Sometimes, when I go to the grocery store, I’ll walk into the bakery section and peek at the loaves on display. It’s so much fun admiring the fascinating shapes, colors, and textures of the loaves–plain, wholegrain, or seeded. The beautiful fragrance of the bread is always a plus, too! 🍞
Sometimes, it can feel a little intimidating to make bread at home like they do at the bakery, but trust me–this super easy recipe for Italian bread is perfect for beginning bread bakers! It’s a basic white bread dough that turns out crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. The trick to a really crunchy crust is having steam in the oven while the bread is baking. Check out the recipe to find out how to do that in your home oven!
The distinctive slashes on top of the loaf are actually pretty simple to achieve. All you need is a very sharp serrated knife, or preferably a bread baker’s lame. Score the loaf with diagonal cuts after the loaf has fully proved the second time, right before it goes in the oven. The slashes affect the rise of the bread, allow the steam to escape as the loaf bakes, and make it look pretty! It does take some practice to get the slashes really perfect, so don’t worry if they don’t turn out spot on the first time. I’m still learning how to score, too!
One thing you need to do with your Italian bread is make it into these yummy melts. I find it hard to resist this open-faced sandwich piled with onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss cheese. 🧀😋Print
Super easy homemade Italian bread is a delicious white loaf recipe that has a crusty crust and soft interior that’s perfect for sandwiches!
- 5 cups bread flour (500g)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons fast-action yeast (7g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar (12g)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (13g)
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water (350 ml)
- 1 tablespoon semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting (11g)
Making the Dough (25 minutes + 1 hour proving)
- Warm the water to 110-115 F.
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl, stirring in each one with your finger. Mix in the sugar.
- Add the olive oil and half of the water, then begin stirring and crushing the mixture with your hand to bring the dough together. Gradually add more water and mix until all the flour is picked up from the bowl and a somewhat sticky dough has formed. You may not need all of the water.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, slap, and stretch the dough for 10-13 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticking to the work surface, is quite smooth, and is very stretchy.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a large bowl greased with olive oil, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough prove for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.
Shaping the Loaf (10 minutes + 45 minutes proving)
- Dust a large baking stone or cookie sheet with semolina flour or cornmeal to provide a lovely texture on the bottom of the loaf.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out gas pockets.
- Roughly shape the dough into a rectangle and roll it up tightly from a short end. Roll the log out a little with the palms of your hands and tuck the ends underneath to form a smooth, oval loaf.
- Place the loaf on the prepared tray, making sure to center the seam underneath the loaf. Place the tray inside of a clean garbage bag, inflate the bag to prevent the plastic from touching the loaf, and tuck the ends under the tray to seal.
- Let the loaf prove for about 45 minutes, until not quite doubled in size. The dough should spring back quickly when gently poked with a fingertip.
- About 15 minutes before the loaf is done proving, preheat the oven to 425 F. Put an old metal baking pan on the bottom shelf of the oven to preheat.
Baking the Loaf (25 minutes + 30 minutes cooling)
- Once the oven has preheated and the loaf has risen, cut five or six slashes in the top of the loaf with a sharp serrated knife or lame.
- Put the bread into the oven and pour 1-2 cups of tap water into the preheated baking pan. Immediately shut the oven door to keep the steam inside the oven.
- Bake the bread at 425 F for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf is a rich golden brown and has an internal temperature of 190-200 F.
- Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.
- Don’t have caster sugar? Make your own by grinding up the sugar in a blender or food processor until it is finer grained.
- The proving times for the dough will vary a good deal depending upon the temperature of the room. Warm temperatures will make the yeast work more quickly, while cool temperatures slow it down. Just remember that a slow, cold prove will actually result in a better-flavored dough.
- Are you working in a cold room? Put your dough that’s proving into a cold oven and place a pan of boiling water under it. The steam will warm up the oven and encourage the bread to rise. If it’s really cold in your room, change out the water every 30-45 minutes.