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easy italian bread

Everyone should have in their repertoire one good bread recipe. Fresh bread has a kind of magic to it - it sells houses, impresses friends, and tastes amazing.

30 g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast
225 ml lukewarm water
450g strong flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

You can customise this recipe by adding two tablespoons of dried or fresh herbs (rosemary is particularly good), cheese or diced sun dried tomatoes.

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.

Sift the flour and the salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add any extra flavourings and then add the olive oil and yeast mixture.

Mix with a spoon and when the dough is beginning to form lumps, switch to using your hands. You can leave the dough in the bowl or work with it on a clean work surface.
Work the dough and knead it for around eight minutes, punching and folding it until it is soft and elastic.

Place the dough in large, clean bowl and cover it with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave it in a warm place to rise for about an hour - put the bowl near the boiler or balance it on top of a radiator.

After an hour, check the dough - it should have roughly doubled in size.  If it hasn't, leave it a bit longer until it has - letting the dough develop at this stage is key.  Knock it back and kneed it lightly - then shape it. You can pull off chunks and roll them into little bread cakes, or leave the dough whole and shape it as a rough loaf.

Put the shaped dough onto a greased baking sheet and cover it in greased cling film. Put it in a warm place for around fifteen minutes, and turn the oven on. After fifteen minutes, the dough should be about one and a half times its original size (again, leave the dough a bit longer if it needs it).

Bake the bread at 230c / 450f / gas mark 5 for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190c / 375 f / gas mark 5 and leave it for another 40 minutes.

OR if you are making bread rolls, use the higher temperature for 5 - 7 minutes and then turn the oven down, leaving the rolls in at a lower temperature for around 20 minutes.

When you take the bread out of the oven it should be browned on top and when you turn it upside down and tap it, it should sound hollow. 



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