Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pizza Bread with the Italians

Recipe: Nonna's Pizza Bread

This past week, I went to Florida. First, I went to DISNEY WORLD (and ate a lot of fried food), but the real gem of the trip was a four day trip to my boyfriend's grandparent's retirement community, Dolphin Cay. First of all, they have a HOT TUB (what up jacuzzi.) But more importantly, they have a wonderful fresh garden from which they eat from every day. They have two different kinds of spinach, spring mix, celery, beets, orange, grapefruit, and lemon trees. Every morning we'd eat sweet fruit grown just outside and every night we'd have a salad of the most tender greens, pasta and bread made with really fresh spinach, or roasted red beets grown in Nona and Papa's Florida soil.

Papa did all the gardening in Dolphin Cay and Nonna was the one who cooked it (well Papa did make some great homemade wine and sausages, but Nonna did all the day to day cooking.) From the day we arrived to the day we left, Nonna stuffed us with food. No matter how much we ate, it was never enough for her. She probably would not have be satisfied, even if we were constantly eating from sun up to sun down. The food was delicious and I didn't mind being forced to eat. Everything was homemade and homegrown and I left feeling inspired to stop eating so much junk food and cook everything from scratch. (Of course when I got off the plane, the first thing I bought was a bag of tortilla chips and guacamole. But hey, I'm only human.)

One of the things that we ate every night with dinner was Nonna's Pizza Bread. Its a basic white fluffy bread with the texture of a thick and soft pizza crust. Its great for soaking up left over pasta sauce or salad dressing or with a little hunk of cheese (or homemade sausage....) My boyfriend's family has been eating this bread for years, and now I'm happy to share it with you.

Nonna's Pizza Bread

12 heaping cups flour
1/8 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups potato flakes (like the kind used for instant mashed potatoes)
3 cups water, boiling
6 cups water cold
1 cup canola oil

1. Mix potato flakes with boiling water and mix together. Let cool slightly
2. Sift together dry ingredients in large bowl. Create a well in the middle. Add potato flakes, canola oil, and five cups water to the middle of the well.
3. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, starting at the center and working your way to the outside. Little by little add the dry to the wet until the dough comes together. Add last cup of water if mixture is to dry. If the mixture is too wet, then add a bit more flour. The dough should be a little sticky, but not so much that it sticks to your hands.
4. Flour a wooden cutting board and kneed the dough for ten to fifteen minutes. (Or use a stand mixer with a dough attachment.) Form into a ball.
5. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic. Bless the dough with the sign of the cross three times. Let dough rise in a slightly warm place for 45 minutes.
6. Once the dough has risen, place into lightly greased baking pans. Use rectangular pans (11 x 7) instead of a typical loaf pan. Try to work the dough as little as possible. If you over work the dough, the yeast will not activate properly. Cover pans with a towel and let rise again for another 10 to 15 minutes.
7. When the dough is rising, preheat oven to 400. Place an oven rack on the bottom most space, and bake bread on the bottom for 15 to 20 minutes, or until dough has turned a golden brown and cooked all the way through.
8. Remove from pans and let cool. Enjoy with a vegetable pasta or simple salad.

This makes a LOT of bread, but it freezes nicely. The dough can also be turned into breadsticks, garlic bread, or pizza frita (just add two eggs.)

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