bread-platter

There is nothing quite so good as a fresh, crusty loaf of bread. If you do not have a great bakery down the street, as I do not, then making your own bread is what I do. Homemade bread is always a hit when I entertain, so I make loaves of bread in advance, wrap them tightly in heavy-duty foil and freeze them for when I will be entertaining. This method works for me and allows me to have the bread available for an antipasto or a first course without having to do this preparation last-minute when there are other foods to prepare. Simply place the frozen bread on the kitchen counter overnight in its wrapping. Just before serving time, heat the oven to 375°F, remove the wrapping and place the bread directly on the oven rack. Immediately spritz water on the bread and the oven walls and heat for 5-10 minutes for a crispy, crusty loaf of bread. Slice and serve.

cloche

longbakerI also like to bake bread in a clay cloche pan because the results are so professional. The cloche mimics a brick oven and turns out loaves of bread with a tender and moist interior and a crispy golden crust. The unglazed clay absorbs heat to ensure even baking on all sides, while the porous surface absorbs moisture to create a crispy crust.

Here are some of my favorite appetizer breads.

Rosemary Olive Sourdough Bread

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
  • 1 cup chopped Kalamata olives or dry cured Italian olives

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients, mixing and kneading to form a smooth dough in an electric mixer.

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Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl and allow it to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

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Shape the dough into a round loaf in a floured board. Place the loaf on the bottom part of a cloche pan. Put the cover on and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

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Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F to 200°F. Remove the bread from the oven and carefully turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Semolina Cheese Bread

semolina

Semolina is the hard grain left after milling the flour and it is used in making puddings, pasta and bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Provolone cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese

Directions

Combine everything but the three cheeses and beat on medium speed of an electric mixer to make a soft, smooth dough.

Add the three cheeses and mix until well combined.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 2 hours, until very puffy.

Shape the dough into a round or oval loaf. Place the loaf on the bottom part of a round or long loaf cloche pan. Put the cover on and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

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

Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F to 200°F.

Remove the bread from the oven and carefully turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Garlic And Herb Wheat Bread

garlicbread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

In a large electric mixer bowl add the water, yeast, salt and honey and mix well. Then add the oil, herbs and garlic.

Add half of the whole wheat and half of the all-purpose flour to the yeast mixture. Mix by hand or with the electric mixer’s paddle attachment. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until all of it is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Continue kneading until the dough is no longer sticky; this should take about 7 to 8 minutes. The dough should be a little tacky but not sticky.

Divide the dough in half and form into two free-form oval loaves or place them in two oiled 9″ X 5″ X 3″ loaf pans . Let rise until double in size, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the loaves in the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of each loaf and, if it comes out clean, the bread is ready. Remove the pans from the oven, take the bread out of the pans and place on a rack to cool before slicing.

Cut the bread into ½ inch thick slices and cut in half again to serve on the antipasto tray.

This bread will keep 3 to 4 days in an air-tight container and it freezes well for 2 months.

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