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No Knead Crusty Italian Bread

Two weeks after the Plastic Bag Law was introduced, nylon bag usage was down 80%, which was an unexpectedly high response. It's my belief that people didn't necessarily embrace this because of a sudden desire to save the planet...rather it was the very Israeli characteristic of 'not wanting to be a freier' that came to the fore. We probably wouldn't stoop to pick up a 10 agarot coin on the sidewalk...but spend that on a shopping bag...never! That same 'I refuse to be a freier' instinct is awakened in me when it comes to serving artisan Italian-style bread. Why pay gourmet bakery prices for a golden, crunchy loaf of bread when I get even more impressive results, in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee, using everyday pantry ingredients? This amazingly tasty, no-knead Italian Country Loaf features on my dinner table every single week and, once you've tried it, it's likely to be a staple on yours too. I've included long notes to answer your every question but the process itself takes minutes!

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) warm water 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 ml) instant dried yeast* 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt (or slighty more if desired) 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 ml) sugar 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil 3 cups (750 ml) plain flour (plus a little extra if dough seems very wet) Optional add-ins (see notes) Makes one medium sized loaf - recipe can be doubled. 1: Place the warm water, yeast, salt, sugar and oil in a deep bowl - the dough rises a lot - and immediately add the flour without waiting for the yeast to activate. 2: Mix with a wooden spoon till all the flour is incorporated - if you are using a stand mixer then you can switch this on and mix for 1 minute - and then cover loosely with a towel or plastic bag and allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours to rise. 3: Sprinkle a little flour onto dough, lift sticky dough out and place onto a well floured piece of baking paper on a baking tray, then pat into an oblong or round loaf. (Dough can also be refrigerated till ready to use as per notes.) 4: Allow to rise again for 40 minutes - I don't always do this if I am short of time but it is best - then slash the top of the bread with a knife a few times making shallow cuts. These are decorative only so don't worry if you leave out this step. 3: Preheat oven to 230 C and bake the bread in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes till it's a golden brown. For an even crunchier crust, place a metal tray filled with water underneath the bread while baking, as this produces steam that gives wonderful results. Again this is not essential. 4: Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store leftover bread - there NEVER is any at my house - in a plastic bag at room temperature. Go on...make it! COOK'S NOTES: The instant yeast granules I'm referring to is sold in vacuum packed foil blocks in the baking section. Bravo is a popular brand. You can add nuts, seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, olives or chopped rosemary to this basic mix. You can also top the bread with sesame seeds or poppy seeds or both. You can switch out 1 cup of white flour for wholewheat if desired. If you would prefer to make the dough ahead of time, then allow it to rise for 2 hours as detailed, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. If you refrigerate it then you must allow it to rise for 1 hour first as it's too cold to bake immediately.

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