This bread is the Italian cousin of France’s baguette. Made with just flour, water, yeast, and salt, it has a light, airy crumb with small air bubbles. Be sure to allow for the overnight rising in the refrigerator, so the bread acquires a deep, rich flavor.
Makes two 14-inch loaves
- 3 and 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups room-temperature water, plus extra as needed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
Combine the flour with the yeast and sea salt in an 11-cup food processor. Process for 5 seconds. Slowly add 1 and 1/2 cups of room temperature water through the feed tube while the processor is running; the dough should come together, forming a somewhat sticky, smooth ball. Add a little more flour if the dough is wet or a little more water if it is dry.
Once the dough forms a ball around the blade of the food processor, process for 45 seconds (do not overprocess or the dough will become too hot and you will compromise the formation of the gluten strands).
Turn the dough out onto the counter, knead by hand for a few seconds, shape into a ball, and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn it to coat with the oil on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 24 hours. The dough will double in bulk.
When you are ready to bake, return the dough to room temperature.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Cut it into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball, making sure you don’t press out all the air bubbles that have developed (leaving air bubbles intact ensures a lighter texture once the bread is baked). Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450 degrees (preferably set on convection).
Pat 1 ball of dough into a flat 1-inch high rectangle measuring about 4 inches x 5 inches. Fold the side furthest from you over toward you and seal the seam using the heel of your hand. Turn the rectangle 180 degrees, and fold the side furthest from you over toward you; seal the seam using the heel of your hand. Fold the resulting log in half lengthwise, sealing the edges with your fingertips. Roll into a 14-inch-long cylinder with slightly tapering ends. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough. Cover with a towel and set aside to rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Slash each cylinder diagonally at 3-inch intervals with a razor blade. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Place on a baking peel that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal; slide onto the baking stone. If you don’t have a baking peel, place the loaves on a reversed baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and slide them into the oven. Be sure to leave plenty of space between the loaves as they will double in the oven.
Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees (preferably set on convection).
Bake the bread for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp, misting with water from a spray bottle 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. (Close the oven door quickly each time to prevent heat from escaping.)
Cool the bread on a rack and serve at room temperature; alternately, freeze the bread in plastic freezer bags for up to 2 weeks and reheat for 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.