Italian Friselle Bread
Friselle is an old-world Italian bread with a big crunch and a hearty taste. Although the dough is very easy to mix and knead by hand, you may certainly use a standing mixer outfitted with the dough hook if preferred.
Servings: 16 split "loaves"
For the yeast mixture:
- 1 cup (250ml) warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or "instant" yeast
- 1/4 cup (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
For the flour mixture:
- 250 g (about 2 1/4 cups) all-purpose ("plain") flour
- 250 g (about 2 1/4 cups) white whole wheat flour (or, use regular whole wheat flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Making the dough:
Put the yeast ingredients in a small bowl or a 2-cup glass measure, and whisk to combine. Allow the mixture to proof (turn foamy) for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the two flours and the salt in a large bowl.
Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. If kneading by hand, tip the dough onto a non-floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic -- about 8 minutes. If kneading by machine, plan 7 minutes.
Forming the loaves and the second rise:
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a non-floured work surface, and gently deflate it. Divide the dough into 8 equal segments. Form each segment into a ball.
Use your hands to form one ball of dough into a 10-inch-long rope. Join the ends of the rope to make a ring, and pinch the ends to seal them. Gently flatten the ring, and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining balls of dough. Space the rings 4 to a baking sheet.
Loosely cover each baking sheet with clean film. Then set the sheets in a warm location until the rings of dough double in volume -- about 1 hour. Halfway through this rising time, arrange oven racks in the lower third, middle,, and upper third positions. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Baking, splitting, and re-baking the loaves:
Place the baking sheets on the middle and upper third oven racks. Bake until the dough is set but not browned -- about 15 minutes. Let the loaves cool on their baking sheets for at least 5 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.
When the loaves are cool enough to handle, cut them horizontally in half (a serrated knife is useful here). Place each half cut-side-up on the lined baking sheets. If you run out of room, use a third baking sheet or a pizza pan to accommodate the surplus.
Bake until the Friselle turns brown and crunchy -- about 25 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheets. Store at room temperature (or in the freezer) in air-tight containers.