I've been searching for a good French/Italian loaf recipe for a long time… Unsuccessfully, until now. Surprisingly, the perfect recipe was right under my nose, in a Turkish cookbook my hubby brought home for me nearly a year ago (Classic Turkish Cooking).
The recipe is actually for what the Turks make as their “daily bread.” My hubby has been asking me to make it for a while, since he lived in Turkey for several years growing up and got this bread all the time (and loved it). It's not very hard to make as long as you time the rise cycles right, and tastes amazing. Perfect crisp crust; soft, spongy interior… It's like heaven.
I was hesitant at first to try it, because several of the measurements were in weight instead of volume (like I'm used to), but after acquiring a kitchen scale and figuring it out, it's actually not hard at all. I'll include both measurements below, though, for those that don't want to get extra equipment out. ;)
In a small bowl, cream together the following:
1/4 oz (2-1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
4 oz (1/2 cup) lukewarm water (100-110°F)
In a large bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer, if you have one), whisk together:
1 lb (about 3-2/3 cups) “strong white flour”–all-purpose works fine
1 tsp salt
When your yeast mixture starts to look frothy (see pic), add it and 6 oz (3/4 cup) cold water to the flour, and knead until it comes together in a smooth, elastic dough.
Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil (give or take a little) on the dough, and roll it around in the bowl until it's coated. Then cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave it to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will probably take an hour to two hours. Just check on it every so often till it looks about twice its original size.
Now, you can shape the loaf or loaves however you'd like–one big rounded loaf, two elongated loaves, circles, several small rolls… And let rise till doubled (again, under cling wrap). Preheat oven to 425ºF about halfway through this rise.
Then glaze it with egg yolk or milk, sprinkle with sesame, poppy or Turkish nigella seeds, or just leave it plain. My personal choice this time was oblongs brushed with milk and sprinkled with nigella seeds.
Bake until golden. You'll probably want to turn them halfway through so they bake evenly, and if you're not using an Italian loaf pan like the one I'm using here, you can also flip the loaf completely upside down about five minutes from the end of baking to crisp the bottom.
Let cool a little on a rack, then serve warm or cold, but make sure you eat within a day or it will be rock hard… Hence the term, “daily bread.” ;)