Food Sunday – Bacon Italian Bread
Happy Sunday Bread Heads!
A while back we did a Bacon Spoon Bread which got some good responses (how could it not? Bacon makes everything better) but I did get a request on an easier method. I have been thinking about it for a while and today I am ready to unveil the Bacon Italian Bread!
In looking at the bread I decided that the way to get the light airiness of the soufflé without all the eggs and the tendency to fall we would need to give up on the cornmeal and go with some kind of batter bread. I wanted to still have it be something other than a white bread, so I included some whole wheat. Adding just a touch of coriander to the mix brought up the bacon flavor and really brought the whole bread together.
The end result is a bread that has an open crumb, the flavor of bacon and the chewiness of a good Italian bread. Best of all for those who don’t like to knead it is a batter bread so there is no requirement to knead. On the down side, mixing this by hand is a work out. It is easiest done in a stand mixer but I have done it by hand and had success so you should be able to as well.
Now that I have your mouths watering, let’s bake!
Bacon Italian Bread
¼ pound thick cut apple wood smoked bacon (you can use other bacon but this produces the best results)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 packages (4 ½ teaspoons) yeast
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon coriander
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 cups hot (120-130 degrees) water
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar (dark preferred)
1 egg at room temperature
Baking pans – 2 8”x4” loaf pans, non-stick or greased
In a skillet cook the bacon until it is quite crisp. You are going to be crumbling it so it should not be floppy at all. Remove the bacon from the pan and place it on a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Place a paper towel over the top of bacon too, just to catch as much fat as you can.
Very, very carefully measure out 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Trust me on this you don’t want to spill hot bacon grease on your fingers (yes, even long time cooks and bakers can get careless and suffer for it for a few days). Set it aside. Crumble or chop the bacon into small bits. Set aside.
In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer or your large mixing bowl measure out bread flour, the whole wheat flour, the yeast, salt and coriander. Stir to mix completely. Add the bacon drippings, the water and the milk. Mix for about with the flat paddle attachment or a large wooden spoon for 1 minute.
Add the brown sugar, bacon crumbles and the egg. If you are using a stand mixer mix at medium high speed for three minutes. Watch out! This dough likes to climb the paddle and it could get in the gears. If it gets too high, stop and push it down, let it rest for two minutes and then resume at medium speed.
If you are doing this by hand the goal is to beat the batter hard for three minutes. If you find yourself getting tired, stop and rest for a couple of minutes, then start up again. You are looking for strong strokes every time when you are mixing this. The good news is after 3 minutes you’re done!
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to double in volume, about 20-30 minutes. When the dough has double, turn back the plastic wrap and stir it down. What you will have a very thick batter that is too wet to knead, but not really liquid enough to pour.
It is a drag, but the best way to get it into your loaf pans is to use a couple of spoons to lift large sections of the dough out of the bowl and into the pans. Take your time and don’t get frustrated. You can’t screw things up at this point. Use the back of a spoon to smooth the batter into the corners of the pans.
Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with flour and then cover them with a tea towel that has been rubbed with a good amount of flour. This will keep the dough from sticking to the towel.
Set aside to rise for 25 minutes. Meanwhile set a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.
When the loaves have risen, take off the tea towel and slip them in the hot oven for 40 minutes. Test for doneness by using a tooth pick and pushing it into the center of the loaves. If it comes out clean and dry, they are done. If not give them up to another 10 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the oven and turn them out onto a wire rack to cook. You might need to loosen the bread from the pans with the point of a knife.
When the bread is cool, slice and eat! This bread is great at breakfast, especially as a base for cheese toast. It also freezes very well for up to 6 months. Just double wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze. To revive let it thaw in the wrapping for 24 hours. Then place it in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. It will come back just as good as the day you baked it!
The flour is yours!