Makes 1 loaf
You don't have to be an expert to make good bread at home; you don't even need to have a lot of time on your hands. This modest dough, which can be used for pizza and bread sticks as well as for a loaf is simple and forgiving; I make it when I crave the sensual rhythm of kneading as a relief from a hectic schedule. Think of it as BLT bread with the bacon on the inside; the first time I made it, I sliced it while it was still warm, spread it with mayonnaise, and topped it with fresh summer tomatoes, coarse salt, and black pepper. Nothing could be better.
2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup warm water
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns
1 tablespoon crushed white peppercorns
1 tablespoon crushed green peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
In a large bowl, combine the yeast and warm water and set aside for 10 minutes. Using a whisk, stir in 1 cup water; 1 cup of the flour, all but one teaspoon each of the peppercorns, the salt, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Switch to a heavy wooden spoon and add as much of the remaining tour, about half a cup at a time, as the dough will take. Turn the dough (it will be sticky) onto a floured surface and knead it gently until it is smooth and velvety, about 7 or 8 minutes. Wash and dry the mixing bowl, rub it with olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 2-1/2 hours.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan, add the pancetta, and fry until it is almost but not quite crisp. Add the garlic, sauté for 1 minute more, and remove from the heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining 3 teaspoons of crushed peppercorns.
Shape the dough into a rectangle and spread the pancetta mixture over the entire surface of the dough. Roll the dough into a log and tuck the ends under. Sprinkle a pizza paddle or the bottom of a baking sheet with cornmeal and let the loaf rise, lightly covered, until it has doubled in size (1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room).
About 30 or even 45 minutes before you plan to bake the loaf, place a baking tile or stone in the oven and preheat it at 400 degrees F. Just before baking, scatter cornmeal over the surface of the stone and then carefully place the loaf on top of the stone. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. And bake for between 35 and 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove the loaf from the oven and cool it on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
To make bread sticks, let the dough rest after its first rise. Preheat the oven and two baking tiles to 375 degrees F. Cut the dough in half, then cut each half in half again, and continue until you have 18 equal pieces of dough. Lightly flour your hands and roll each piece between your palms until it forms a rope about 8 to 10 inches long. Set each rope on a toured surface. Mix an egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush each bread stick with the mixture. Sprinkle each bread stick lightly with coarse salt (such as Celtic gray sea salt or Hawaiian red salt; it using kosher, be sure not to oversalt), set on baking tiles sprinkled with cornmeal, and bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack and use within a day or two.
Salt & Pepper
135 Perfectly Seasoned Recipes
By Michele Anna Jordan
Hardback, $25.00, April 1999
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created July 1999
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