You know, it isn't easy to take a picture of bread - it was too dark to go flashless, and the flash just kept reflecting off the bread. Trust me, these pictures aren't doing the bread justice.
I had planned beef stew for dinner yesterday, and since we had friends coming over midday, I knew I wasn't going to have time to run out to the grocery store and pick up bread to accompany the stew. So, I went online and found this recipe: Italian Bread for the Bread Machine. Easy enough. The only substitution I made up front is I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour.
When the dough was finished in the bread machine I also opted to make one big loaf as opposed to two smaller ones as directed. The picture isn't really giving you a sense of scale, but the loaf is about 14" long by 6" wide at its thickest. I was a little worried about how much longer I would have to bake it with one loaf rather than two, but in the end it was only a few minutes longer and I simply went by how brown the bread was getting.
It was delicious! I have to say that my stew* really paled by comparison - I would have been happy just to have the bread for dinner. The crust was sprinkled with cornmeal before baking, so it had a great crispiness, and the inside was dense and chewy - and it was very easy to slice the bread. That may sound odd, but having the bread be too squishy (that it can't hold up to slicing) or be have a crust so crispy that it just flakes apart when getting sliced are both major pet peeves of mine. My only complaint when all was said and done was that I wish the bread had been a little bit saltier - the recipe only calls for 1.5 tsp of salt, but I'm a novice here - I'm not sure if I can up that by half a teaspoon and not have it affect other parts of the bread.
And hurray for leftovers - this bread is going to make fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches today!
(* The stew? For the first time I tried making a stew that incorporated a bottle of brown ale. It wasn't unpleasant, but had the effect of making the stew rather sweet. I prefer my stews to be more savoury. There was plenty leftover, so I had Andrew salvage the solids and a bit of the broth, and I am going to combine it with some canned diced tomatoes and try to counteract the sweetness.)