Last nite I put a pkg of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, a cup of AP flour, and a cup of 115-120 F water in a medium sized bowl and stirred until smooth and creamy, then set aside overnight.
This morning that sponge had a slightly sour aroma - ready to go! Added 2 Tbsp Olive oil, a tsp table salt, and 1/2 cup half-n-half milk - all for flavor and texture, and stirred well. Then added flour to form a very soft, sticky dough (about 1 3/4 cups AP flour).
Turned that out onto a heavily floured surface, and with heavily floured hands and a dough scraper, kneaded the dough for a couple of minutes. (I read where it is important not to over knead the dough.) Then formed it into the classic "slipper" shape in a sheet pan with my fingers, leaving it somewhat uneven. Put it in the sun to rise until about double - about half an hour - then into a 425 F preheated oven for 18 minutes - golden brown and "hollow" when tapped. Cooled on a wire rack, of course.
Sliced off a piece and munched on it. Interesting, pleasant flavor, light airy texture, nice crisp, thin crust. Different!
Next I cut a sandwich sized piece and sliced it horizontally. Drizzled olive oil on both halves, layered fresh mozarella, tomator, basil, parsely, bell pepper, salt, fresh ground pepper. Popped on the top, placed it in a hot, oiled skillet for two or three minutes on each side.
Then served it to myself in the garden for lunch with a glass of chianti:
Good, certainly, but darned if I know what all the excitement regarding panini is all about. It's just a good grilled sandwich, no?