Bread Dough

Pane Comune

For this recipe you will need to use the freshest possible yeast for the best results. I promise you, you will never have tasted home-made bread so good!

Ingredients

  • oz (30 g) fresh yeast
  • lb (1.2 kg) strong white bread flour plus extra for dusting
  • ¼ oz (10 g) coarse sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for brushing

Method

Put the yeast in the bottom of a deep bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, blend the yeast with about 3 fl oz (85 ml) warm water. Add 4 oz (100 g) flour and knead all this together on a work-surface.

Place 1 lb (450 g) flour in the bowl, place the kneaded ball of dough on top of the flour, then cover with the remaining 1 lb (450 g) flour. Cover the bowl with a clean white teacloth, then cover it with a woollen blanket or old sweater. Put it in a warm, draught-free place and let it rise overnight.

The following day, boil 18 fl oz (500 ml) water with the salt for about 6 minutes, then allow it to cool. Take out the bowl. You will see that the rising dough has created a crater in the flour. Tip the flour out of the bowl on to the work-surface, then blend the risen dough with the flour, working gradually and adding some of the warm, salted water to blend it as you work. You should end up with a light, elastic dough which doesn’t stick to your hands or the work-surface. Put it back into the bowl, cover it again and return it to a warm place. Let it rise for about 3 hours, then take it out again and work 3 tablespoons oil into the dough.

Flour several baking sheets, shape the dough to the desired roll shapes and arrange them on the sheets, making sure they are set well apart. Cover with a tablecloth and put them somewhere warm to rise for the last time, for 2 hours. (It would be preferable if they could be put somewhere damp. I usually put them on top of an unlit stove, with a metal basin of water in the oven on low and the oven door left open.)

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C). Brush the rolls with a little olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes. They will be better still if you leave a roasting tin full of water in the bottom of the oven as they bake.

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