I love entertaining, as it gives me the opportunity to use my guests as my taste testing team, and I rarely serve them up the same dishes twice.
Having said that, no matter what the theme of the meal or time of the day, there's always one thing that's a constant at our table, and that's my now-famous Italian Crusty Bread.
Yeast-phobic readers, time-pressed entertainers, and non-cooks are urged NOT to scroll away as this is the recipe that will change your perception of bread baking forever.
There's no need to wait for the yeast to begin bubbling, there's no kneading, and rising time is reduced to a minimum. If you can make a cup of instant coffee, you can produce this golden-crusted loaf with ease, and the taste is incomparable to any store-bought baked goods.
I whipped up a loaf this afternoon especially so I could include photographic proof of how easy it is to make.Try it for yourself and, just like me, you'll find yourself making it always.
Using up your flour before Pesach cleaning just got a whole lot more delicious.
2 cups (500 ml) warm water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) instant dry yeast granules
2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
4 1/2 cups (1 125 ml) plain flour
Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
See images above for step-by-step pictorial proof of ease of making.
1: Pour water into a deep bowl - I mix one cup of boiling/very hot water and 1 cup of cold water and the temperature is perfect - and stir in yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil.
2: Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and you have a sticky, shaggy dough.
3: Cover loosely with a plastic bag - don't seal it - and allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minute to 1 hour.
4: Place a baking tray lined with baking paper in the oven and preheat to 220 C.
5: Carefully remove hot tray from the oven and, using flour-dusted hands, lift the sticky,bubbly dough out onto the hot tray, pat into shape and sprinkle over sesame seeds.
6: Turn the oven down to 200 C - not essential as you can also bake at 220 C for an even crunchier crust - and bake for approximately 35 minutes till lightly golden.
Enjoy with butter, olive oil 'n balsamic vinegar, alongside hearty soups or salads, or toasted. Nothing compares to the taste - and convenience - of freshly made bread.
COOK'S NOTES: The instant yeast I use is the type sold in small vacuum-packed foil packages for approximately NIS 4.90. Bravo is a brand to look for as an example and it's usually sold in the baking section on the shelf. Refrigerate after opening. The proportion of yeast is higher than in regular recipes as it's quick rising and there is only one rise. You could replace 1 cup of flour with wholewheat flour but don't add too much or it will be heavy. Feel free to add chopped rosemary, nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes etc. This masterpiece is highly adaptable.