Rustic Italian Hearth Bread
Servings Prep Time
4loaves 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45minutes 6-8hours
Servings Prep Time
4loaves 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45minutes 6-8hours
Ingredients
Baking
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle the yeast on the water and let sit for a few minutes. Stir and leave the yeast to activate at least a total of 5 minutes. *You don’t need to do this with instant yeast.
  2. Put the water/yeast mixture in a large capacity mixer and scoop in 4 of the cups of flour. With the mixer on the lowest setting and the dough hook, mix for 3 minutes. Then scoop in 3 more slowly over another 10 minute period.
  3. Add another cup of flour with the salt and slowly add the rest of the flour. Now, depending on the size of your mixer, you won’t be able to add all the flour, you might have to finish it by hand. I have a Kitchenaid Pro Series 650 with a 7 quart bowl and more than 10 cups is pushing it. The other thing about the flour is that you want a soft elastic dough and absorption of the flour can vary, so you might not need all.
  4. With a soft plastic scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a hard floured surface and kneed the dough for a minute or so it is completely cohesive, and then let it rest for 3-5 minutes. Kneed again for an additional 10-15 minutes.
  5. In a VERY large bowl, place the olive oil. Shape the dough into a ball, put it in the bowl and turn it so it is completely covered by the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in a warm place with no draft. If it is a cold day, cover it with a cloth as well and place in the oven (with the oven off).
  6. In 1 1/2 to 2 hours, the dough should double. Punch it down and turn it to form a ball again and cover with plastic, then cloth, and set to rise again (1 1/2 – 2 hours).
  7. After the second rising, punch it down again and weigh it. It should be ~6 lbs. You will cut it into 4 equal parts (~ 1 1/2 lbs. each).
  8. Form each piece into a ball, dust with flour and set to rise. I rise mine in wicker bowls to get the circular indentations. You have to prepare the wicker bowls with oil covered by a lot of flour if you do that. Cover with a cloth.
  9. After covering the dough to rise, set a timer for 30 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, pre-heat the oven to 500 and place a cast iron or metal pan with water at the very bottom. My oven takes 30 minutes to pre-heat to that temperature. At that point the dough will have risen for 1 hour.
  10. While you are waiting, cut parchment paper in a circle a bit larger than the clay pot saucers (I reuse the parchment about 3-4 times). When the rising is finished, place the parchment circle on top of the dough and then the clay saucer on top of it and turn it over 180 degrees to transfer the dough to the pot (leaving the parchment in the middle). It’s important that the dough not deflate, so be careful.
  11. With a razor (or a lame), score the top of the bread and place in the oven right away. The water in the pan at the bottom of the oven should be boiling. I also spritz the bottom of the oven with cold water to cause more steam. Set the timer for 20 minutes. The water should evaporate by then.
  12. At the 20 minute mark, lower the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 25 more minutes (with no steam).
  13. Remove the bread from the oven and place them on a wire cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting. That might require some guarding of the bread, lol…