The olive oil and sponge method create a chewy crust and complex flavor that makes this white dough uniquely Italian.
INGREDIENTS | YIELDS 2 LOAVES
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup warm milk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3–4 cups bread flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
Combine water, sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand 5 minutes. Add all-purpose flour and beat 1 minute. Cover and let stand at room temperature 8–12 hours.
Add to the sponge milk, oil, salt, and enough bread flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead 8–10 minutes. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Return to bowl, dust with flour, cover with plastic, and rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and dust with cornmeal. Turn dough onto a floured surface and divide into 2 equal portions. Roll each piece into a football shape, no longer than the width of the baking sheet. Taper the ends slightly. Place loaves on the pan, dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and rise another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using a serrated knife, score ¼″-deep angled cuts into the top of each loaf. Place a pan of cold water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake until golden brown and firm, about 20–30 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool completely before slicing.
Bread Shapes of Italy
Italy encompasses many regions, and each has its own specialty breads. Often, the name of the dough is reflective of its shape. The same dough recipe can be formed into a number of different shapes, including rolls (panini), flatbreads (focaccia, fougasse, or ciabatta), breadsticks (grissino), or crackers (salatini).