Holy mother of yeast doughs — I have fallen madly/passionately/hopelessly in love with Friselle. Are you familiar with this centuries-old Italian bread? It’s crunchy-munchy delicious. It’s sturdy enough to support a mountain of olive oil-drenched cherry tomatoes and other juicy toppings. Few breads are so ridiculously fun to make. Make Friselle once, and you will likely make it again and again. Watch the video directions up top, and then scroll down to get the handy printable recipe:
Friselle is a twice-baked bread. A brief initial baking — about 15 minutes — stabilizes the dough so that it can be cut horizontally in half. Then the halves are baked until they turn golden brown and crisp — about 25 minutes. Crispness affords the bread a long shelf-life — an important attribute in the days before refrigeration. Friselle was a staple for folks who had to travel great distances. It was a life-saving bread during hard economic times.
Today, in Italy at least, Friselle is considered a “snacking” bread. People dunk it into coffee or red wine. They top it with Mediterranean mixtures, such as olives, tomatoes, and basil. Of course, YOU can top your Friselle with anything that floats your boat. Speaking from personal experience, Friselle makes a fine base for an open-faced bologna sandwich!
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is adapted from various Friselle videos that I watched on YouTube. All of these videos were in Italian, and without English subtitles. Since I don’t speak Italian, I relied on the “Kevin-see, Kevin-do” approach to learning. Where the Italians used durum or semolina flour, I used white whole wheat flour. If you don’t have white whole wheat in your pantry, use ordinary (dark) whole wheat flour.
Forming the loaves is easy to do, but rather difficult to explain in words. So please watch the video directions.
To test the recipe, I made the bread not once, not twice, but three times in as many days. The ingredients, quantities, and baking times all have my stamp of approval.
I hope you will give this molto fantastico bread a try. Together, we can introduce Friselle to the unsuspecting masses here in the United States.
Italian Friselle Bread
For the yeast mixture:
- 1 cup (250ml) warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or "instant" yeast
- 1/4 cup (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
For the flour mixture:
- 250 g (about 2 1/4 cups) all-purpose ("plain") flour
- 250 g (about 2 1/4 cups) white whole wheat flour (or, use regular whole wheat flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Making the dough:
- Put the yeast ingredients in a small bowl or a 2-cup glass measure, and whisk to combine. Allow the mixture to proof (turn foamy) for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the two flours and the salt in a large bowl.
- Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. If kneading by hand, tip the dough onto a non-floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic -- about 8 minutes. If kneading by machine, plan 7 minutes.
The first rise:
- Transfer the dough to large greased bowl. Flip dough to grease its underside. Then cover the bowl with cling film, and place it in a warm location until the dough has doubled in volume -- about 90 minutes.
Forming the loaves and the second rise:
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Transfer the dough to a non-floured work surface, and gently deflate it. Divide the dough into 8 equal segments. Form each segment into a ball.
- Use your hands to form one ball of dough into a 10-inch-long rope. Join the ends of the rope to make a ring, and pinch the ends to seal them. Gently flatten the ring, and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining balls of dough. Space the rings 4 to a baking sheet.
- Loosely cover each baking sheet with clean film. Then set the sheets in a warm location until the rings of dough double in volume -- about 1 hour. Halfway through this rising time, arrange oven racks in the lower third, middle,, and upper third positions. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Baking, splitting, and re-baking the loaves:
- Place the baking sheets on the middle and upper third oven racks. Bake until the dough is set but not browned -- about 15 minutes. Let the loaves cool on their baking sheets for at least 5 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.
- When the loaves are cool enough to handle, cut them horizontally in half (a serrated knife is useful here). Place each half cut-side-up on the lined baking sheets. If you run out of room, use a third baking sheet or a pizza pan to accommodate the surplus.
- Bake until the Friselle turns brown and crunchy -- about 25 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheets. Store at room temperature (or in the freezer) in air-tight containers.