Italian Bread Recipe

You won’t believe how easy this Italian bread is to make! With its soft interior and crusty exterior, it tastes like a loaf straight from your favorite bakery. With hardly any hands-on time and a very forgiving dough, this is a perfect beginner yeast recipe. Be sure to have a lot of softened butter ready to slather on these slices!

An overhead photo of a loaf of Italian bread, sliced.

Well over a decade ago, I had planned to make spaghetti and meatballs on a regular ol’ Sunday afternoon when I was suddenly hit with the realization that I needed a loaf of Italian bread to soak up all of the extra sauce on the plate.

Not wanting to venture to the grocery store while in the middle of the meal, I began looking up recipes. I mashed a couple together and ended up with the most enormous, most delicious loaf of homemade Italian bread. For the very first time making Italian bread, I had seriously hit the jackpot. I’ve never wavered from this recipe and it remains a favorite of many of my friends.

It’s easy to see why – with a perfectly crisp outer crust and a soft, chewy interior with a tight crumb, it’s a bread dream come true!

A freshly baked loaf of Italian bread on a cooling rack.

The Case for Bread Flour

If you’ve made my favorite white bread recipe, you may remember that I opt for all-purpose flour there because it produces a super light and fluffy bread.

In contrast, we want to use bread flour for this Italian bread due to its higher protein content, which will create a bread that is chewier in texture and a bit denser. Since this is a free-form loaf of bread, using bread flour also helps the bread to retain its shape while rising.

Creating Steam for a Crisp Crust

The one unconventional step to this recipe comes during the baking step. While the oven is preheating, you’ll place a metal baking pan on the bottom rack of your oven. Once you place the bread in the oven, you’ll pour a cup of water into the pan, which will create a ton of steam, resulting in a wonderfully crisp crust on the bread.

Important Note: Please be sure to use a metal pan, NOT GLASS. If you pour water into a glass pan that has been heated, it has the potential to shatter. Go ahead and ask me how I know this ;-)

A photo collage of Italian bread dough being mixed together, then risen.

How to Make This Italian Bread

You won’t believe how many times I’ve received the comment, “I couldn’t believe how easy this was to make, and it was just like a loaf from the bakery!” It truly is incredibly simple and mostly hands-off; even better is that you can have fresh-baked Italian bread in just a few short hours.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Combine the yeast in warm water, then add to the flour, salt, brown sugar, and olive oil.
  2. Mix on low speed until a dough starts to form (you may need to add more flour here!).
  3. Knead for 7 minutes, then do a couple of minutes by hand for a smooth, firm, and elastic dough.
  4. Rise! Put the dough in an oiled bowl and allow to rise until doubled in size.
  5. Shape & Rise – The dough will be shaped into a torpedo and left to rise once more until doubled in size again.
  6. Top & Bake – Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds, then pop it into the oven.

Side by side photos of Italian bread dough shaped into a loaf, before and after rising.

Tips for Bread Success!

  • Bread Flour – I outlined above why I’m a big advocate of bread flour for this particular recipe; you can find it in nearly all grocery stores or can buy it online. If you substitute all-purpose flour, there will be a definite difference in texture.
  • Yeast – This recipe calls for active dry yeast, but you can substitute instant yeast without an issue or any modifications.
  • Mixing by Hand – While using a stand mixer with dough hook makes this easier, you can absolutely mix and knead entirely by hand.
  • Extra Flour – Note that the recipe states you may need to add a little extra flour during the mixing process to get a dough to come together. I find that this varies during different times of the year, as well as what the weather is like. If it’s warmer/more humid, you may need more flour. When it’s colder and drier, I rarely, if ever, need to add more flour.
  • Metal Pan – I want to emphasize once more that the pan you place on the bottom rack of the oven to create steam needs to be METAL and not glass.
  • Baking StoneThis is the baking stone that I use, and this is the pizza peel you see pictured above. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can flip a baking sheet upside down and put a sheet of parchment paper on top and bake the bread on there (you would not need to place the pan in the oven during preheating).

A loaf of Italian bread sliced in half.

Italian Bread

Servings 16 servings
Prep 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Total 3 hours 15 minutes
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Michelle

Recipe video included. You won't believe how easy this Italian bread is to make! With its soft interior and crusty exterior, it tastes like a loaf straight from your favorite bakery.

Ingredients:

For the Dough

  • 2
    cups
    lukewarm water
    (~100°F)
  • 1
    package
    active dry yeast
    ((2.25 teaspoons))
  • 5
    cups
    bread flour
  • 1
    tablespoon
    light brown sugar
  • 2
    tablespoons
    olive oil
  • teaspoons
    salt

For the Topping (Optional)

  • 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 the lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed, up to an additional ¾ cup. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 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. Place a baking stone on the center oven rack and preheat the oven to 425°F. Place a metal baking pan on the lowest rack.

  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 dish towel, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

  7. If using the topping, 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. Just prior to placing the bread in the oven, pour 1 cup of water into the metal pan you placed on the bottom rack of the oven. Then, transfer the loaf from the peel to the stone in the oven.

  9. Bake the dough until golden brown and a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread (it should register at least 195 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer), about 30 to 40 minutes. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

Recipe Notes:

  • Bread Flour - I outlined above why I'm a big advocate of bread flour for this particular recipe; you can find it in nearly all grocery stores or can buy it online. If you substitute all-purpose flour, there will be a definite difference in texture.
  • Yeast - This recipe calls for active dry yeast, but you can substitute instant yeast without an issue or any modifications.
  • Mixing by Hand - While using a stand mixer with dough hook makes this easier, you can absolutely mix and knead entirely by hand.
  • Extra Flour - Note that the recipe states you may need to add a little extra flour during the mixing process to get a dough to come together. I find that this varies during different times of the year, as well as what the weather is like. If it's warmer/more humid, you may need more flour. When it's colder and drier, I rarely, if ever, need to add more flour.
  • Metal Pan - I want to emphasize once more that the pan you place on the bottom rack of the oven to create steam needs to be METAL and not glass.
  • Baking Stone - This is the baking stone that I use, and this is the pizza peel you see pictured above. If you don't have a baking stone, you can flip a baking sheet upside down and put a sheet of parchment paper on top and bake the bread on there (you would not need to place the pan in the oven during preheating).

Nutrition:

Calories: 166kcal
Fat: 2g
Sodium: 369mg
Potassium: 46mg
Carbohydrates: 29g
Fiber: 1g
Protein: 5g
Calcium: 17%
Iron: 0.5%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]

Update Notes: Recipe originally published in August 2008 and since updated with improved photos, a video, and simplified recipe instructions.