Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Flour

 

Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. With so many types of flour to choose from-spelt flour, soy flour, quinoa flour, rice flour, organic bread flour and even gluten-free flour-your head may begin to spin. If you want your recipe to be a success, you’ll need to understand what each type does and whether it’s right for your recipe’s need.

There are two different types of wheat in the descriptions below: hard and soft. The difference is in the protein content, with hard wheat having a higher level of protein than soft. Wheat is milled and processed in slightly varying ways to create the different flours, for example whole-wheat flour will be darker in color than all-purpose flour because it contains the whole kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) rather than just the endosperm (the center of the wheat kernel).

The type of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Flour contains protein and when it comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten, which gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore using a different type of flour than what is called for in a recipe (without compensating for this change) will alter the outcome of the baked good. A cake flour is used to make a white cake where a delicate tender crumb is desired. Bread flour is used to make a chewy bread and all-purpose flour makes a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies.

What Mario Batali says about using different flours in Italian cooking:

Soft wheat flour produces the tender pasta used in Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine. Hard wheat flour, conversely, is lower in starch and higher in protein and gluten, producing firm and resilient pasta and bread. Durum wheat is high in gluten and is usually ground into semolina, a slightly coarser flour used in pasta production, particularly in the South of Italy. When purchasing flour, look at the nutrition panel for the protein content, which is listed in grams per pound.

Essentially, for thin tender pasta, I’ve found the pastry flour in the bulk bins to be perfect. For everyday pastas I just use all purpose. For rustic pastas with a rougher texture and thicker noodles, I mix in 1/3 or even 100% semolina, again from the bulk bin. Sometimes I experiment with hard winter wheat Durum (bulk bins), which I think is similar in protein/gluten to semolina but more finely ground if I want a finer texture.

How To Store Flour:

Flour must be kept cool and dry. All flours, even white flour, have a limited shelf life. Millers recommend that flours be stored for no more than 6 months. The main change that occurs over time is the oxidation of oils when flour is exposed to air. The result of this is rancid off flavors. During hot weather, store flour in the refrigerator.

Flour should be stored, covered, in a cool and dry area. This prevents the flour from absorbing moisture and odors and from attracting insects and rodents. Freezing flour for 48 hours before it is stored will kill any weevil or insect eggs already in the flour. It is better not to mix new flour with old if you are not using the flour regularly.

Do not store flour near soap powder, onions or other foods and products with strong odors.

If freezer space is available, flour can be repackaged in airtight, moisture-proof containers, labeled and placed in the freezer at 0 degrees F. If flour is stored like this, it will keep well for several years.

Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator the year around. Natural oils cause this flour to turn rancid quickly at room temperature.

Throw away flour if it smells bad, changes color, or is infested with weevils.

Flour is always readily available so it should only be brought in quantities that will last a maximum of two to three months.

Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents.

Following are the flours I use on a regular basis with a description of how I use them. The brands I use are also depicted in the pictures but use the brands that are sold in your area. Recipes follow with the type of flour I use in the recipe.

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Ideal for the full range of your baking repertoire. All-Purpose is strong enough to combine with whole grains for higher-rising loaves, and tender enough to make beautiful pie crusts, scones and muffins.

Unbleached Bread Flour

High-gluten bread flour, milled from hard red spring wheat, is perfect for yeast baked goods-bread, rolls, pizza, and more. The higher the protein level, the stronger the rise. Excellent companion for whole grain flours, such as rye or whole wheat.

Ultragrain All Purpose Flour

Ultragrain All Purpose Flour contains 9 grams of whole grain per serving and twice the fiber of other all-purpose flours. Use it in place of standard white flour in all of your favorite recipes. Recipes made with Ultragrain look, cook, bake, and taste like recipes made with white flour, but have the added benefit of whole grain nutrition. I like the convenience of the whole wheat flour added in with the white flour, especially for baking muffins and other coffeecake types of bread.

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour, a blend of flour, baking powder, and salt, is a Southern staple. Milled from a lower-protein wheat than all-purpose flour, it produces softer, more tender baked goods, including biscuits, pancakes, cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, and more.This convenient flour eliminates two steps in many of your favorite recipes: adding the baking powder, and adding the salt. Both are already in the flour.

White Whole Wheat Flour

100% white whole wheat is a lighter whole wheat, with 100% of the nutrition. Makes lighter-colored, milder-tasting baked goods. Perfect for cookies, bars, bread, muffins, pancakes… all your favorite baked goods.

100% Whole Wheat Flour

Traditional Whole Wheat Flour, features the classic flavor of red whole wheat. Its fine grind and 14% protein content produce whole-wheat breads with a hearty texture and higher rise.  Excellent for yeast bread.

 

 

Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

A flour blend that produces a medium-fine texture cake, moist and flavorful, with no artificial colors or chemicals added. It is a good flour to use for baking birthday cakes and cookies, especially Christmas sugar cookies.

 

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

Pastry Flour (both white and whole wheat) is milled from soft wheat and has a level of protein between all-purpose and cake flours (at about 8-10%). That medium level makes it great to use in recipes where you want a tender and crumbly pastry (too much protein would give you a hard pastry and too little protein would give you a brittle dough). Try pastry flour in recipes for biscuits, pie dough, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Do not use it for making yeast breads.

I prefer to use the whole wheat version and I have great success with it in all my pies and cookies.

Whole wheat pastry flour is milled from low-protein soft wheat, producing a flour with 9% protein. Use it in cookies, pie crusts, and scones to incorporate whole wheat into your pastries while retaining the tenderness these pastries need.

 

Semolina Flour

Semolina–a coarse grind of high-protein durum wheat–gives gorgeous color and great flavor to breads, pizza crust, and pasta. Substitute semolina for some (or all) of the all-purpose flour in your bread recipe.

Makes wonderful pasta.

My favorite way to use the semolina flour is mixed into pizza crust – it really just helps make a superior crispy product. I just replace about a cup of the regular flour with semolina and mix it in.

 

Italian-Style Flour

Italian-Style flour makes an extremely supple dough, smooth and easy to work with. The “00” refers to the grind of the flour, and how much of the wheat’s bran and germ have been removed, not to its protein level. There are low-, high- and in-between 00 flours. The one sold in the US is a lower protein one. Try it for crackers or pasta, tender pizza, focaccia, and bread sticks or crisp grissini.

Instant Flour

Wondra is an instant flour, low in protein and finely ground. It has been treated, so that it will dissolve instantly in water and not require the same long cooking process as non-instant flour to dissolve in a liquid and thicken it. The process is called pregelatinization and it involves heating a starch (flour) with very hot water and/or steam, then drying it out, so that it has essentially been cooked already. Because of this, instant flour is unlikely to form lumps when mixed with water or broth. Wondra also has some malted barley flour mixed into it, which acts as a dough conditioner in many breads. This quick-mixing all-purpose flour is the perfect solution for lump-free gravies and sauces and for breading fish and poultry.

 

Fluffy Pancakes

These pancakes taste like they are made with buttermilk and are light and fluffy with minimal fat.

Makes: 5 servings (2 pancakes each)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups Ultragrain All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray

Directions

Pour milk into small bowl and whisk in oil and lemon juice; set aside. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl; blend well. Form a well in center of dry ingredients; set aside.

Add Egg Beaters to milk mixture; whisk together. Pour mixture into the center of dry ingredients. Gently whisk together just until combined; a few lumps will remain. Do not overmix.

Spray large nonstick griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Heat griddle over medium heat until hot. Pour four 1/4 cupfuls of batter separately onto griddle.

Cook about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until large bubbles form on top and bottom is golden brown. Turn with wide spatula; cook 1 minute more or until second side is golden brown. Keep warm. Repeat until all batter is used. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or serve with pancake syrup, if desired.

Whole-Wheat Scones                                                                     

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, your choice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, divided
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or coat it with nonstick spray. Place cream cheese and butter in freezer to chill, about 10 minutes.

2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut cream cheese and butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add dried fruit, 1/4 cup pecans and orange zest and toss to incorporate. Make a well in the flour mixture. Add 2/3 cup buttermilk, stirring with a fork until just combined.

3. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and knead gently 7 or 8 times. Divide dough in half. With floured hands, pat each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. With a floured knife, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

4. Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Fresh Whole-Wheat Pita                                                                                                          

Stuff with your favorite salad or sandwich fixings. Leftovers make tasty baked chips.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 10 ounces bread flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4.75 ounces White Whole-Wheat Flour (about 1 cup), divided
  • 2 tablespoons 2% Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions:

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add bread flour, 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour, yogurt, oil, and salt to the yeast mixture; beat with a electric mixer paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining whole-wheat flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to the bowl (dough will feel sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

2. Position the oven rack on the lowest shelf.

3. Preheat the oven to 500° F.

4. Divide dough into 8 portions. Working with one portion at a time, gently roll each portion into a 5 1/2-inch circle. Place 4 dough circles on each of 2 baking sheets heavily coated with cooking spray. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, at 500°F for 8 minutes or until puffed and browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 pita)

Golden Semolina Biscotti                                                                                                                                                       

You won’t need a mixer to make these crunchy biscotti; the dough is easily stirred together by hand.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) melted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 to 4 drops flavoring of choice; e.g., butter-rum, almond, hazelnut, etc.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Semolina Flour
  • 2 cups diced dried fruit, chocolate chips or chunks, or nuts

Directions:

Grease a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, flavor, and vanilla, mixing until blended. Add the eggs, then blend in the flour and semolina. Use a spatula or your hands to mix in the fruits, chocolate, or nuts.

Scoop the dough onto the baking pan and shape it into a 10 1/2 x 4-inch log.

Bake the log in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour.

Slice on the diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch wide pieces. Place the biscotti back onto a baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 22 to 26 minutes, until golden. Turn them over halfway during the baking time.

The biscotti will become crisp as they cool; allow them to cool right on the baking sheet.

Store in an airtight container when totally cool. Yield: 14 to 18 large biscotti.

 

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If yesterday’s post on how to bake authentic country bread at home wasn’t your “cup of tea” due to the many steps in the recipe, below is a recipe for the quick way to get a crusty country loaf of bread in a short amount of time. While you won’t have the crumb or flavor of Pugliese or Pagnotta bread, you will have a great crusty bread to dip in olive oil or use for sandwiches.  

You will need special equipment: a Cloche Clay Baking Pan. The cloche natural clay stoneware baking dish with domed lid will simulate a hearth oven in your kitchen.

The moist dough within the cloche creates the steam needed to produce a delicious bread with a crackly, golden crust and light crumb. It eliminates the need to spritz your bread or pour water in a hot pan to get the nice crust you are after.

Most cloches are sensitive to thermal shock, so you should never put a cold cloche in a hot oven. You should also avoid putting a hot cloche on a cold counter, as it may crack. Cloches should not be spritzed with water, either, as the sudden release of steam can cause the cloche to crack. To wash a bread cloche, wait for it to cool to room temperature and rinse it with water.

CRUSTY COUNTRY LOAF 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add yeast and honey. Mix until yeast is dissolved.

Add the 4 cups of flour and sprinkle the salt on top of the flour

Using the dough hook on number 2 speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Continue kneading  for 7-8 minutes minutes, until dough is soft, but supple. 

Shape dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double about 30-40 minutes.

Some bakers skip this step and place the dough directly into the bottom of the cloche pan for one rising.  I think the bread has a better crumb with two risings and the time for each rising is relatively short – 30 minutes or so.  This is a quick rising dough. It is your call, though. 

Do not grease or spray a cloche pan. 

Sprinkle the bottom of the cloche pan with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the pan bottom.  Gently shape the dough into a round, if it becomes lopsided.

 

Cover with  greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more. See image below for how the dough should look after rising.

Put the lid of the cloche pan in the oven on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Remove the other racks since the cloche pan is quite tall. Once the oven temperature reaches 500 degrees F. heat the cloche and oven for 15 minutes more. 

With a sharp knife or blade, make a cross slash in the top of the risen loaf, place the dish in the oven and put the Cloche lid over the dough.   

USE A THICK POT HOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!

 

Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid. 

Bake 15 minutes minutes, or until bread is crusty and brown. Remove the loaf when done and place on a wire cooling rack.

Look at the sides of the bread. If the edges of the bread have pulled away from the pan, then your bread is done, especially if you have a dry-looking top along with the pulled-away edges. Once you have removed the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan and tap the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. If there is no hollow sound or if the bottom of the bread is still soft, place it back in the oven and continue baking for a few minutes longer.

Stick an instant-read thermometer into the bread. If the temperature reads between 190 degrees and 210 degrees, then the bread is done. Instant-read thermometers can be purchased at any major grocery store or wherever kitchen utensils and appliances are sold.

What is Instant Yeast?

Instant yeast is an active strain of yeast that is similar to active dry yeast, but has smaller granules with substantially higher percentages of live cells. Instant yeast generally has a small amount of ascorbic acid added as a preservative.”

What is the difference between Instant Yeast and Active Dry Yeast?

Instant yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients in this bread recipe. It does not need to be dissolved first, making it especially easy to use.  SAF Instant Yeast is a high potency, fast acting yeast that can be added directly to your dry ingredients without it having to be activated in water first. SAF Instant Yeast is more than twice as active as regular compressed yeast.

Active dry yeast requires that it be mixed in a bit of warm water to activate it, then it is added to the remaining ingredients. Unfortunately, using active dry yeast leaves room for error as the water temperature has to be just right in order to work. If the water temperature is too hot, the yeast will die. If the water is too cool, the active dry yeast fails to activate. Both scenarios often result in a bread dough that doesn’t rise very much.

How to store Instant Yeast ?                      

Instant yeast has no special storage needs, and can be kept on the cupboard shelf unopened until the expiration date, or up to 6 months. The yeast will stay fresh longer if stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer, or up to one year.                                                                                                                                


What is Italian country bread?

Italian country bread is known for its very chewy, coarse texture. The texture of this bread makes it ideal for dipping and sandwich making, because it holds moisture very well without becoming soggy. Italian country bread is also referred to as pan bigio, or “gray bread,” in a reference to the unrefined flour which is traditionally used to make it. Many Italian bakeries offer this bread, and it can also be made at home.
By tradition, pan bigio is made from minimally processed flour. Typically, this means that the flour is whole wheat that gives a very rich, nutty flavor to the finished bread. Some bakers prefer to use a mixture of lightly processed white flour and whole wheat flour so that the bread is not as heavy, creating a bread with a flecked texture and a slightly more open crumb. Cornmeal may be added as well to make the texture even more coarse.
Italian country bread is made with a biga, a traditional Italian starter. Breads made with bigas tend to be chewier and they have more complex, savory flavors as a result of the slow fermentation of the yeasts.

A starter usually consists of a simple mixture of flour, water, and a leavening agent (typically yeast). After mixing, it is allowed to ferment for a period of time, and then is added to bread dough as a substitute for, or in addition to, more yeast. So pre-ferments are critical for best tasting bread.

The primary difference, between making bread with a starter and making bread with the direct yeast method, is that starter breads require much more time to prepare, but the flavor and texture of the bread is almost impossible to achieve with other leavening methods. Bread made with starters (biga) also tend to keep better, compared to bread made without a biga. You will not find this type of great tasting bread in your local supermarket.

The bread recipes below are “Old World”, but I have updated them to make use of modern ingredients, techniques and equipment.

Puglia, Italy
“The Breadbasket Of Italy”

Puglia, or Apulia as it is also known, is in Italy’s boot heel in its south eastern most region off the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Puglia produces one-tenth of the wine drunk in Europe and its olive oil is well regarded. Puglia is also the breadbasket of Italy and home to the wonderful hearth breads, now gaining recognition in the rest of Italy and throughout the world. Today you can find these breads in bakeries and supermarkets throughout Italy.

The region is noted for its population density, mostly concentrated in populous centers, while the countryside is occupied by flourishing cultivation. Agriculture, which was very difficult in the past due to the dryness of the land, is now supported by the Aqueduct, so now, the region is among the largest Italian producers of tomatoes, salad, carrots, olives, eggplant, artichokes, almonds and citrus fruit. Also highly developed is sheep raising in the Tavoliere plain and fishing in the Gulf of Taranto. Tourism in the summer is another great resource, thanks to the beautiful beaches along the coast, and the many tourist villages and campsites.

Pugliese Bread

Oval Shape

Round Shape

The Pugliese bread is characterized by a moist dough which results in large holes in a well structured crumb, and a well-developed, crunchy crust. Heavier than a Ciabatta, and made with a higher gluten flour,  Pugliese bread is typically shaped as a Batard (oval) slashed with a single cut running lengthwise and, sometimes, is shaped as a round loaf with a dimpled top.

Yield : A 6 ½ -by-3-inch-high loaf

Dough Starter (Biga) Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour 
  • 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 liquid cup water, at room temperature (70°F to 90°F)                                                                                                                                                                                                King Arthur Extra Fancy Durum Flour - 3 lb.

Bread Dough Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup durum flour, (durum flour is finely milled and marketed as “extra-fancy” pasta flour or “farina grade). (Semolina flour is a much coarser grind and will not work for this bread.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water, at room temperature (70°F to 90°F)
  • biga from above

Biga Directions:

Six hours or up to 3 days ahead, make the starter (biga). In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the biga and stir the mixture until it is very smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The biga should still be sticky enough to cling slightly to your fingers. Cover the bowl tightly with oiled plastic wrap and set aside until tripled and filled with bubbles. At room temperature, this will take about 6 hours. Stir it down and use it, or refrigerate it for up to 3 days before baking. For the best flavor development allow the biga to ferment in a cool area (55°F to 65°F) for 12 to 24 hours.

Biga the next day.

Mix the dough:

In the electric mixer bowl, whisk together the bread flour, durum flour, and yeast. Then whisk in the salt (this keeps the salt from coming into direct contact with the yeast, which would kill it). Add the water and the biga.
Using the electric mixer paddle attachment, mix on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough.

Change to the dough hook, raise the speed to medium, and beat for 5 minutes to form a smooth, sticky dough. If the dough does not pull away from the bowl after 5 minutes, beat in more flour 1 teaspoon at a time. The dough should still stick to the bottom of the bowl and cling to your fingers. If it is not sticky, spray it with a little water and knead it in.

Let the dough rise.

Sprinkle durum flour generously onto a counter in a 6-inch square. Using a wet or oiled spatula or dough scraper, turn the dough onto the flour, and dust the top of it with more flour. (The flour will be absorbed into the wet dough.) Allow it to rest for 2 minutes.

With floured hands, pull out two opposite sides of the dough to stretch it to double its length, and give it a business letter turn. Dust it again with flour, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Stretching and turning the dough.

Repeat the stretching, folding, and flouring a second time, and again allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the stretching, folding, and flouring a third time, then round the edges of the dough.

Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, transfer the dough to a 2-quart bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Cover the container with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) until tripled, about 2 hours.

Shape the dough and let it rise.

Dust a counter well with durum flour. With floured hands or a floured dough scraper, gently transfer the dough to the counter. Handling the dough very gently; round it into a ball.

Begin by gently pressing down the dough into a round patty, dimpling the dough with your fingertips to deflate any large bubbles. Draw up the edges to the center. Pinch them together and turn the dough over so that the pinched part is at the bottom. With cupped hands, stretch the dough down on all sides to form a tight skin, and pinch it again at the bottom.
Transfer the round ball of dough to an un-floured part of the counter and, with your hands on either side of the dough, push it back and forth while rotating it clockwise. You will feel the dough tighten and take on a rounder shape, with taut skin.

Set dough in a towel lined basket.

Dough ready for the oven.

Gently set the dough seam side up in a colander lined with a floured towel for a round shape or a long bread basket with a floured towel for the oval shape. Pinch together the seam, if necessary. Sprinkle the top lightly with flour, and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap.

Allow the dough to rise until it has increased by about 1 ½ times, about 1 ½ hours. 

Inside crumb of baked bread.

Bake the bread.

Preheat the oven to 500°F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place an oven stone on it and a broiler pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the plastic wrap covering the colander or basket, invert the lined baking sheet on top of the colander, and invert the dough onto the sheet.
Quickly but gently set the sheet on the baking stone. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes onto the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450°F and continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes or until the bread is deep golden brown (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 205°F).

Halfway through baking, with a heavy pancake turner, lift the bread from the pan, remove the pan with the parchment on it and set it directly on the stone, turning it around for even baking. Remove the bread when done from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

               Rustic Whole Grain Italian-Style Pagnotta

Pagnotta is typically found throughout central Italy, a rustic peasant loaf with a hard, deep brown crust and a soft center. In northern Italy, this bread is made into small round rolls. These make ideal soup bowls. This bread can also be used to hold dips and spreads. The dough is oten used to make pizza crusts or focaccia. This is a three day process but the steps on the first two days are minimal.  

Starter Dough (BigaIngredients:

  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • generous 1/4 cup room temperature water plus an extra 2 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

Starter Dough Directions:

On the night before you are going to make bread, in a small bowl, mix the yeast in the warm water and leave covered on the kitchen counter.

The next morning stir together the yeasted water, room temperature water and bread flour in the electric mixer bowl with a spatula or wooden spoon; be sure all the flour is incorporated.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the Starter Dough rise in a cool room for 6 to 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Bread Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • all of Starter Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups room temperature water
  • scant 2 cups whole wheat (white whole wheat or regular whole wheat) flour
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Bread Dough Directions:

If the Starter Dough has been refrigerated, allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour before starting.

In a small bowl, mix the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and wait until it bubbles (about 10 minutes).

Add the yeast mixture and the room temperature water to the Starter Doughl and mix well  with the mixer paddle attachment. Add all the whole wheat flour and all but 1/2 cup of the bread flour to the mixer bowl.

Beat vigorously until there are no dry bits of flour left and you have created a rough dough. Cover with plastic and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and sprinkle the salt over the dough which will be rather slack. (It should look a bit like porridge.)

Knead the dough with the dough hook adding in the remaining flour a little at a time. The dough should be quite moist. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.

Place dough in a clean dry lightly floured mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise on the counter for 20 minutes. Lightly sprinkle a board with flour and gently turn the dough out, trying not to disturb any bubbles. 

Fold the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side, then the bottom. Turn the dough over and fold in half once more. Place it back in the bowl smooth side up. Cover with plastic. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes again. 

Repeat this step twice. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) After the final step, let the dough rise undisturbed on the counter until doubled – about 1 to 2 hours depending on the room temperature.

When dough has doubled, gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Flatten it gently (try not to disturb the bubbles); fold the outer edges to the middle. 

Repeat the folding 4 or 5 times until you have formed a tight round loaf. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet – or peel if you have one. Sprinkle flour liberally over the loaf. Cover with plastic and allow to rise for about 1 hour until almost doubled. 

To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. 

Half an hour before you will be baking the bread, place a baking stone on the second shelf from the bottom of the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Put water into a broiling pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

If you don’t have a baking stone, it’s still a good idea to preheat the oven for a substantial amount of time.  Just before baking, spray the top of the loaf with water.

Slide the bread onto the baking stone using the parchment paper to get the bread in place on the stone. You can also leave the bread on the baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the stone, but the bread will not be as crisp as baking directly on the stone.

Immediately turn the oven down to 450 degrees F; bake the loaf for 45-50 minutes until hollow sounding on the bottom. Turn off the oven and leave with the door ajar for 10 minutes.  Remove to cool on cooling rack.


Makeover Recipe for Italian Ricotta Cookies.

Italian Ricotta Cookies are a traditional cookie that can be made anytime of the year. Unlike biscotti, ricotta cookies are moist and more cakelike than a hard or crunchy biscuit. Ricotta cookies are made with butter, sugar, flour and eggs. These ingredients are blended together with flavorings such as vanilla, orange or lemon. Spoonfuls of the mixture are dropped onto cookie sheets for baking. They are glazed and can be decorated to fit any holiday season. I can recall these cookies were often on hand in my grandmother’s and my aunts’ houses. Immediately, they would greet you with, “have a cookie”, the minute you got there.

I chose this cookie recipe to show readers how a recipe can be made over into a healthy dessert.  It is a simple cookie to make, yet very delicious and appealing.  The key is in swapping out saturated fat, too much sugar and processed ingredients for more healthful choices. The substitutions I usually make for ingredients in most of my baking recipes include an alternative sugar, whole grain flour, less saturated fat and egg substitutes.  You will find these substitutions work just fine in this cookie recipe.

Smart Balance in place of butter; egg substitute in place of whole eggs; skim ricotta cheese

Light sugar (half regular sugar and half Stevia). Eagle all purpose flour (part white flour and part whole wheat flour).

A standard recipe for Italian Ricotta Cookies comes from Good Housekeeping Magazine and similar recipes can be found from Italian Food Forever and Giada De Laurentiis.

Ricotta-Cheese Cookies

From Good Housekeeping

The ricotta cheese in these Italian-style cookies keeps them moist, and the recipe yields a large batch, which is great since the baked cookies freeze so well.

Yields: about 6 dozen cookies
Total Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Oven Temp: 350

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • Glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat sugar and butter until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. At medium speed, beat in ricotta, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.
Reduce speed to low. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; beat until dough forms.
Drop dough by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto ungreased large cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes or until cookies are very lightly golden (cookies will be soft). With pancake turner, remove cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.
When cookies are cool, prepare icing: In small bowl, stir confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. With small metal spatula or knife, spread icing on cookies; sprinkle with sugar crystals. Set cookies aside to allow icing to dry completely, about 1 hour.

Here is my makeover version and it comes with a guarantee that this cookie tastes just like the original – just ask my husband!


Makeover Italian Ricotta Cookies

I think the lemon flavor adds to the cookies appeal but you can use vanilla or orange flavoring instead.

Makes 4-5 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar alternative ( that is half regular sugar and half Stevia, such as Domino Light)
  • 1/2 cup Smart Balance butter blend, softened
  • 15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
  • Juice from half a lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • ½ cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
  • 4 cups Eagle Ultra Grain brand all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Grated zest from half a lemon

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Juice from half a lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Grated zest from half a lemon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and Smart Balance with an electric mixer at low speed until blended. Raise speed to high and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Beat in the ricotta, juice from half the lemon ( 2 tablespoons), half of the lemon zest and the egg substitute at medium speed until well blended.

Reduce speed to low and mix in flour, baking powder, and salt until dough forms.

Beat ingredients until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Place a level tablespoon of dough, 2 inches apart, onto parchment lined cookie sheets, 12 to a sheet.

Drop by level tablespoon on parchment covered baking sheets.

Bake until a light golden color (they will be soft), about 15 minutes. Rotate baking sheets halfway through the baking time.

Cookies are done after 15 minutes.

With a spatula, transfer cookies to a cooling rack; repeat with remaining dough.

The top of the cookies will be light and the bottom will be brown.

While cookies are cooling, prepare the glaze.

Glaze

In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, lemon zest, water, lemon juice until smooth and thin.  Add a little more water if the glaze is too thick.

With a pastry brush spread glaze on the top of the cookies.

Use a pastry brush to spread the glaze.

Let cookies dry completely and make sure the glaze has hardened before storing.  If it is hot where you live, you may want to store these cookies in the refrigerator.


Pies have a reputation of being “bad for you”, a diet-killer, a guilty pleasure.  While this reputation is somewhat deserved, pie can actually be a healthful choice, no matter what your dietary restrictions.  But pie that’s GOOD for you can actually taste good.

General tips for making a health-conscious pie:

Use 1 crust, not 2.  The majority of fat and calories comes from the pie crust, so obviously recipes that call for a top crust are more fat- and calorie-laden.  Choose pies with no top crust, or substitute the top crust with a healthier alternative, such as a crumb topping.

Add fiber.  Substitute half of the flour in the pie crust with wheat flour.  You may have a chewier crust, but you’ll also have more fiber.  You may need to add more liquid to the recipe to compensate for the added bulk .  If you can find whole wheat pastry flour, use it.  Be aware that the wheat flour really browns when it cooks, so eyeballing when the crust is done gets really tricky, and even when the crust is perfect, it might be darker than you’re used to and look a little burnt.

Use less fat.  The flakiness of your crust is caused by layers of fat particles trapped between layers of flour particles.  As long as your fat is distributed well, you should be able to reduce the amount you use and replace it with a low-fat, low-calorie alternative, such as fat-free cream cheese.  You can also substitute any crust with an oil crust or a trans-free fat shortening.

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Use less sweetener.  In addition to substituting sugar for natural sweeteners suitable for baking, you can also just reduce the amount you use, especially in fruit pie fillings. Also, if the recipe calls for pudding mix, choose a sugar-free version.  Add an alternative “flavor enhancer” to bring out the sweetness and flavor already in the pie – orange or lemon zest heightens flavor; vanilla or nut extracts enhance “fattening” sweetness and flavors without adding fat,  or try adding cinnamon, allspice, cloves, or nutmeg.  In chocolate fillings, substituting strong black coffee for any liquids will bring out the chocolate flavors.

How To Thicken Fruit Pie:

When thickening a fruit pie filling, there are several options to consider. Very often flour or cornstarch is used, but in certain instances tapioca, arrowroot and potato starch can also help achieve the desired consistency.
Tapioca starch is preferable for products that will be frozen because it will not break down when thawed.  Tapioca is best in blueberry, cherry or peach pies.
Arrowroot, unlike cornstarch, is not broken down by the acid in the fruit you are using, so it is a good choice for fruit with a higher content of acidity such as strawberries or blackberries.
Potato starch is a great alternative because unlike other options, it does not break down, causing your pie to become watery again.
Although these options might result in a better end product, plain old flour also works just fine.

Here are some pie recipes matched with a healthy crust for you to try this summer.

Oil Pie Crust For A Crumb Topped Pie

This crust works very well for a blueberry crumb topped pie so make a double recipe of the oil pie crust.

This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust; to make a two-crust pie, double the recipe and remove 1 1/4 cups of the mixture; this will become your top crust. You can add cinnamon and sugar later.  After you fill the bottom crust, sprinkle the topping evenly over it. It will bake into a crispy, flavorful crumb crust as the pie bakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 ounces) water or milk
Directions:

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top. Fill and bake.

Blueberry Pie

 Pie Filling:

  • 2 pints blueberries (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  Topping:

  • Reserved 1 ¼ cup pie crust
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with foil.

In a bowl, stir the berries with the sugar, flour and lemon juice, lightly mashing a few berries and por into the prepared pie crust.

Add 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the 1 ¼ reserved pie crust.  Mix topping with fingertips to blend and form large crumbs. Sprinkle over the pie filling.

Place pie on prepared baking sheet and bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the bottom crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. If necessary, cover the edge with foil for the last few minutes of baking. Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

Quick And Easy Pie Crust

Makes enough dough for one, deep-dish, 10″ pie

Ingredients:

  • 1-½ cup unbleached all purpose flour, plus little extra for rolling the dough
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Spectrum Shortening or other tans-free shortening, pinch off small pieces and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water

Directions:

Fit your food processor with a metal blade.
Measure the flour and salt into the processor bowl. Process for 10 seconds to combine.
Scatter small bits of shortening into the processor bowl, evenly over the flour. Process for about 15 seconds, stopping once to scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula, until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

Measure your cold water into a cup.  While the processor is running, slowly pour 4 tablespoons of the cold water into the feed tube.  Process for about 30 seconds, or until the dough has formed an elongated ball on one side of the processor bowl. You’ll hear a banging sound as the dough forms into this elongated ball. 

Turn off the processor and feel the dough. It should be smooth and it should hold together completely. If it feels dry and is crumbly, you’ll need to turn on the processor and add another tablespoon or two of cold water and process until it holds together and feel smooth and not dry.

Usually, you won’t need to add additional water, but sometimes the protein in the flour is a bit higher than usual and it will require a little more water, or if it is a particularly dry day you might need a bit more water. The more you make pie dough, the more you’ll know the feel that is perfect for a good pie dough.

Remove the dough from the processor, and pat it into a thick disk, about 5″ round. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill and to let the dough rest – this makes it easier to roll out. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set it on the counter for a few minutes to make it easier to roll.

Sprinkle your counter top lightly with flour. Unwrap the dough, and place it in the center of the lightly floured counter top, then turn it over to coat with flour. Dust your rolling pin with flour, then use it to pat the dough into a round disk about 8″ in diameter. Roll the dough into a 14″ circle, rolling from the center out and using lighter pressure on the ends of the dough.

Drape the dough over the rolling pin to transport the dough over the top of a deep dish pie plate. Gently press the dough into the pie plate, using your fingertips, overlapping the dough over the edges of the pie plate, pressing lightly to patch any breaks in the dough. Fold the overlapping edge of pie dough up, evenly around the entire pie plate. Crimp it with your fingers or a fork.
Proceed with your favorite pie recipe.

If making a double crust, roll out the second crust as described above and fit over filling.  Crimp edges together to seal. You can also make a lattice top crust for the pie. See directions below.

This pie crust recipe works very well for a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Double the recipe for Quick and Easy Pie Crust

Filling:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca
  • 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen (not thawed) strawberries , (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 cup sliced fresh or frozen (not thawed) rhubarb
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with foil to catch any spills from the pie.
Follow directions above for rolling out the bottom crust.

For a Lattice Top Crust:
Roll the remaining dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet. Cut the dough into 1-inch strips using a pastry wheel or a knife.

lattice-pie-crust-2.jpg

Lift off every other strip and lay them on top of the pie, leaving about a 1-inch gap between strips. Use the shorter strips for the edges and the longer ones for the middle of the pie.

lattice-pie-crust-3.jpg

Fold back the first, third and fifth strips of dough to the edge of the pie. Place a shorter strip of dough across the second and fourth strips, about 1 inch from the edge.

lattice-pie-crust-4.jpg

Unfold the folded strips over the crosswise strip. Fold back the second and fourth strips over the first crosswise strip.

lattice-pie-crust-5.jpg

Place another strip crosswise, about 1 inch from the first. Unfold the strips over the second crosswise strip.

lattice-pie-crust-6.jpg

Continue folding back, alternating strips and placing crosswise strip, until the top is covered with woven strips.

lattice-pie-crust-7.jpg

lattice-pie-crust-12.jpg

Trim any overhanging crust. Crimp the outer edge with a fork.

lattice-pie-crust-13.jpg

lattice-pie-crust-14.jpg

Brush the dough with egg white; sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar (if using) over just the lattice top, not the outer edge.

Place pie on foil lined baking sheet and bake the pie for 20 minutes. Then rotate the pie 180 degrees and lower the oven temperature to 325°.  Continue baking until the crust is golden and the filling is beginning to bubble, 30 to 35 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

one 9-inch pie crust or 10-inch tart shell – double the ingredients for a two crust pie

Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoon trans-free vegetable shortening
Directions:
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the white and whole wheat flours and the salt. Add the shortening and with a pastry blender cut the fat into the flour. You can also quickly use your fingers to break up the shortening and form a coarse dough. Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until moist dough forms. You’ll use 5 to 6 tablespoons water.
  2. For a filled crust: Roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a floured piece of wax paper or a pastry cloth.  Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan.  Cut off the excess, leaving an inch to fold under. Crimp the edge with the tines of a fork.  Freeze for 10 minutes before baking.
  3. For a baked crust: Prepare the dough as for a filled crust. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork and bake in a 450ºF oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Peach-Raspberry Pie Recipe

Peach-Raspberry Pie

Ingredients:
Double Recipe Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Filling:

  • 6 cups sliced peeled peaches, (6-8 medium, ripe but firm
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing

Directions:

Divide the dough in half and shape into 5-inch-wide disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare filling:

Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes.

To assemble pie:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator; let stand for 5 minutes to warm slightly. Roll one portion between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into a 9-inch pie pan.  Peel off the remaining paper. Fit the crust to the pie pan with your fingers. Pour the filling into the crust.

Roll the remaining portion of dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into another 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet of paper and invert the dough onto the fruit. Trim the top crust so it overhangs evenly. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a plump edge.  Flute the edge with your fingers.

Brush the top with egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.
Place pie on prepared baking sheet and bake the pie on the center rack until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours.


I remember very well my grandmother and my mother standing at their kitchen tables, first forming the pasta dough on a board with their hands and then rolling the dough with a long broom handle.
At the time, I thought this was too much work for pasta. After I was married, mixers and processors and pasta machines became very popular, so I was then willing to try my hand at this age-old tradition.

With modern equipment, making homemade noodles is not difficult and I have shortened the process as much as I can without losing taste or quality. Certainly this is not something you would do everyday, but it is fun to make your own pasta once in a while.

When you want something special for dinner, homemade lasagna is a really good choice and making your own lasagna noodles will take it a step further.

Lasagna made with homemade whole wheat spinach noodles tastes so much better than using the dried variety. Whole Wheat pasta made from scratch tastes entirely different from anything you can buy.

If you normally do not like store-bought whole wheat pasta, this recipe may change your mind. Homemade lasagna noodles do not need to be boiled before assembling the lasagna, thus another step is eliminated.

Homemade Spinach Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles

Makes 16 lasagna noodles

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup King Arthur semolina flour
  • 1 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour
  • flour for board and rolling

Directions:

Place spinach, eggs, olive oil and salt in processor bowl. Cover and blend until pureed.

Add flours to spinach mixture and process until smooth and the dough forms a ball.

Place on a floured board, cover and let rest 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, divide into 4 even pieces.

Set aside and cover 3 pieces while you work with the 4th. piece

Lightly dredge the working space and dough with whole wheat flour.

Flatten the dough with your hand so it will  feed through the smooth thinning rollers.

Roll the piece of dough through the largest setting on your machine.

Remove the dough, fold in thirds, so it is as wide as the machine roller.

Repeat the roll.

Cut the sheet in half.

Dial the machine down to the next smallest setting and roll each pasta strip through.

Continue to dial to the next setting.

Cut each strip in half again. Roll each strip making sure to dust with flour if the strips become sticky.

Dial to the 2nd to the last smallest setting and roll each strip.  You should have four strips each about 12-13 inches long and 3 inches wide.

Do not use the last setting because it will make the noodles too thin for lasagna.

Lay out three kitchen towels and sprinkle them with semolina flour.

Arrange the rolled out pasta strips on the towels and dust each with semolina flour.

Repeat the entire process with the other three pieces of  dough. You will have 16 strips.

If you are not ready to make the lasagna or you want to make the noodles the day before, you can place them in a container between sheets of waxed paper dusted with semolina flour, 2 noodle strips per layer, and refrigerate the container until you are ready to assemble the dish.

When it comes time to make the lasagna, you will place 4 pasta strips in a 13×9 inch baking dish and add  three more layers of 4 noodles in between layers of sauce and cheese.

Putting the Lasagna Together

Ingredients:

Filling:

Mix together all the ingredients, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to make the lasagna.

  • 3 cups skim milk ricotta
  • ½ lb mozzarella cheese chopped or shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 2 large eggs, beaten or ½ cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with olive oil spray.
Spread 1 cup Bolognese sauce over bottom of prepared dish. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles in dish. Arrange 1/3 of the cheese filling on top.  Spoon 1 cup Bolognese sauce over cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times. Top with 4 lasagna noodles. Spread 1 to 1 1/2 cups sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover lasagna with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until noodles are tender and top is golden, about 15 -20 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Lasagna Ready To Be Baked.

If you would like to make whole wheat lasagna noodles without spinach, here is a recipe you can use:

Homemade Whole Wheat Lasagna  Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur semolina flour
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Follow the directions above for making spinach whole wheat lasagna noodles.

Although no one really knows when the first bread was baked, bread has been around for thousands of years, as evidenced by the stone tools and ovens found in archaeological sites of men long ago. In ancient Rome, for instance, bakers were highly regarded. Baking was not only important, but also a ritual. Ovens were even built in temples. Romans were the first bakers to produce the flour to bake what is known today as “white bread”.  Romans were also responsible for tweaking the wheat’s milling techniques. Around 100 BC, it is believed that Rome contained more than 200 commercial shops that baked and sold bread. They also established a school of baking around 100 AD.

The roots of bread in Italy go far back in time. The average Italian will consume half a pound of bread a day. All Italian bread is not the same, however. This is a common misconception – that Italian bread is only one type of bread. If you travel to various cities in Italy, you’ll discover that each area has its own distinct recipe for making bread.  The vast popularity of brick ovens throughout the years has contributed a great deal to the abundance of bread in Italy. Round ovens built from brick or local stone have been around in Italy for a very long time. Unlike other nations, where individuals rarely owned full rights to use an oven, ovens in Italy were typically owned by families and were smaller in size.

Italians have high standards for their bread. They are known to allow the yeast to fully rise over the course of several hours, leaving a thin crust. Italians value the size of their loaves of bread and prefer their bread to have a soft and moist interior, which is ideal for absorbing olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, and other select toppings.

When I think of Italian bread, ciabatta comes to mind immediately, with its hard crust and soft interior filled with holes. It is not difficult to make, but you need to follow all the steps in the process to achieve that well know result. It is a two day baking process (but not all day) to the completion of the bread. Ciabatta, or “slipper bread” can be found throughout Italy. One way to create the best texture is to use a biga, or starter, made the day before, a long rising time, and maintaining a loose, moist dough through the mixing and shaping process. This is the secret to good, crusty bread filled with holes.
According to Peter Reinhart, (a baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University and author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice),  “This bread hails from an age-old tradition of rustic, slack dough breads, however, the name ciabatta was not applied to the loaf until the mid-twentieth century by an enterprising baker in the Lake Como region of northern Italy. He observed that the bread resembled a slipper worn by dancers of the region and thus dubbed his loaf ciabatta di Como (slipper bread of the Como).”

Ciabatta

For Sponge (Biga)

  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons water (105-115 F)
  • 1/3 cup room-temp water
  • 1 cup King Arthur bread flour

For Bread

  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk (105-115 F)
  • 2/3 cup room-temp water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups King Arthur bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

Make sponge: Stir together, 2 tablespoons warm water and yeast.

Let stand 5 minutes, until creamy.

Add room temperature water and flour. Stir for 4 minutes.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.

Make bread:

Stir together yeast and milk in small bowl and let stand 5 minutes, until creamy.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer, with dough hook, blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil and flour at low speed until flour is moistened.

Because this dough is so soft, it’s virtually impossible to knead it by hand, so you will need an electric mixer to knead the dough.

Beat on medium for 3 minutes. Add salt and beat for 4 more minutes.

The dough will be VERY sticky and full of bubbles. Scrape dough into oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, until doubled- about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Lightly grease a half-sheet baking pan (18″ x 13″) or similar large baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse cornmeal to prevent sticking.
Grease your hands, as well.

Very gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface; you don’t want to deflate it. It’ll lose a bit of volume, but don’t actively punch it down. Use a well-floured surface and a bowl scraper, bench knife, or your fingers to divide the dough in half. You should have two fat logs, each about 10″ long x 4″ wide.

Handling the dough gently, transfer each piece to the baking sheet, laying them down crosswise on the sheet. Position them about 2 1/2″ from the edge of the pan, leaving about 4″ between each log.

Dip your fingers in flour and dimple loaves and dust tops with flour.

Lightly cover the dough with heavily oiled plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until almost doubled.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

You’ll see that the dimples have filled in somewhat, but haven’t entirely disappeared. Spritz the risen loaves with lukewarm water and put the pan in the oven on a center rack. Before you close the oven door, spray water on the hot oven floor to make a nice crust on the bread. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For extra-crispy loaves: 

  • When they’re done baking, turn off the oven. Remove the loaves from the baking sheet, and place them on the oven rack, propping the oven door open a couple of inches with a folded-over potholder. Allow the loaves to cool completely in the oven. Remove to cooling racks.



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