Anyone that grew up in or around Central Pennsylvania knows all about OIP (Original Italian Pizza). With pizza slices as big as your face and delicious Italian Subs.
Of course I had to move away from Central PA and away from the all hallowed OIP. In each place I have lived I have tried to find an Italian pizza & sub shop that makes an Italian Sub like OIP.
There has only been one that I discovered to be close (Lil Cucci’s in Forest, VA). The rest have hardly been similar and they’ve left me disappointed. Of course living in Wyoming I don’t have many selections when it comes to food places. I have actually learned to prefer making everything from scratch and on my own. (One exception is the restaurant called Old Chicago. Could eat there daily!)
The reason why OIP’s Italian Sub is so wonderful is the bread. This wonderful, delicious, cannot figure out the recipe for the life of me bread. I have an in though that I’m working … My dad (a Sysco salesman) supplies food to one of these OIP establishments. And I plan on begging and pleading with him to beg and plead with Sal (owner) to give me the recipe. Afterall, the Marine Corps made me move to Wyoming. If THAT fails, I’m going in to visit when I’m back in Pennsylvania and I’m batting my eyelashes, maybe working up a few tears, and I may or may not go in with a bottle of expensive Limoncello. I feel like that will seal the deal.
Until I get my hands on that delicious recipe I will be sticking with my go-to ciabatta recipe. This stuff is crack. It is the perfect sandwich bread, the perfect garlic bread bread, perfect dipping bread … it’s wonderful. However, every recipe I read required that I started out with a “sponge.” This is merely a starter to the recipe. Because I didn’t read the recipe thoroughly beforehand (the first time I made it) I didn’t realize I needed the sponge (Ahh, Seinfeld…) until I was about 7 hours away from needing the bread. Truth is, didn’t feel like switching my menu around so I was figuring out a way to make this bread WITHOUT an overnight sitting of a sponge. (Most “starters/sponges/insert Italian word for it here require 12 hours untouched.) I was proud of myself because I discovered I could do it without the sponge and I could make this awesome bread in under 4 hours. (With rising and baking time!!!)
I’m weird about my bread texture. In most cases I like it to have a hard exterior and a soft interior. The only exception is with a peanut butter and jelly. Then you just need straight old, right out of the bag bread. Ciabatta is perfect for me because it has a tough outside and a fluffy, soft inside. And peeps, it makes the best sandwich bread ever. I know I said that already, but I cannot stress that enough.
So tonight for dinner we are having Italian subs on some homemade ciabatta. And I think you should carve out some time to make yourself a few loaves of this. Freeze what you don’t use. And thank me later. *Please note – You will need a stand mixer to make this recipe. I do NOT recommend you make it by hand. The dough is extremely sticky and soft.
Ciabatta Bread – Kelsea Style:
3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose or bread flour (I use bread flour, but all purpose will do just fine)
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1) Combine all ingredients into stand mixer. If too dry (think like regular pizza dough texture) it needs a touch more water. If it is way too soft (liquid-y) it needs more flour. I suggest adding 3 1/2 cups of the flour, and adding by 1/4 cup until texture is achieved.
2) Scrape down bowl and ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Don’t allow the mixer to overknead as dough is going to be soft and somewhat stick. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but you don’t want it to be the consistency of pizza dough. Think just barely kneaded) Coat hands in flour and turn out dough onto floured surface. Spray or oil bowl and return dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap (making sure it is tightly covered) and allow the dough to rise. (I let mine go about 2 hours) You want it to TRIPLE in size. Basically rise the whole way to the top of the bowl.
3) Turn dough out onto heavily floured surface and coat hands in flour again. Separate into two loaves and place on baking tray. Allow to rise on the pan 30-45 minutes and then bake in a 500 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
*TIP: I used Stoneware. If you don’t have a baking stone I recommend lining your pan with parchment paper. A tip for you – If you don’t want to invest in any Stoneware you can go to Lowes or Home Depot and purchase inexpensive floor tiles that will withstand high heat. I recommend talking to an employee or researching before purchase. Buy 4 of these and use them in your oven. Great for paninis and pizza as well!
Italian Subs – Kelsea Style:
*Makes 2 large subs – feeds 4-5 people
1/2 pound sandwich pepperoni
1/2 pound sliced ham
1/2 pound salami
1/2 pound provolone
4-5 tablespoons Italian dressing
romaine or “artisan” lettuce
1) Cut ciabatta in half. Drizzle Italian dressing on bottom and top.
2) Layer meats on top of one another, followed by cheese.
3) Top with vegetables and seal the deal with the top of the ciabatta. Cut at an angle for fanciness. Or just devour.
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Enjoy your Week,