crusty italian bread

★★★★★ 8 Reviews
qosheba915 avatar
By Gena Buck
from Elkhart, IN

My husband loves bread in any form, but especially Italian bread. I found this recipe somewhere and began making it and he loves it. I hope you enjoy it too!

Blue Ribbon Recipe

Don't be intimidated by this homemade bread recipe. It's fairly easy to make, and Gena included some tips and tricks. This classic bread is crusty and crisp outside, while the inside is fluffy and soft. Serve with fancy dipping oil, and it's just like what you'd enjoy at a restaurant. Or, enjoy this with soup on a cold day, add to a cheese board, or as a side smeared with butter.

— The Test Kitchen @kitchencrew
★★★★★ 8 Reviews
prep time 2 Hr
cook time 45 Min
method Bake

Ingredients For crusty italian bread

  • 1 pkg
    active dry yeast (1/4 ounce, 2-1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/4 c
    warm water (105°-115°)
  • 3 c
    all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp
    granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp
    salt
  • 1 Tbsp
    olive oil
  • cornmeal for dusting

How To Make crusty italian bread

  • Yeast dissolved in warm water.
    1
    Dissolve the yeast in a quarter cup of warm water. You should actually check the temperature of the water. Too cold and it won’t activate, too hot and you can kill the yeast.
  • Additional water mixed into the yeast.
    2
    Give the yeast a few minutes, until it starts bubbling. Then mix it in with the rest of the warm water.
  • Stirring in flour, sugar, and salt.
    3
    Add the flour, sugar, and salt; stir.
  • Adding olive oil.
    4
    Work the flour in and then add the olive oil. Don’t add the oil until after you’ve worked the flour in. Otherwise, the oil will coat the proteins and prevent gluten formation. Gluten lets the dough stretch when it rises, making it light and chewy instead of crumbling like cake.
  • Continuing to knead the dough.
    5
    After mixing the oil in, turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface to knead. Stretch the dough away from you, fold it back, turn a quarter turn, and repeat. Once the dough is well incorporated, slap it on the surface a few times. This will encourage more gluten production leading to a lighter, airier bread.
  • Ball of kneaded dough.
    6
    When the dough is smooth and silky, continue kneading for another several minutes. You can work it with both hands and keep turning the dough, or just hit it from opposite angles with each hand.
  • Dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
    7
    Once the dough is thoroughly kneaded, place it in an oiled bowl. Toss the dough around so it is coated with oil all the way around. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, press right up against the dough. This will prevent a skin from forming on the dough, allowing it to rise more. Put the bowl someplace warm until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Dough rolled into two loaves.
    8
    Roll the dough out into a loaf shape and cut it in half.
  • Dough doubled in size.
    9
    Roll out the pieces of dough until they are about 6-9 inches long. Cover the loaves with plastic and allow them to rise for another 40 minutes. They should roughly double in width.
  • Cutting a slit into the dough.
    10
    Preheat the oven to 425°. Place loaves of bread on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or parchment paper (so the dough does not stick). Cut each loaf down the middle with the sharpest blade you have. If you don't have anything that's absolutely sharp, use a razor blade. You want to cut about a quarter-inch deep in a single quick stroke without sawing back and forth. This will prevent the bread from bursting open in the oven.
  • Bread baking in the oven.
    11
    Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 400° and bake another 25-30 minutes. To check if they’re done, pick one loaf up and thump on the bottom with your thumb. If it has a hollow sound, it’s done. If you want really crusty bread, great for dipping in olive oil or marinara sauce, place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. The steam will keep the skin from forming too fast, giving the bread more time to rise. It will also make the crust crisper. Don’t put the loaves near the top. The radiant heat from the top of the stove will brown the crust too much, too fast.
  • Loaf of Crusty Italian Bread.
    12
    Serve immediately with butter, or with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
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