1 (2-1/4 tsp.) envelope Fleischmann's® Active Dry Yeast
1-3/4 cups room temperature water
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
Place flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 3 to 5 minutes. Pour yeast mixture, room temperature water and oil into dry ingredients. Mix 5 to 7 minutes on high speed of electric mixer, until dough pulls away from bowl. Mix 1 minute longer.
Place dough in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 45 minutes in a warm draft-free area.
Oil hands to prevent sticking. Scoop underneath half of the dough with your hand, lift one side of dough up and fold over to other side of bowl*. Replace plastic wrap over dough and let rise 45 minutes.
Oil hands and divide dough with a knife by cutting down the middle of the dough. Gently lift half of the dough from bowl with one hand and use other hand to pinch off and separate the dough (dough will be very wet and sticky). Handle dough carefully so as not to lose air bubbles. Place dough in oval shape (approximately 9 x 5 inches) on parchment lined baking sheet. Once placed on sheet, do not move. Repeat for other half of dough.
Press fingers into dough (about 1/4-inch deep) to make indents, approximately 12 indents per loaf**. Loosely cover each loaf with oiled plastic wrap to prevent sticking. Let rise 45 minutes.
Again, press indents into dough and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let dough rise an additional 45 minutes. Take plastic wrap off and lightly poke indents in dough. Place in preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Optional: To create a thick, chewy crust, periodically spray bread with a little water while baking. OR remove baked bread from sheet and place directly onto hot oven rack. Turn oven off. Crack oven door to let hot air slowly escape. Allow bread to cool to room temperature in oven before removing.
*Folding the dough over halfway will distribute the yeast and allow it to feed more easily and allows for the release of built up carbon dioxide.
**Poking indents give the bread a rustic look and also contributes to the release of carbon dioxide build-up and yeast distribution, creating large open bubbles in the loaf.
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