Prep: 40 min. Rise: 45 min. + 5 min. Bake: 25 min. Oven: 400 degrees F
Makes: 14 rolls
These rolls get their crunch from the pan of hot water in the oven that creates steam during baking.
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
5-1/4 to 5-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Coarse salt (optional)
1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in the warm water. Stir in sugar and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the flour as you can. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). (Or prepare dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook, beating on low speed until a moderately stiff, smooth dough forms.)
2. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Shape dough into a ball; place in oiled bowl. Turn dough once; cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes).
3. Punch down dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board or surface. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Grease a very large baking sheet or two smaller baking sheets; sprinkle heavily with cornmeal. Shape dough into 14 balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheet(s). Let rise for 5 minutes.
5. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack of an unheated oven. Pour boiling water into the pan to a depth of 1 inch. Preheat oven to 400degrees F. Slash each roll top in two or three places with a sharp knife. Brush rolls with water. If desired, sprinkle with coarse salt. Place rolls on the second rack of the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until crusty and golden. Immediately remove rolls from baking sheet(s); cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm.