Italian Bread

With the uncharacteristic cool August weather here, it’s been feeling like fall is nipping at summer’s heels, and with that, I was hungry for spaghetti and meatballs, which is traditional fall and winter Sunday dinner fare. As a result, I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the kitchen making a big pot of sauce, meatballs, and fresh pasta. As if a light bulb went off, I realized the only thing missing was a fresh loaf of Italian bread to soak up all the extra sauce on my plate. I had made Italian bread once before, and it was very very good, but it also required a preferment, meaning that it had to sit overnight. So I went in search of a recipe that could deliver some fresh bread in a few short hours. I found one, and it was fabulous – a perfectly crisp outer crust and a soft, chewy interior with a tight crumb.

So the recipe states that this makes “one large loaf” but I’d have to argue over the definition of “large”, as this loaf was more along the lines of GINORMOUS. Seriously, it’s a free form bread, and it ended up being the length of my sheet pan (18″) and at least two-thirds of the width. Not that it intimidated me – I bet I ate at least an eigth of the loaf with dinner, sending me immediately into a carb coma. It was a fabulous fresh loaf of bread, and one that I will likely make over and over to pair with spaghetti dinners.

Some notes on the recipe:
* This is a very dense dough. In fact, I was a bit concerned when I pulled it off of the dough hook and thought that the bread might end up being dry and tough, but it was far from it. So just a fair warning, that this dough may not be as soft and elastic as you may be used to.

* When shaping the dough into a loaf, pay close attention to sealing the seams very tightly as you roll the loaf up. This opens up considerably in the oven, so you don’t want the loaf unrolling on you!

*I baked this on an inverted baking sheet that I covered with parchment paper.

* The recipe calls for squirting this with a spray bottle of water in 3 minute intervals when it first begins baking, but I don’t have any spray-type vessels in my kitchen. Instead, I utilized the same method that was used to create a crisp outer crust on the French bread I recently made: place a metal pan (I used a roasting pan) on the very bottom rack of the oven when you preheat the oven. Then, a few minutes before you place the loaf in the oven, pour a cup of water into the pan to create steam.

Italian Bread

Yield: 1 large loaf

Prep Time: 30 minutes (active) 2 hours (inactive)

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.

2. Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.

4. Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.

5. Preheat the oven lined with a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles to 425°F.

6. Place the dough on a baker's peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

7. Brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle.

8. Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).

9. Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

(Adapted from Dawn's Recipes)

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95 Responses to “Italian Bread”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Kate on August 11, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I totally am going to bookmark this recipe, my last Italian bread was a failure.

    Reply

  2. sharon on August 11, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I love carbs. I love bread. I love ginormous portions of it.

    Reply

  3. Di on August 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Yum. Your bread looks fabulous. I’ve made a couple of Italian bread recipes in the past month, but still haven’t found time to blog about either of them… *sigh*

    Reply

  4. Bunny on August 11, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    You have to be the queen of bread! this is awesome!! I’m bookmarking this one to!

    Reply

  5. heather on August 11, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    that loaf has an absolutely GORGEOUS color to it! I love making bread on weekends, too… and I also have a Nick that is just a sucker for a warm loaf of bread :) What do you mean by inverted pan? I’ve always just shaped mine and made them on parchment paper… is there a better way I don’t know about??

    Reply

  6. Chelle on August 11, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Heather – By inverting the baking sheet, I mean just turning it over. My largest pan has a lip the whole way around, so I flip it over so there is nothing preventing air from reaching the bread. I usually do this for free form loaves that are too big for my stone.

    Reply

  7. Bev on August 12, 2008 at 10:41 am

    ooh loving the new site!

    The bread looks so good! I will definitly have to try this one I think, I haven’t had a nice slice of homemade bread in aages! mmmmm

    Reply

  8. Lauren on August 12, 2008 at 11:08 am

    OMG
    I CANNOT wait to eat like 10 sandwiches Thursday night when you come home with this deliciousness!! I’m going to stop at the Italian store and get the good stuff to go on it as well :)

    Reply

  9. Holly on August 12, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I have a fear of yeast but I think this might have to be the first bread recipe I try. It looks fantastic!

    Reply

  10. Lori on August 13, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Your bread does look amazing, and I plan on making it soon! But I’m actually posting here because I made your Spaghetti & Meatballs tonight and OH MY….that was so incredibly good. My husband and I greatly enjoyed them and will be making it again with fresh Italian Bread!

    One question though, have you ever tried freezing the raw meatballs? I just thought that may be an easy way to be able to throw this together, even though it really didn’t take that long anyway. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    Reply

  11. Chelle on August 13, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Lori – I’m so glad that you enjoyed the spaghetti and meatballs! I have only ever frozen cooked meatballs, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t freeze them raw! If you try it let me know how it turns out!

    Reply

  12. Amber on August 19, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I just made this the other night and it turned out fantastic! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Your loaf looks wonderful with its perfect slash!

    Reply

  13. Grace on September 10, 2008 at 12:22 am

    I tried out this recipe and it turned out gorgeously! I’m going to have to make it again soon because it disappeared so quickly. Also, I tried your tip and left my spray bottle on the counter, using the roaster with water in it worked very well. I might have to try that method with another bread recipe.

    Cheers!

    Reply

  14. Rola on May 6, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I came upon your recipe on my second day of a diet….needless to say, the diet was forgotten and the bread won….My kids woke up to the smell of it and really enjoyed it before school. My question is: is it supposed to be on the dense side or I did not let it rise enough?

    Thanks

    Reply

  15. admin on May 6, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    ROLA — So sorry to ruin your diet, but glad that you enjoyed the bread! :) My bread was definitely dense, so I think your rise time was probably just fine.

    Reply

  16. Beth Bilous on April 1, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Hi, do you think this could be devided for two small loaves? Usually, bread dough can be shaped however one wants, but I just wanted your opinion on this please. BTW, hopemine looks this good. How do you get the crust such a pleasing brown without drying out the inside?

    Reply

  17. Michelle on April 3, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Beth,

    Yes, you could certainly divide this into loaves. Just be sure to adjust the baking time, as two smaller loaves won’t take as long to bake. The crisp outer crust is created by spraying the crust with water, as indicated in the recipe. Enjoy the bread!

    Reply

  18. Annie on February 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    This was my first attempt at bread-making and it turned out beautifully! Thanks for the clear directions and great tips. If I decided to make two smaller loaves, do you think I could freeze half the dough after the first rise? I’ve done that with pizza dough, but I’m not sure the same rules apply here. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 25th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      Hi Annie, I’ve never done that actually. Usually with bread, I will bake the full recipe and then freeze a loaf once it has been baked and cooled. Then I just let it sit at room temperature to thaw when I’m ready to use it.

      Reply

    • Mary on January 18th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      yes, you can freeze bread dough. Shape it, wrap in plastic wrap and they in foil. Freeze it. Before you use it, take it out the night before and let it rise as normal. It will take several hours to thaw and then rise. Bake as usual.
      Hope this helps

      Reply

  19. Marie-Claude on August 8, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Very easy to make. The result was splendid and it really had a taste of Italy. Great recipe. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

  20. charps on September 6, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Thank you for sharing this great recipe! I was shocked that I could produce a bread that turned out so well. Great directions! This will be my go to Italian bread recipe.

    Reply

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  23. Anissa on March 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Such a great recipe!!!

    Reply

    • Chef on March 1st, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Just made 2 loaves this afternoon in our 300 room hotel. Fantastic recipe,great crust & texture,easy to train my staff on how to prepare.
      Just a comment but i reduced the temperature from 220c to 190 after the third steam injection but we use professional sized baking ovens.

      Reply

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  28. Laura Dembowski on June 17, 2012 at 11:52 am

    This bread was amazing, and I was surprised at how easy it was to make! I found that it only too 30 minutes to bake, though. I posted about it on my blog and would love if you’d take a look: http://piesandplots.net/italian-bread/ Thanks!

    Reply

  29. Debbie on July 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    This was my first time baking bread from scratch. My loaf looked just like yours. I used regular unbleached flour and it still came out very well. The measurements, baking time and temp are perfect. I sprayed my crust 4X but I would of liked it if my crust came out a little thicker and crunchier. Will spraying a few more times do the trick? It was relaxing and fun kneading the dough and smelling fresh yeast. Now I can’t wait to try your other bread recipes :)

    Reply

    • Michelle on July 28th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Hi Debbie, So glad you liked the bread! More steam should produce a crisper crust. You could also put a roasting ban with boiling water on the bottom rack when you put the bread into the oven.

      Reply

  30. Jorge on August 14, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I loved the bread, very tasty and it looked just as good as yours. Great for bruschetta or with pesto! Now my bread was a bit dry, any advise to make it a bit more moist?

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 18th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Hi Jorge, I’m glad you enjoyed the bread! I’m wondering if the bread was overbaked a bit if you found it to be dry?

      Reply

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  35. Matt on December 1, 2012 at 7:51 am

    What type of flour do you use for the Italian bread?

    Reply

    • Michelle on December 2nd, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Matt, As stated in the recipe above, bread flour.

      Reply

      • Matt on January 3rd, 2013 at 8:29 pm

        Yeah, get with the program, Matt # 2

        Reply

  36. jeff on December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    The yeast is doing it’s “thing” as I type this. I will keep you updated….

    Reply

  37. Monika on December 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I’m going to be working with fresh yeast to make this bread. Can you tell me the conversion? I’m looking forward to trying this out.

    Reply

  38. Matt on January 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    This recipe is great. Really impressed my girlfriend with this one, and its easy to make!

    Reply

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  40. Eric on January 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Made this Bread Saturday night it’s Moday and it’s gone (just me and my wife) it was great. crisp crunch outside soft dense inside. Just a grat recipie. Fairly simple and not all that time consuming. Will make over and over again.

    Reply

  41. Blake on January 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I’d like to try this recipe soon. I recently tried your white bread recipe and it turned out great! Hoping the same with the Italian loaf. One question though. I dont have a baking stone. Can I use just the inverted baking sheet or do I need to get a stone? Thanks and keep up the delicious work.

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 24th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Blake, I think a stone is the best for these types of bread, but you’ll still get a good loaf using an inverted baking sheet with parchment paper.

      Reply

  42. Weekend baker on January 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    A ver dense dough, indeed! The inexplicable has happened. It actually broke the hook off my dough hook for my KA!! Amazing. I hope this bread is amazing. I’ll keep you posted.

    Reply

    • Weekend baker on January 27th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      Ack! A verY dense dough.
      Pulled it out to prep for the second rise and it looked incredibly happy. Can’t wait for the lovely aroma from the oven. Soon!

      Reply

      • Weekend baker on January 27th, 2013 at 5:06 pm

        Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It will definitely be a keeper for me! I will be replacing the standard KA dough hook with one that’s made from stainless steel.

        Reply

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  44. Brittany on February 11, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    This bread is absolutely delicious. I was looking for something close to what my store sells. This is close to it, maybe even better. I’ll definitely be making this bread again. It’s not crispy, but next time I would like it to be. Definitely recommended.

    Reply

  45. kaitlyn on February 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Bread turned out amazing. Wad really good made into garlic cheese bread w/ a bulb of roared garlic in the bread too

    Reply

    • Carolyn on March 9th, 2013 at 8:23 am

      When did you incorporate the roasted garlic n the dough?

      Reply

  46. Carolyn on March 9, 2013 at 8:22 am

    I am new to the bread baking world and I just made this during a Nor’easter here and it came out so wonderful. It is a very dense dough, so I am glad the comment was there.

    Reply

  47. nelli013 on March 11, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    This recipe is wonderful and it looks beautiful!! Not to mention it tastes amazing. My husband said we no longer have to buy bread downtown any more!! Thank you so much. I just started a blog on baking, please check it out and let me know what you think. http://www.apinchofluv.com Thanks again !!

    Reply

  48. LA Howe on March 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I made two loaves of this bread yesterday, and it came out SO GOOD! The only thing is that my oven read 425 dead on with an oven thermometer, but the bread was a bit too brown at 39 minutes, so I didn’t bake it for 45. Once it came out of the oven, I let it sit for 15 minutes before I cut into it, and it was cooked perfectly inside. I baked my bread on an inverted cookie sheet, so I don’t know if that perhaps bakes a bit differently than a baking tile. the crust was really dark brown but for the most part not so brown that we couldn’t eat the crust. & the sesame seeds were perfect too. eating the bread was an experience of a perfect match between my idea of bread and the yeasty goodness I was wolfing slathered with butter.

    i am baking two more loaves today, and they rose differently than yesterday, even though I think I did everything the same. It took longer to rise today for some reason, and also in the second rise the bread rose outwards rather than upwards!

    Reply

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  50. Mary on May 26, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    will a normal home oven (lined with metal) work for this recipe?

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 27th, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Yes, I make this in a regular, residential oven.

      Reply

      • Mary on May 28th, 2013 at 6:59 pm

        thank you!

        Reply

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