Italian Peasant Bread. You may add fresh or dried herbs to the dough to have a different flavor every time you make this bread. It is so versatile.
Making your own croutons with this bread is easy. Start by slicing the bread into the size of croutons you would like. Then place the bread in a pan with some melted butter and herbs of your choice. Toast the bread on all sides. Remove croutons from the pan onto a paper towel when done. Place them in a glass jar or plastic bag and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use with one week.
Cooking Time: 25 - 30 minutes approximately
1 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cracked wheat
1 tablespoon olive oil
11/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
Pre heat oven to 350 F
In a sauce pan bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the cracked wheat. Allow the cracked wheat to remain in the water for three minutes. Drain the cracked wheat and set aside.
In a small bowl; mix together milk, and yeast. Let rest for 5 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.
Put salt, cracked wheat, and flour in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and combine. Next add the egg, and the butter. Stir until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Now mix in the parmesan cheese until fully blended. Mix the dough until blended. You may have to add more flour or water a little at a time. Dough should be soft but firm enough to knead.
Turn out the dough to a lightly greased surface. Lightly oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 min., or until it begins to become smooth and supple.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a warm damp cloth. Allow the dough to rise between 1 to 2 hours. Dough should be close to double in size. I place bread dough on top of my stove where it will stay warm. This decreases the proofing time.
Punch down the dough and shape it into a 12" log. Place the dough onto a lightly oiled baking sheet pan; cover the pan loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Leave the bread to rise for about 1 to 2 hours more. It will be ready to bake when it is about double in size.
Place the pan into the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Italian Peasant Bread will sound hollow when tapped when it is ready.
Remove the loaf of Italian Peasant Bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a cooling rack or clean dry cloth. If you would like a softer crust rub the top of the loaf with butter while still hot. If you would like a very crisp crust lightly mist the loaf twice during the cooking time with water.
Let cool slightly before slicing.
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