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Italian Adventures & a Recipe for Basket Bread

Tuscan Sunset

Oh, hi there. It’s been a while. But as you know, I’ve been out of town.

Our three weeks away came and went; while C and I walked, ate, and drank our way through Italy, it felt like we were there for an eternity. Now that we are home, it already feels like a distant, beautiful collection of memories {save for the persistent jetlag, remedied only by copious consumption of coffee}.

Lunch in Certaldo

We wandered through Verona, island-hopped around Venice, and gelatoed {gelatoed |ge-là-tohd | noun: sampling countless varieties of delicious ice cream while walking non-stop or climbing medieval towers to counter excess calories} our way through Florence. We splashed in puddles on cobblestone streets during rainstorms, admired ancient art in galleries and museums, and devoured pizza, pasta, bruschetta, and antipasti, al fresco in crowded piazzas.


We explored Tuscany’s winding roads and dramatic rolling hills; listened to rhythmic cowbells and singing frogs; and watched ruby-hued sunsets descend on our farmhouse.

We ventured further south, taking in the intoxicating cacophony that is Naples. We ate pizza in a dark alleyway {from the restaurant that originally created the Margherita pizza} and spent a couple of days basking in the sun, drinking limoncello on the island of Capri. We enjoyed nearly a week climbing the steep steps of Positano, strolling the narrow streets, carefully picking sea glass from the pebbly beaches.

Fruit Stand

Our final days were passed in Rome – a city of centuries old architecture, history, and legends – where we continued to walk {so much that my shoes met their demise}, eat, drink, and explore to our hearts content.

Each place was distinctly different; the people, the surroundings, the wine… but the one similarity was what I grew to appreciate the most: the simplicity in the food. Each meal was made with just a few ingredients, but it was the quality {and combination} that made everything so delizioso.

Making Gnocchi

Indeed, I’ll be sharing many of our adventures with you over the next little while {including my new career… I shall be moonlighting as a professional gnocchi maker from now on}, but to begin, let’s break bread. As each meal in Italy began with bread, oil, and balsamic {and a glass of wine, naturally}, I plan to continue the tradition here at home. Not just any bread will do; it needs to be as simple as that in Italy. Not too heavy, not too light – enjoyed warm and fresh, the same day it is baked.

Basket Bread

I made this loaf the morning after we arrived back home {the fact that I could make it on just a few hours of sleep is a testament to how easy it is to make}, and snacked on it all afternoon. I’m calling it Basket Bread, as it’s just lovely when sliced {or torn}, and placed in a basket to be shared before a meal. Perfetto, no?

Sliced Bread with Oil and Olives

Basket Bread
Makes 1 loaf

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus more, for dusting)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (or honey)
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Whisk flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in water and oil, and mix as much as you can with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a clean, dry surface, and knead until all of the flour is incorporated. Continue to knead until dough is soft, smooth, and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Shape into a ball, transfer to a large, well oiled bowl, and toss to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot for one hour, or until doubled in size.

2. Punch down dough and transfer to a clean surface. Shape into a log the length of a cookie sheet, and roll (or pat down) so the dough is about ½ an inch thick. Grab each end and twist in opposite directions a few times; pinch the ends and tuck under. Place a sheet of parchment on a cookie sheet and dust lightly with flour; transfer the dough to the sheet and dust the top of the dough with more flour. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot for another hour.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and position the rack to the top-third of the oven. Bake bread for 30 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden in colour and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving; bread is best consumed the same day.

  1. Danguole10-18-12

    Stunning photos, wow!

  2. Stephanie Arsenault10-18-12

    Thanks, Danguole! Glad you enjoyed them 🙂

  3. TiaChocolate10-18-12

    WOW…this bread will be my demise! I can tell already! 🙂 Lovely to look at, and I’m already itching for a glass of wine, a basket full of this bread, some delicious olive oil, maybe a bit of cheese and cold cuts, a full meal. Yum!

  4. Stephanie Arsenault10-19-12

    Haha, Tia! Understandable; I think it’ll be mine too!

  5. Whitney01-25-13

    I just made this tonight and homemade ravioli, and it was perfect and delicious! Thanks for this great recipe 🙂

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