This amazing bread tastes just like the bread at a popular Italian restaurant. It has a deliciously salty crust with a soft, rosemary flavored interior. It freezes well, so you can store extra slices in the freezer – if it lasts that long!
1 cup warm water (115 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
In a large bowl, mix together the warm water and yeast. Let stand several minutes, until a foam forms, indicating that the yeast is alive.
Add 1 cup of the bread flour to the yeast mixture, and mix for about 2 minutes with a hand mixer on medium-low speed. You can use a whisk instead, if you prefer. This will beat air into the dough. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes to 2 hours. This allows the mixture to ferment a bit and improves both the taste and texture of the bread.
Add the olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, rosemary, and remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour, and mix well with a large wooden spoon until the ingredients are well incorporated.
Place the dough on a clean countertop and knead for about 12-20 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and elastic. This recipe uses “wet” dough, which means that it will be very sticky and difficult to knead in the traditional method. I found the French method of kneading, which you can see demonstrated on this video, works well. Expect the dough to stick to your hands at first, but if it is really unmanageable, add a little bit of flour to make the dough easier to work with. This kneading method takes time, but the results are worth it!
After kneading, place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough in oil. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. In the winter, I usually let my dough rise in a closed oven with the oven light turned on.
Punch down the dough and dump it out onto the counter. Shape it into a round (boule) by tucking the edges of the dough under in a cupping motion, to form a tight ball shape. Turn the ball upside down and pinch the bottom of the dough together to help maintain the round shape. Sprinkle a baking stone with cornmeal and place the dough on the baking stone to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. If you don’t have a baking stone, place the dough on a lightly greased baking pan instead.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the dough is fully risen, bake it for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Remove the bread from the oven, lightly brush it with olive oil and then sprinkle it will coarse sea salt. Let the bread cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Serve the bread with olive oil for dipping, or as a tasty accompaniment to your dinner.