Italian Bread

Everyone needs a good recipe for a basic crusty bread.  It is a welcome accompaniment to almost any meal and guests are always impressed to find you made something so delicious yourself.  As with many homemade yeast breads, this one is fairly simple.  Most of the work is simply waiting for the dough to rise in its various stages.  The preferment is made the day or night before you make the bread, and this adds great flavor a bit reminiscent of sourdough.  This particular version has a nice crunchy crust but a soft, light and chewy interior.  Heavenly!  I like to serve it with a homemade garlic butter of some sort and lately I have been loving the compound herb butter I made at Thanksgiving.  This recipe makes two large loaves and even if you don’t plan on needing them immediately, I recommend making both anyway and keeping one in the freezer so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice.

Italian Bread
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For the preferment:
1 cup water
1 cup bread flour
½ tsp. instant yeast

For the dough:
All of the preferment
5 cups bread flour
½ cup nonfat dry milk
1 tbsp. brown sugar or granulated sugar
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups water, at room temperature

To make the preferment, combine the water, flour and yeast in a medium bowl.  Mix well to blend, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature at least 4 hours and up to 16 hours.

When you are ready to make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the preferment, 4 cups of the flour, dry milk, sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water.  Mix on low speed until a sticky dough has formed.  Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time.  Continue kneading on low speed until the flour has been incorporated (you may need to add even more than 5 cups) and you have a dough that is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky.  The total kneading time should be about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a well greased bowl, turning once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise at room temperature until approximately doubled in size, about 2 hours.  Punch down the dough, cover once more, and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead the dough once or twice and divide into two equal portions.  Cover the two pieces of dough with a damp towel and allow to relax for 20 minutes.

Shape the two portions of dough into the desired final shape and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat (I used a baguette pan).  Cover again with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until approximately doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Just before placing the loaves in the oven, brush or spray them lightly with water.  Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes before rotating them.  Bake another 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200˚ F.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from The Fresh Loaf

23 Responses

  1. Hello there Annie,

    I would love to add this to my new Cooking Network on Ning.

    I want to make this one some time!

    Polly Motzko

  2. Annie, that bread looks great!

  3. Thanks for sharing this recipe, this is kind of bread that I wanted to do long time ago, but can’t find a good recipe, I gonna to try this out tomorrow.

  4. This looks like something I could make *and* have it turn out tasty! 🙂 I LOVE your blog (and so does my husband since he gets to eat the recipes I find on here). I have no idea how you find the time, but am so thankful that this is something you truly have a passion for and are willing to share it with all of us. Keep doing what you’re doing and I know I, along with many others, will continue to follow your lead!

  5. I love homemade bread and yours looks delicious!! Good job!!

  6. This is a great recipe! Your bread looks delicious and I wish I had a slice now slathered with butter. I love your towel, pretty color and so “springy” looking!

  7. I am always so impressed by those who make their own bread! I have always been too scared to try it myself 🙂 This looks fantastic!

  8. So glad you loved this bread! I haven’t been making nearly enough bread lately; you’ve given me the kick in the butt I need 🙂

  9. Yummy! that looks so good. thanks for sharing.

  10. The bread looks superb!

  11. Yum! Thanks for sharing this, hope to try it out soon!

  12. Beautiful loaves, Annie. 🙂 I bet they smell heavenly, especially warm from the oven, butter melting into all the little holes. Wonderful. 🙂

  13. we all love a good bread!

  14. That’s a great looking loaf. Do you find a big difference in crumb if it (preferment) sits longer? I’d guess yes, but I’m impatient and like to do it all in one day- thanks for sharing a great recipe!

    • Tuper,
      Actually, no! I’ve been making this bread for a couple of years and this last time I made the preferment in the morning and made the bread later in the day. It tasted the same as always, and had the same great texture. So go for it!

  15. Is there a reason for using dry milk powder and water instead of real milk? I have several bread (machine) cookbooks and many recipes call for the milk powder. I’d rather use milk unless there’s a good reason not to?

    • Emily,
      I don’t know as I didn’t invent the recipe. I would assume you could use milk, but I have no idea what the substitution ratio would be since it is bread and adding the wrong amount of liquid could really mess it up. Feel free to play around with it if you desire!

  16. Hi Annie,

    This looks wonderful and although I am an accomplished cook, I’m not big on baking. I would like to try this recipe sometime though! For the second loaf that you recommend freezing, would you freeze the dough prior to baking or freeze the loaf after its baked? Thanks!

    • Tara,
      I always freeze bread, rolls, etc. after baking. With loaves of bread like this I usually slice them before freezing so I can just grab a slice or two when needed. Enjoy!

  17. Every time that I see a recipe like this it makes me weep for a stand mixer:)

    Gorgeous looking bread.

  18. This bread is in my oven right now…I cannot wait to slice it and slather butter on it! Mmmm

  19. I made this bread today (with the amazing herb butter) and it was soooo yummy. I have a soft spot in my heart for yummy bread, and I could have eaten this whole loaf! Seriously! Delish!

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