Cuban Bread

06CBRoundbfLOSo, I’m cheating… I actually made THIS loaf from a recipe I found in the Trib’ back in March. It made two very nice, but VERY dense loaves of round bread. I liked them, but, short of making them one day and using them the very next for a couple of massive muffalettas (which I may yet try), I have 05CBDonebfLObeen looking to see if maybe I should have done something different when I made them.

Blog-hopping last night, I came across this recipe – which differs from the original by calling for a little less salt, a LOT more flour, and topping the two, sausage-shaped loaves with bay leaves before baking. It also calls for mixing the dough in the mixer with the dough hook (THAT may have been my problem with the original).

•2 pkg (¼ ounce each) fast-rising yeast
(if you’re like me and buy your yeast by the jar, one package equals 2-1/4 teaspoons)
•1 tablespoon sugar
•1-1/2 to 2 cups or more lukewarm water
•1 tsp salt
•6 cups flour
•2 tbsp cornmeal for baking sheets
6 to 8 bay leaves for tops of loaves

In small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in ½ cup warm water (110 degrees).

In separate large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt and mix thoroughly with dough hook of electric mixer. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture, and blend with the dough hook at low speed. Add additional lukewarm water, ½ cup at a time, until mixed thoroughly and dough is smooth. (The amount of water you need will vary with the mixture’s ability to absorb water.)

Cover dough with a clean cloth and place in a warm area, where there are no cold drafts.

Allow dough to rise until doubled in volume (about 1 hour when using fast-rising yeast). When doubled, deflate dough by punching it two or three times. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal balls and shape by stretching and rolling each piece of dough into a long sausage shape about 2 inches in diameter and about a foot long.

Sprinkle cornmeal heavily onto ungreased baking sheet. Arrange loaves with considerable space between them. Cover with cloth and let rise 5 to 7 minutes.

With a sharp knife, slash tops of loaves in 5 or 6 places and place bay leaves in slits. Brush loaves with water and place in an unheated oven.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add a pan of boiling water to oven and bake until bread is crusty and browned, 40 to 45 minutes. When done, loaves will sound hollow when tapped lightly on top. Remove loaves and cool on wire racks.

To serve, cut in half lengthwise. Butter liberally. Serve immediately or reheat and serve hot and crispy.

I WOULD have tried this today, but just made a loaf of French bread yesterday, still have two loaves of brioche in the freezer waiting for our next brunch, and there IS a limit to how much bread two people can eat, even with a bread box to keep things fresh. We’re meeting friends in Milwaukee this weekend for Pridefest, so maybe I’ll make this Friday night for a weekend treat.

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