This is my experimental loaf of Italian bread I completed this afternoon. I've read through a good deal of the website The Fresh Loaf
and tried a couple new things. First was the technique of making a preferment
. I mixed up some yeast, flower and water and let it ferment over night. When I got up, I added the rest of the ingredients-- more water, flower and yeast. I also threw in some olive oil and an egg. The oil is suppose to enrich the flavor as well as soften and help preserve the bread. The egg I just tossed in 'cuz I like egg and figured a little protein couldn't hurt. I didn't use much yeast-- 1 teaspoon for the 3 additional cups of flower. The site recommended having a rather wet dough, so I make it pretty wet. That was imposable to kneed, so I ended up adding more flower to dry it out. I allowed the dough to rise twice, each time giving it an hour. I tried to shape the thing, but it was very sticky and unruly. So I just let it be a blob :)
For baking, I first prepared a cooking sheet with some grease (this dough was extremely stick-- normally I don't grease Teflon cooking sheets) and sprinkled a tablespoon of cornmeal even across the top. Then, I mixed up two egg yokes, cornmeal and some water and basted the top of the dough with it. I preheated the oven to 550°F-- as high as the oven would go, and tossed in a pan with a big chuck of stone in it. When I put the dough into the oven, I pored several cups of boiling water into the pan, over the hot stone. The idea of the stone was to hold heat and help vaporise the water. The idea was to create a lot of steam for the initial few minutes the bread was in the oven. I'm not sure the stone helped much, possibly because it had an irregular shape and didn't hit a lot of the water. Next time I might find a flat stone. Anyway, after 5 minutes I dropped the oven temp down to 350°F. I basted the top again after 10 minutes and cooked it for a total of 30 minutes-- 5 at 550°F and 25 at 350°F.
The results: a fairly tasty bread. Thin, fairly soft crust with good texture. The inside was soft and chewy. I made up a plate of pasty and gorged myself. And it was good :)