Stuff this homemade Italian bread with cured meats and cheeses, or simply dip it in olive oil.
- Yield: Makes 2 loaves
Photography: ANNA WILLIAMS
Source: Martha Stewart Living, January
For the Starter
- 6 ounces King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 4 ounces cool water (75 degrees to 78 degrees; 1/2 cup)
For the Dough
- 8 ounces King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons), plus more for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 6 ounces cool water (75 degrees to 78 degrees; 3/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Vegetable-oil cooking spray
Make the starter: Using your hands, combine flour, yeast, and water in a bowl. Gently work to form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature until it has risen slightly and is bubbling, 12 to 15 hours.
Make the dough: Whisk together flour and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and starter, and stir with a rubber spatula until mixture comes together in a slightly sticky, loosely formed ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
Gently turn dough onto an unfloured work surface. Sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with oil. To incorporate oil into bread, use the heel of one hand to stretch half of the dough away from you at the same time your other hand is stretching the other half toward you. Fold in half, and repeat until oil has been completely incorporated (dough will no longer have a sheen to it and there should be no oil on work surface).
To knead: Gather dough, lifting it above work surface. Hold one end of dough close to you while you cast the other end in front of you, onto the surface. Pull the end of dough in your hands toward you, stretching it gently, then fold the dough in half on top of itself. Repeat: Lift, cast, stretch, and fold. Knead the dough until it is smooth, supple, and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a dough scraper to clean the surface as needed, adding the scraps to the dough. (Dough will be very sticky, but avoid adding more flour until the end, when it may be necessary to add a very small amount. Add the flour to your fingers, not the dough.) Form into a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise at cool room temperature for 45 minutes.
Gently turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. (Do not punch dough to deflate.) Fold into thirds, as you would a business letter. Then fold it in half crosswise. Return to bowl, cover, and let rise at cool room temperature until it has almost doubled, at least 75 minutes.
Gently turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough scraper or a knife, divide dough into 2 equal portions. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, spread each portion of dough into a rectangle that's roughly 6 by 4 inches. (Be careful not to deflate bubbles.) Fold dough into thirds again, as you would a business letter, pressing seams with lightly floured fingers. Place dough, seam side down, on a generously floured linen towel or a baking sheet lined with floured parchment. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature until it has almost doubled and a floured finger pressed into side leaves a slight indentation, 40 to 50 minutes.
Place a skillet on oven rack adjusted to lowest position and a baking stone on middle oven rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If using a linen towel, gently transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Just before baking, stretch each portion into a 10-by-4-inch rectangle. Immediately dimple entire surface with lightly floured fingers. Pour 1/2 cup hot water into skillet in oven. Slide bread and parchment onto baking stone.
Immediately reduce oven to 450 degrees. Bake, rotating once, until bread is golden brown, sounds hollow when bottom is thumped, and interior registers 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Bread is best the day you make it.