Pane del Nonno (Grandpa's Italian Bread)
It was part of Nonno's ritual to bring the bread to Sunday lunch. Bakeries on Sunday were always open. Lines were around the block, after church, on Sunday morning. Not much was available as far as Italian bread was concerne.d in the local supermarkets in the 1970's, even in New York. Local bread bakeries began expanding their territories and delivering to the local markets (outside of Manhattan), in the early 1980's as many began to move out of the city. Not ever locality was included as there was only so much supply to go around. Most bakeries would run out early on Sunday morning, having sold their supply. We had almost nothing in Scarsdale, New York, except the local bakery, which happened to be French. Not acceptable, as they did not carry the Panella bread that we were accustomed to having on the table. My grandparents lived for years on 116th street and 1st avenue in Manhattan, where Italian bakeries in the 1970's were plentiful. My grandfather would arrive so proudly, carrying his bread bag, as if he himself had baked it. We would never have a bread plate at the family table, but a lovely Sunday tablecloth, cleaned and pressed for the weekly event. My grandfather would strategically place the sliced bread at the table with such elegance and grace you didn't dare touch it before lunch. I must confess, that when he wasn't looking, I would get myself a piece and run out of the kitchen!
I learned to make this recently quite by accident. I came across several recipes on the subject and this sounded so interesting, I just had to experiment some and try it. I had not come across any good bread livng here in the Deep South. For anyone who is craving that long lost Italian bread, and who doesn't have the luxury of living next door to an Italian bakery today, its worth a try. I must admit, living in Tupelo, Mississippi has made me just a little more daring. This will transport you back in time.
You will need one food processor for combining your ingredients. It can be combined by hand. It does not require as much work as you might think. Fit your food processor with a dough hook.
One Dutch oven with lid, knob removed.
3 cups of good quality unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus approx. 1/2 warm water (warm to touch)
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of Cornmeal
Cooking time: One hour
I have tested many bread recipes. This by far gives the best result. It is rather important that you use a heavy cast iron pot to achieve the best result. i like to use the food processor method for combining ingredients. It can be done by hand~ This is my favorite as it can be prepared in such a short time and then left to rise in a warm corner of the kitchen while one is out for the day~ While one is preparing dinner it can be placed in the oven and be ready in one hour~
Combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in bottom of food processor bowl and pulse to combine. Bubbles will form.. Let stand 5 minutes.
Add another 1/2 cup water, salt, flour and begin mixing. add your remaining water. Add your flour and Mix. You will see that within 30 seconds your flour will begin to come away from the sides of your mixing bowl and sticky ball will form. If it still looks dry, add your remaining water a drop at a time. If you are unsure, remove the lid and press the dough.. it should be somewhat sticky. It should look rather elastic. Do not worry if a complete ball is not formed. Place flour on your hands and remove from bowl onto a floured surface. Fold over 2 to 3 times into a ball. You should see a sticky and smooth consistency. Do not worry if its sticky.
Place in a bowl large enough for the dough to double in size~On a paper towel add some olive oil and brush or gently rub your bowl with it. Place your dough in the bowl. Brush the remaining oil over your bread dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and towel.
Place in a dark, warm place like inside a kitchen cabinet. Let rise for 8-12 hours. .The longer the better. Overnight is good.
Take you covered pot and place in oven at 450 degrees and bake. You need to warm up the pot you will be placing your bread in. The lid causes the air to trap and expand your bread while cooking. If you want the crispy, bakery texture, this will work~
8 hours later uncover, you should see it double in bulk. Do not worry about the bubbles This indicates your yeast is active and doing it's job. Roll out onto a floured surface. Fold over into a ball again (Should take a few seconds to do). Let rest on Counter. Pat down into a flatter
circle about 8 inches round. Cover with a towel.
Be careful and remove your hot pan from oven.
Remove the lid. Be careful as it is very hot. Sprinkle one teaspoons of Cornmeal in your pan. Carefully drop your bread in pan. Do not worry if it looks like your pan is much bigger than your bread dough. It should almost fill the bottom of your dutch oven but only be several inches in height now. Your bread will expand.
Sprinkle teaspoon of Cornmeal all over your bread. Place lid back on pan and place in oven. Make sure your lid is tight fitting as you do not want the air to escape~
30 minutes with lid on.
Remove lid. You will see your bread has risen some and is light golden. Let cook approx 30 more minutes without the lid. You will see the bread turn golden brown.
Remove from Oven. Carefully remove the bread. Let cool. Use your fist to Knock on top of the bread. It should sound hollow almost. You will also hear the bread cracking as it cools down~ A very good indication of Success ~
Enjoy and Buon Appetito~