A little discouraged by my mediocre bagels, I picked myself up off my flour-dusted floor and moved on to day two of bread week: Monti’s Roman Bread.
As I read the recipe, my mind bubbled with doubts. Will mine taste anything like the warm, greasy delicacy I remember? Am I setting myself up for failure? Am I being too ambitious??
As the smells of the baking bread began to waft through the air, I simmered down a bit. Pulling the sheet pan out of the oven, my confidence rose again—at least it looked as it should. I cut out a corner and slathered it with butter, as I’m sure Nona Monti had intended. And then, I took the first glorious bite.
The finished product was more than a success. It was a revelation. An out-of-body experience. A turning point.
OK, I’m being dramatic again, but in all seriousness, my bread was JUST as I remember it from Monti’s. The strong onion and rosemary flavor was spot-on. The slightly chewy, ciabatta-like texture was there too.
It’s fantastic. It offered just the validation I needed to continue on my bread bender. There’s no question that this recipe will be in very heavy rotation in our kitchen from here on out.
Monti’s Roman Bread
(Recipe courtesy of Monti’s La Case Vieja in Tempe, AZ)
2 packages active dry or instant yeast (14 g)
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ cups lukewarm water
4 cups flour
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water in a large bowl. Once again, I used my mixer to stir and knead. Mix in the onion, flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary. I kneaded it in the mixer for a few minutes, then switched to hand kneading until the dough retained an indent when poked, like this:
Most bread recipes say the dough should be smooth, but I’m afraid the onions and rosemary make this one a little lumpy.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. I tried the oven trick—put some hot water in a pan on the lowest rack, turned the oven on so it would warm up just a bit, and then let my dough sit in there until it had doubled in size. Worked like a charm.
Punch the dough down and spread it on a greased sheet pan. I stretched mine out, but you could use a rolling pin as well.
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees, then turn it down to 375 degrees. Oil the top of the bread, let it rise again, and then sprinkle it generously with rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes. As my bread cooked, it didn’t glisten like I’d remembered, so I added a littlemore oil on the top. This bread, like any other I suppose, is best served warm and fresh out of the oven.