This bread has a wonderful chewy texture and is light and airy. The interesting thing is it contains the same ingredients as the French bread (flour, water, yeast and salt), yet it tastes completely different. The Italian bread is much chewier and slightly more airy. The only significant difference in the way they are prepared is the Italian bread is kneaded for 15 minutes while the French is only kneaded for 4 minutes. The extra kneading gives the dough its elasticity. It is also brushed with a glaze of egg white and olive oil. This gives a nice finish to the bread.
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups warm water approximately 110 degrees
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 6 cups bread flour
- cornmeal for dusting
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large egg white
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook, soften the yeast in the warm water. Add the salt and 2 cups flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until you have a kneadable dough. Turn the mixer on low and knead the dough for 15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic adding more flour as necessary. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let it rise a second time until it is doubled again, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle work surface with rice flour and turn dough out of bowl onto surface. Knead dough to remove air bubbles then divide into 2 equal pieces.
- Shape each piece of dough into a log about 12-inches long. Place the two loaves on parchment paper that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. Whisk the olive oil and egg white together and set aside.
- Place the pizza stone (if using) in the oven and preheat to 400F.
- Just before baking slit the tops of the loaves diagonally in three places with a sharp blade or lame. Brush lightly with the glaze. Bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Immediately remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!