This bread is a regular in the Reitz household. Tom and I ate it almost every day on our honeymoon in Italy and after a week of amazing food, we vowed to make it when we arrived back to the States. I found this perfect recipe on Food Network, with some optional modifications for spice lovers:
- 1 3/4 cups warm water (should feel warm with your pinky finger, but not hot)
- 2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus more on hand for kneading)
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- Spices, if desired
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
- Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a mixer bowl and wait at least 15 minutes until bubbling and very fragrant. I tend to use a hot pack (sleeve filled with rice) to provide a warm environment.
Add 1/2 cup olive oil, flour, salt, and spices to the bowl, and with a dough hook, beat the mixture. You may need a sprinkle of flour or two to if the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl. After it has formed a ball, beat it for an additional 5 minutes so it becomes smooth.
Flour a cutting board and knead the dough by hand a few times. Pour a little olive oil in a clean bowl (I usually wash my mixing bowl and reuse it), and put the dough in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Wrap the hot pack around the bowl and wait an hour (it should double in size).
Coat a jelly roll pan with 1/2 cup of olive oil. Place the dough on the jelly roll pan and being stretching it to size. Once it is close to fitting, flip the dough over so both sides are coated with oil. Continue stretching the dough, stretching your fingers through the dough so holes are created (it gives the bread it's traditional bumpy texture). Place a hot pack underneath half the pan and let it rise for an hour, switching the side of the hot pack after half-way through.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top and sprinkle the top of the dough with the coarse sea salt. Bake the dough for 20-25 minutes and let it cool as long as you can wait before slicing. :-)