Southern California (from Bari, Italy), their house had a brick bread oven in the backyard. It was big enough to cook 4-5 loaves of bread at a time which they needed to feed all those children.
At the end of a meal, my grandmother would say something like “spoonsa, spoonsa” which I have not been able to translate, but I know she meant – “soak up the juices with bread.” And we did!
Here is a recipe from the Pulgia region (where my maternal grandmother and grandfather are from). It reminds me of the bread my grandmother made.
Hot out of the oven sliced and served with butter or drizzled with olive oil this bread is soooo good. It’s also great sliced for breakfast with Ricotta topping.
- • 3 1/2 to 4 cups of unbleached flour
- • 1 pkg of dry yeast
- • 1 1/2 cups warm water
- • Small handful of sea salt
- • Olive oil
- You need to proof the yeast, so after you pour the flour into the mixing bowl, put the yeast into warm water, stir a bit with a fork - watch it for a few minutes and the yeast should foam. (If not, throw it out and start again.)
- Pour the yeast mixture into flour with the salt and stir for a few minutes. Add more flour if needed. You should have a soft dough ball forming. It should be gooey.
- Coat a large bowl lightly with olive oil, place bread dough in, swish around so bread is covered in olive oil. Place a clean tea or muslin towel over and let bread rise for about 3 hours.
- After 3 hours remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured counter. Knead for about 5 minutes until soft and smooth. Cover and let rest for another 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 450°. Take the rested dough and form into a loaf (round, oblong, whatever shape you want), put on a greased cookie sheet and lightly slash the top of the loaf with a knife a few times.
- Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until the bread is nicely browned. Don't open the oven until the bread is done.
- The traditional method of mixing ingredients is to put the flour on the counter, create a well in the middle and pour the wet ingredients in the center and mix by hand or with a wooden spoon. Well I've done that and it's tricky and can be a mess if you don't create a good well. So if you are a kinesthetic personality and want to really get into the bread making - go for it! Otherwise, you can use a mixing bowl and do the same thing. Another option, use a food processor with a plastic blade to mix ingredients.