Italian Bread Recipe

This is a rustic Italian bread also known as country bread.

Prep time: All day because there are three risings of the dough.
Cook time: 40 minutes
Temp: 375 degrees F
Yield: (2) large round loaves of bread or (4) long skinny loaves of bread.

* Scroll down for recipe videos and photo gallery.

Italian Bread Recipe Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of yeast (or 4-1/2 tsp. Yeast from jar)
  • 2-1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F – 115 degrees F)
  • Note: You may need a baking thermometer to double check the temperature of your water. Hot water from the tap may not reach 110 degrees F. The temperature of the hot water is very important for happy Yeast.
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 4-1/2 cups all purpose flour (non-bleached)
  • 3/4 – 1-1/4 cup extra flour (to use when kneading)
  • Yellow cornmeal (about 3/4 of a cup or so)
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • Some olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey

Eggwash Ingredients:

  • 1 egg (Egg whites only)
  • 1 tblsp. Cold water
  • A sauce brush

See below for VERY detailed recipe instructions.

Italian bread

Directions:

Note:
This is Country Style Italian bread. (also referred to as Rustic Italian Bread) It’s a more hearty bread then regular Italian bread. Wonderful texture on the inside and a nice crusty crust! The key to good Country Style Italian Bread is lots of kneading. In the case of this recipe, 25 minutes of hand kneading. You may say, wait a minute… Can’t I just get one of those bread machines that do all the kneading for you? That’s fine, but will never give you results as good as you will get from hand kneading!!! Trust me, the taste is so much better when it’s all done by hand. That said, if your willing to work hard, please read on and EnJoY!

Important note I found out the hard way: Two things you need to remember.
1.) Salt and Yeast = very unhappy yeast. 😦  2.) Sugar and Yeast = very happy Yeast! 🙂

* If you mix the salt in with the yeast too early, you will end up with flat bread.

First
Pour 2-1/2 cups of hot water into a large bowl. The water needs to be between 110 – 115 degrees F. It’s very important to make sure this temperature is right. To be sure, you need to have a bakery thermometer like this one here.

Next
Add (2) tsp. of sugar to the hot water and (1) tsp. of honey and mix well until the sugar and honey is completely dissolved in with the water. Then sprinkle (2) packages of Yeast (or 4-1/2 tsp. Yeast from a jar) into the hot water and mix with a fork until the Yeast and water become a creamy brown. Let sit for 2 minutes.

Next
Add 2 cups of bread flour and mix very well with a fork. Let this sit for about 2 minutes. Then mix some more and add 1 tbsp. of salt, mix well.

Next
Then add 4-1/2 cups of all purpose non-bleached flour, adding in 1 cup at a time while your mixing. You will start mixing with a fork and then start using your hands to mix as the dough gets dryer and stiffer. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured board, form into a tight ball and cover with a towel. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Next
Now comes the important part and real secret to good Italian Bread Recipe! Kneading by hand! You will need the dough for 25 minutes. This is going to be very hard work. You will probably break a sweat by the time your done. I do every time I make the bread. I start out with traditional kneading and then switch to a more unconventional kneading that I learned from Richard Bertinet in his wonderful book simply called “Dough”. I highly recommend it! This slightly different method of kneading dough really makes a big difference in regards to getting a more hardy country style bread. So you will knead the dough for 15 – 25 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. You will use another 3/4 – 1 cup of flour during the kneading process. You will use this extra flour as you need it during the kneading as the dough gets too sticky to work with. After about 15 minutes of kneading, pour a little olive oil in the palm of your hand, maybe about 1/2 tsp., then spread it over the dough and knead some more working in the olive oil. I do this about 4 times, probably totaling about 2 tsps. of olive oil. Depends on the texture, it’s a little different each time. I pour olive oil in the palm of my hand, work in the oil kneading for a while and then add a little more, knead, a little more and knead until the texture of the dough starts to feel more elastic. Then I knead for another 10 minutes or so after the last addition of olive oil. The last 5-10 minutes of kneading, you should not add any more flour. The final time on the kneading and the amount of extra flour you use will depend on the temperature and humidity of the room your war working in.

Next
The only way I could properly show you how this is done is to show you how I knead this dough with video. The videos I have below will show you exactly how I knead this dough. This really is the most important part of the process. That and being patient to let the bread rise. Be patient, all the rising will seem like a lot of waiting, but it’s very important to not make any short cuts with your dough! *Recipe continue below the videos.

How To Make Italian Bread Video

(Instructional video for Italian Bread Recipe – Detailed steps to making the Italian Bread Dough by Hand)

 

Another Italian Bread Video 🙂

I made this video to cover some important steps not shown in the video above. Go make some bread!

 

Proofing The Dough

This is what I do after the first rise. A very important step!

Next
(First dough rising – Fermenting) OK, after you have kneaded the dough for 20 – 25 minutes, you will need to let it rise in a nice warm moist place for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. It’s really not a matter of time with rising because of humidity and temperature differences, it’s more from look and feel. The dough should be nice and puffy after it rises. You are really only shooting for the dough to rise about twice it’s original size, don’t let the dough over rise. Check out this page called “How long should my bread rise?” for some good tips on this. When you have finished kneading the dough and you have got it to a point where it is smooth and elastic, you will want to place it in a bowl that you just rubbed down with olive oil. Form the dough into a tight ball. To get the dough in a tight ball you want to keep working with the dough, pushing the dough down to the bottom of the dough ball and up underneath, repeating this until you get a tight ball. You will have to watch the videos above to get a good idea of this.

Next
Place the ball of dough into the bowl upside down and roll it around a bit so you get some oil on the top of the dough. Flip it back over and set in the middle of the bowl. Cover with a damp towel.

Next
What I recommend for the perfect dough rising condition is your oven. What you will need to do is get a baking pan and place it in the bottom rack of your oven. Then fill it up with boiling water so you get a lot of nice steam in the oven. Quickly place your bowl of dough in the oven and shut the door. The baking pan of boiling water will add warmth and moisture to the inside of the oven which will be a perfect environment for your dough to happily rise.

Next
Now at this point you need to relax a bit and clean up your kitchen and just wait for the dough to rise. There is no shortcut. You cannot rush this part. Just let it rise.

Next
OK, after 1 to 1-1/2 hours or so, your dough should have at least doubled in size, don’t let it rise too much. Now take it out of the oven and punch it down. You will want to literally punch the center of the dough. You will immediately see the dough fall to a much small amount of dough. The Yeast was busy making a lot of gas bubbles which fluffs up the dough.

Next

After punching down the dough, get a spatula and scrape the side of the dough away from the edge of the bowl to let the dough fall down even more.

Next
(Second dough rising – Proofing) Punch the dough a few more times in different places, you want to get all the air out of the dough at this point. Briefly work with the dough getting it into a ball again. Rub olive oil on the inside of your bowl again. Place the dough ball back in the center of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a warm damp cloth. Pour out the water you had in the baking pan that was in the oven and refill with boiling water again. Place the bowl back in the oven and let it rise for 1 more hour…. What??, I gotta let it rise again you say? What the heck is all this rising for anyway? This second rising will help create gluten. The protein in the flour is what forms the gluten and the gluten is what makes the dough elasticity. This allows the dough to stretch and hold the gas that the yeast gives off. You can read more about Gluten here, interesting stuff!

Next
Now take the dough and pour it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured board. Divide in half. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of each section of dough and cover with a towel. Let rest for 10 minutes… Again with the waiting!!! It’s all worth it, just be patient.

Next
Now shape the dough into two tight balls and place them on a greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle the greased cookie sheets with a little bit of cornmeal. I use double wall insulated cookie sheets for this. They do a perfect job with baking and help prevent burning the bottoms of the bread.

Next
With a very sharp knife, carefully cut 3 cuts 1/16″ deep across the tops of the loaves. You really just need to score the dough. The cuts should be about 2″ apart. When you have finished the cuts, sprinkle some cornmeal over the top of the dough balls.

Next
Make an egg wash. To do this you will add to a bowl, (1) egg, using the egg whites only and mix with (1) Tbs. of water. Mix well with a fork. Brush the egg wash on the top and side of the dough balls. Try your best to thinly cover all the dough surface. Just brush the egg wash right over the cornmeal you just sprinkled on. Then sprinkle on some more cornmeal.

Next
(Third dough rising) Place these dough balls back into the oven. This time the dough will be sitting right on the cookie sheets. You will need two cookie sheets with one dough ball on each sheet. Once again, remove the water from the baking pan and fill up with boiling water again to maintain the warm moist rising environment. Let rise for about 1 hour. Yes, it has to rise again!! This requires a LOT of patience with all the rising! But it’s all very worth it! Trust me!

Next
After the dough has risen one more time, you are finally ready to bake! YaY!!! It’s about time! Geeesh! Now, take the cookie sheets with the dough balls on them out of the oven and be gentle! Carefully place them on a counter somewhere and preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. This time just leave the baking pan of water in the oven. The preheating will warm the water back up to keep the oven moist. After the oven has preheated, put the cookie sheets with dough back in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Next
After 20 minutes, take the bread out, brush again with eggwash trying your best to cover all surfaces of the dough and then place back in the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.

Next
Take the bread out and let cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours before cutting into. OK, well, this is nearly impossible, but it’s what your supposed to do. However, in most cases I cut into the bread after 30 minutes because I just can’t stand it! it smells so good you just have to dig in. if you try to slice the bread to soon, it can rip apart. If you let it cool properly, you can cut nice even slices. Just make sure you have a sharp serrated knife.

Next
Let the bread sit out for about 24 hours before packaging. If you like a softer crust, you can package it in a large Ziploc bag, but if you like a crunchier crust (which I recommend) then you need to package the bread in paper bags. Paper bags allows the bread to breath a bit which will help maintain and nice crunchy crust!

That’s it! You’re done….. Easy as Pie!

…Honestly, I have to say, I have had a lot of Italian bread in my life and this is the absolute best Italian Bread I have ever had!!

I recommend having this on the side with Anthony’s Pasta sauce, Meatballs and Braciole. Now that good eating! Great for dipping into the sauce!!!

Secret!!…
Here is a family secret that my grandma used to do that I just found out from my mother. It’s incredibly delicious!!!!! Take a fresh slice of this amazing bread you just made. Spread some ricotta cheese on top and sprinkle sugar on top of that. Ooooh my goodness! Marvelous! You gotta try this. I was amazed at how delicious this was. A great snack!

Enjoying Italian Bread with Ricotta Cheese and Sugar – Total YUM!


Italian Bread Recipe Photo Gallery

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12 replies »

  1. Ok, I got the ingredients today. I plan doing this saturday. it is suppose to a cool cloudy day. perfect to have the oven and make some bread while I lounge around the house. this will be my first try at baking bread. My grandmother was a baker from germany. I remember going to her house as child and watching her make all kinds of bakery things. Its a shame all her techniques and secrets where lost. No one in my family bother to learn. I can tell you have a love for the kitchen as well. thanks for sharing your craft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ok, I made the bread as instructed. Ill list the pros and cons. I mistakenly only put a tsp of salt. I also only had a 1/2 tsp of honey. My first attempt failed. I had to hot of water and killed the yeast. I didnt even bother to finish. After the yeast didnt set the way it was suppose to. I just started over. So I really understand how important the water temp is.
      I also used bleached flour. I also didn’t add the salt until i put all the flour in. The bread did have a great texture and perfect crust. It had more of a olive oil taste than a sweet taste. It would be a great sandwich bread or with pasta. I would like a sweeter bread. We tend to east toasted bread with butter in coffee in the morning. So everything I was unhappy was because of my doings If feel. I think next time I will add more sugar.
      My only confusion was after the proofing and second rise. It states to divide into to equals, and form into a tight ball. Was suppose to kneed it again . I just tried to form the ball as the video instructed. I also made a loaf and one round bread. I cut into it about 15 min after I took it out. I had little taste. But after about an hour or two. It had more flavor. This is my first attempt to make bread, besides a bread machine. that doesn’t count. Also, my rising times where a lot less than yours. Its good that you emphasize not to go by time. It was a lot of fun .
      I have a few questions now.

      I would like to save some of the dough next time. How can I freeze it? What stage should I? and how do i thaw and work it again?

      I would like to make it more sweeter, same texture though.

      What exactly do you do after the proofing and the second rise. Do i Kneed it ? or form it into the shape I want.?

      thank you again for sharing this technique with everyone. I was so impressed by your video i made sure I did exactly what you did. you should do one on a good pizza crust. I make a great pizza. I have to buy my dough from a local bakery though. I would love to make a bunch of it and freeze it. I buy it and it frozen already.
      thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff, So glad you tackled this! It does take a while to get it down. You have to make it several times before you get what you are looking for. You learn to tweak things here and there until it’s perfect! Even then thing tend to change just slightly duo to room temperature, humidity, etc. Example, in the fall I like to keep the windows open so the inside of the house has a different humidity and temp than usual and it does effect the dough. You definitely do not want to skimp on the sugar, honey and salt. Also I have found one very important step to the whole recipe is getting that yeast right! You need the perfect temp of water as described in the recipe and I always stir in the sugar and honey into the warm water until resolved fully with the water. Then I ad the yeast. This makes for very happy yeast and a better dough every time! Then adding some flour mixing and then adding the salt, this helps keep the yeast happy as well. One time I made the bread and completely forgot to add salt and the bread was horrible.

        I have never tried saving the dough. Fridge or freezer. I want to do that myself but have always ended up using all the dough. That is actually on my list to nail down one of these days. I’m not sure how to go about that yet.

        So in regards to the two risings. After the first rise is the proofing where you punch down the dough. At this stage work out all the bubbles just pressing it with my fingers and knead just a tiny bit, then form back into one large ball and let it rise again.

        This is a video indicating how I proof the dough after first rise.

        After this second rise is when I separate the dough into two balls. At this stage kneading is not required. You are just separating and forming into separate balls for your loaves of bread you are going to make. These I place right on the cookie sheet and let them rise there because I do not want to move the dough again after this. I let them rise in a warm moist oven as described above. Take them back out. Preheat the oven and then put them back in.

        This is making me hungry just talking about it! I need to go make some bread now! 🙂

        Keep making the bread, it will get better every time. It takes practice for sure! Sure you can always go out to your local grocery store and pick up some fresh baked bread but to me there is something therapeutic and relaxing about making my own bread from scratch! I love everything about it! The smell of the yeast, working with the dough, the prize at the end of enjoying a wonderful loaf of bread that you made with your own hands! It’s all quite lovely! Happy baking!

        Anthony

        Like

    • ok, back again. reason is for other like me. Hopefully it will encourage. I made the bread again.(second time). this time, I put the salt in at the right moment as instructed. I put a tablespoon of sugar instead of the tsp. I put the same amount of honey. I mainly used vegetable oil in place of the olive oil except for one time as i was kneading. I also used unbleached flour this time as well. It was so much better than my first try. This bread is so full and heavy. I toasted and put my jam on as I always do every morning. I buy my bread at a local bakery. This is just as good as what i buy. I think im going to add a little more honey next time. Also, my rising times are much shorter than what is noted. at least my first and second rise seems to be half the time. Not sure If thats normal. I never baked so I have no constant to go by. You are so right. its get better every time you make it and becomes more natural. thank you again.

      Like

      • Wonderful!! 🙂 The rising time definitely varies based on temp and humidity. The times I have written out on the recipe are my worst case scenario. i.e. how long to get a good rise with the dough doubling in size. Yes, so just think how it’s going to go after yo have made this bread around 20 times or so. You will have it nailed down to exactly what you like! I love making bread by hand! It is so satisfying! 🙂 And yes, this recipe makes amazing toast!

        Anthony

        Like

  2. Made this bread several times. Came out better every time. You are right about the kneading by hand……well worth it!! Making more today for we are having a itailian fest at the house today. Thanks for this recipe. Gonna go great with the meatballs and spaghetti later today!!!!

    Like

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