Italian cuisine is exceptionally popular all over the world. The ingredients and dishes vary from region to region. Bread is an integral part of this cuisine, playing different roles regionally, as well as on a national level with many variations.
Classic Italian bread is called ciabatta. It has a distinct structure - the insides are widely porous, caused by the multiple rising of the dough. Besides buying it from the store, this incredibly delicious bread can be made at home. Here's how:
Preparation: First prepare the batch (a small portion of runny dough that rises separately). Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and stir, while pouring in the water a little by little. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise for a few hours or overnight.
To the batch, add the rest of the flour, powdered dry milk, olive oil, salt, sugar and yeast. Stir everything thoroughly, slowly pouring in the water. Cover the resulting soft dough and leave it in a warm area for 2 hours. The dough must triple in volume.
Place the dough atop oiled baking paper. With floured hands, shape 2 long pieces. Let them rise again for about 45 min. in a warm place. Toast the ciabatta in a preheated 428°F (220 °C) oven for 20 to 25 min, until they get a golden crust. You will know they are ready when after tapping the crust with a finger you hear a sound as if they are hollow inside.
Remove the ready ciabatta from the oven and let them cool on a grid.
Italians are huge fans of bread makers. They can be seen in almost every home. And so, they have their own special recipe for bread in a bread maker.
Bread for a bread maker
Ingredients: 1 4/5 cups white flour, 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup water.
Preparation: Place the flour, water, salt, olive oil and dry yeast in the tray in the bread maker. Set it for white bread and once done, take the bread out and leave it on a cooking grid to cool for half an hour.
The resulting bread is characterized by its numerous pores and lightness, sort of like a panettone.
Another exceptionally unique bread comes from the Apulia region of Southern Italy.
Apulia bread with vinegar
Preparation: Combine both types of flour. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and let it bubble for about 10 min. Add the effervescent yeast to the flour and mix well. Pour in 3 1/3 tbsp of water with the salt dissolved in it.
Then pour in 2/3 cup water + 2 tbsp vinegar. Knead an elastic dough. Cover and let it sit for 25 to 30 min. Knead the dough again and form a round pita, then cover once more. Leave it for 35 min.
In the meantime, turn up the oven to the max with the tray in which you intend to bake the bread inside. Place the dough in the heated tray and bake on the middle element, decreasing the temperature to 428°F (220 °C) for about 45 to 60 min. The resulting Apulia bread should have a thick golden crust.