The challenge begins, 30 days of dough! Let’s start with a little background, many moons ago, I used to work at a bread bakery. It happened to be one of my favorite jobs, I loved the people I worked with, I loved the atmosphere, I loved getting down and dirty with bread and other baked goods. After I left the bread store, I moved away from baking and moved to hone my skills in cooking. So here I have over 10 years later, making some pretty awesome dishes and I hear my Nona and Aunt Milly’s voices in my head saying “now when you get to the store make sure you get a good loaf of bread.” Italian standards for a good loaf means you squeeze all the loafs until you find a good crusty bread. So here I am, finding myself squeezing all the bread to find that all the breads in the grocery bakery are basically the same squishy breads, just in different shapes and different names, so the challenge to get me back into baking begins! I have a list of 30 doughs that I want to dive into.
This first one combines my love of cooking and baking because I get to continue building my love for my cast iron pan with a “skillet bread”. I got it about a year ago and it has really made a difference in cooking, especially steaks! That sear and crust you get is like no other so how can we go wrong with bread? I know with some breads, it can take days to make, this one only took about 2 hours, start to finish, only about 5 minutes of actual working time. I based my recipe off of Baker Bettie’s blog and made a couple changes to it.
It starts pretty basic, combine 2 1/4 tsp. of active yeast and 2 cups of luke-warm water. If you don’t buy your yeast in bulk, you can use 1 packet. I recommend buying it in “bulk” because once you realize how easy and delicious fresh baked bread can be, you will be making it all the time. Don’t be frightened, buying in bulk doesn’t mean a 5lb bag of it, it is a small jar that doesn’t expire for about a year of two. My opinion is that if you make bread at least a couple times a year, you get your money’s worth! Getting off my soapbox, let’s get back to the bread. Add 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1/2 TBSP. of salt and give it a good stir until its all mixed together, it will have some lumps, that is okay. Continue to gradually add in 3 cups of flour, until combined. The dough will look shaggy and after a couple cups of flour, you will need to get in there with your hands! (Have some fun and get dirty with the kids! TIP: Cover your hands with flour before getting in there, it will help to keep the dough from sticking from your hands.)
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set it aside for an hour to rise a bit. Before the hour is up, turn your oven onto bake at 200 degrees and let it warm up. Once it hits 200, keep the door closed and turn off the oven. You don’t want the oven hot but you do want a toasty warm bed for your bread for the next nap. After the hour of rising, put some about a tablespoon of olive oil in your cast iron skillet and spread it around the bottom. (You can use 10 or 12 inch skillets but don’t try to use the smaller 6 inch ones.) Cover your hands in flour once again and pull the dough out of the bowl and fold it over a few times. You really don’t need to knead it but I give it a dozen good folds to get an elastic “skin” on it and to shape it into an oval. (Here is a good video on how to knead dough if you want to give it a try.) Place the dough into the oiled cast iron skillet, cover it with a kitchen towel and place it in the warm oven for another 30 minutes. (Before and after 30 minutes)
After pulling the rising bread out, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, put about half a tablespoon of olive oil on the top of the bread and using a sharp knife, make an X on the top and sprinkle Italian seasoning on top. Bake for an additional 35-40 minutes, until the top is crispy golden brown.
End result? I love the crust on this bread although next time I would make even more changes. This bread is a little more dense than others I have made and it seemed to lack flavor. Next time I would add a bit more salt or add seasoning to the dough for a little more. Or I might make these into rolls so that I get more of the crusty love and less of the denser inside. Overall I would give this one a 8/10!
For a crusty bread in about 2.5 hours time (only about 10 minutes of actual working time), this loaf feeds about 8-10 people.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons Dry Active Yeast
- 1 Tbsp Salt Divided
- 2 Cups Water Luke Warm
- 4 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil Divided
- 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
In a large bowl, combine yeast, salt and water. Add flour, 1 cup at a time until dough forms. It will look shaggy, that is okay. Cover with plastic wrap, allow to rest for 1 hour.
Pre-heat oven to 200 Degrees F, turn off and keep the door closed. Pull bread out of bowl with floured hands and knead dough about a dozen times until an elastic skin forms and shape into a dome. Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to skillet and spread evenly. Place dough in skillet, cover with a kitchen towel and place in warm oven for another 30 minutes.
Pull bread out of oven, pre-heat oven to 400 Degrees F. While oven is heating, spread remaining Tbsp of olive oil on dough, make an x on the top of dome and sprinkle Italian Seasoning on dough.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until dough has a golden brown crust, remove from pan and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. If you cut into it right away, it will squish.