Basic Italian Bread

Today I wanted to try a very simple recipe for Italian style bread.  Although it takes some time to make it is a very nice bread, so it is certainly worth the effort.

There are not many ingredients required and the dough can be made by hand but it is much easier in a stand mixer, as the dough is very sticky.

Although the recipe below specifies how much flour to use I found that I needed to add an extra tablespoon of flour during the kneading stage, so that the dough came cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.  It is important, though, not to add too much extra flour or the dough with become too dense.

Once the dough is created it needs to be rested to allow it to rise.  Then it can be shaped and allowed to rise again while the oven is preheated.  

I baked my bread on a baking/pizza stone but a baking tray will work fine too.  If using a baking stone it will be necessary to preheat the oven for about an hour to get the stone up to temperature throughout.  Such a long preheating won’t be needed if using a baking tray.

My loaf turned out very well indeed, though I was slightly worried that the dough was not firm enough.  It rose well during baking and, once cooled, it sliced easily to reveal a light and airy texture and a lovely chewy crust.

Basic Italian Bread

Basic Italian Bread – Video

Ingredients:

  • 470g(3 cups) white bread flour
  • 6g(1 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 330ml(1 1/3 cups) water at 42-43C/108-110F
  • 30ml(2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Method:

  1. Add the sugar to the water and stir.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast onto the water and give it a stir then leave the mixture for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate(it should become frothy and creamy).
  3. Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix to combine.
  4. Pour the olive oil into the yeasted water and mix.
  5. Turn the mixer on to slow speed(with dough hook attached) and gradually add the wet mixture until it is all combined into the flour.
  6. Increase the speed to medium low and knead the dough for about 8 minutes, until the dough comes cleanly away from the bowl.  (if necessary add a little extra flour to allow this to happen)
  7. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl, onto a lightly floured work surface.
  8. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, and form into a ball.
  9. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Then allow to proof for until it has doubled in size(1 to 2 hours).
  10. When the dough has doubled in size tip it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock the air out.
  11. Shaped the dough into a square of about 25cm/10 inches.
  12. Take the two top corners and fold them into the centre of the dough.
  13. Take the flap of dough created by the folding and pull that down into the centre of the dough too.
  14. Fold the bottom half of the dough over the top half to create a log shape.
  15. Press the seams together and roll the dough into a sausage shape about 2 inches shorter than the width of your baking stone.
  16. Carefully transfer the shaped dough onto parchment paper which is about the same size as the baking stone.
  17. Lightly cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise until increased in size by about half.  This will take between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the temperature in the kitchen.
  18. Meanwhile preheat the oven, with the baking stone in situ, to 235C/215C/450F.
  19. When the dough has increased in size by half take a very sharp knife and score a line down the centre, but leaving 1 1/2 inch at each end unscored. 
  20. Spray some water over the dough(or gently brush all over with water).
  21. When the oven has heated enough carefully transfer the dough, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone and bake for 25 to 30 minutes,  until the dough has risen and browned.
  22. The internal temperature of the bread, when tested with a thermometer, should be between 96-98C/ 205-210F to ensure it is baked right through.  
  23. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 3 hours, or until completely cooled.
  24. Do not cut into the bread before it is completely cooled as it will release steam and will stop the bread from continuing to cook as it cools down.

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