Sesame Italian Bread

The unofficial name for this bread is “Hurricane Irene Bread” because as soon as I knew I would be house-bound for the weekend, I decided I would need a loaf of something to sustain me.  I turned to my trusty King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion cookbook for a recipe, and settled on Crusty Italian Bread.

To start, I began a biga on Friday night.  After 16 hours it was bubbling and happy.

Then the rest of the dough started to come together.

After rising, shaping, and rising…it was time for baking.

And once cooled, it was time for slicing, toasting, buttering, and eating.

I repeated this process numerous times over the course of the weekend, since I was fortunate enough to not lose power, and it more than satisfied my fondness for snacking while reading, playing online Scrabble, and catching up on BBC mystery series.

For my fellow East coasters, how did you spend Hurricane Irene?  I especially want to know what you ate…you know, the important stuff.

Italian Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

Biga Starter
1 cup cool water (65 degrees)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast

Dough
1/4 cup cool water (65 degrees)
2 – 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsps. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsps. salt

Topping
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Sesame seeds

Directions

For the Biga

Mix together all ingredients until combined, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12-16 hours at room temperature.  The bubbles will tell you it’s ready.

For the Dough

  • Add the water to the biga and mix together.  Add the flour, yeast, and salt and knead until smooth – 3 minutes by mixer or 5 minutes by hand.  The gluten will have time to develop more during the rise so don’t go crazy with the kneading.
  • Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover.  Let it rise at room temperature for another 90 minutes.  To help the gluten, gently deflate the dough from time to time and give it a flip in the bowl.
  • Divide the dough into three pieces, and then braid them together.  Set the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise for another 60 – 90 minutes or until slightly puffy.
  • When the second rise is almost finished, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Using a pastry brush, coat the braid with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.
  • Bake for 25 – 35 minutes or until it has a hollow sound when rapped, and the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
  • Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

Note:  I did a poor job with this loaf, so yours will most likely look a heck of a lot better than mine.  I think I over-kneaded it the first time around, didn’t add enough flour because I underestimated the humidity in the air, then didn’t let it rise long enough during the second rise.  Having said all that, you can see that I STILL ended up with a tasty loaf that more than satisfied my toast cravings while Irene made me stir-crazy.  And it just means I get to try it all again!

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Categories: Breads, Biscuits & Rolls

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9 Comments on “Sesame Italian Bread”

  1. August 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    i made (and drank) peach sangria and peach jam :)

  2. August 30, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    We weren’t hit by Irene, but I followed it on the news. I would LOVE a loaf of this for dinner tonight (making pasta!).

  3. August 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    OK, your bread turned out beautiful, but I’m really just here to say thanks (with a chuckle). My sister had mentioned wanting a few of those old Tupperware measuring cups, and I forgot all about it. Going over to my X-Mass Gift Notes right now to add that. I’m betting I can find a few on eBay for her. Thanks for the reminder!! :)

    Oh, and I’ve never heard the “biga” reference before, so after I add the cups to my list, I’ll have to go look that up. LOL

    • August 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Chris – I find them everywhere and I love them! They are indestructible! You should have no problem tracking some down in good condition on Ebay or Etsy. Good luck!

      • September 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

        My sister has a different frame of reference. She wants it FOR and remembers it IN the kitchen. My memory is of our grandmother practically drowning me when I was little. LOL When she would babysit us and give us baths, she was scared to death to fill the tub and have us drown, so we’d be freezing cold in an inch of water and she’d be pouring cups of water over us to rinse our hair with one of those. :)

  4. August 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    Your bread looks great, and I’m glad you weren’t affected by Irene. I also love that picture of you in your sidebar, that dress is really cute!

    • September 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

      thank you ursula! i love the dress in that picture. i got it at a thrift store and the skirt has so many slight pleats.

  5. August 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I made some plum upside down cake and some raspberry lemon stuffed french toast. All delicious!

  6. September 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    We had sangria and some slow cooked beef.

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