It’s official: I’ve become a bread-making fanatic. I can’t get enough of the stuff. After making homemade English muffins, ciabatta bread and a few others, I decided to try my hand at rustic Italian bread. To be honest, I devoured about three-quarters of the first loaf by myself – dangerous stuff.
This recipe is super easy to make and it’s sure to impress your family or any dinner guests you’ll be inviting over this weekend. The outer crust is thick and crispy and the inside is warm, soft and delightfully tasty. The recipe makes two loaves so there should be plenty to go around, unless you’re a bread-hog like me.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Mix the yeast and flour in a mixing bowl until combined.
- Pour the water in with the yeast mixture and stir the mixture for 3 minutes.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours but not longer than 12 hours.
- I prefer to make the sponge right before going to bed so I can begin the finally preparations mid-morning the next day. You could also prepare the sponge in the morning before heading to work if making it during the workweek.
- After the sponge has properly rested, add the water and salt to it. Stir in the flour, adding a little extra as needed if the dough is too sticky.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a bowl greased with olive oil, pat the top of the dough with olive oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.
- Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Take one of the halves and shape it into a long rectangle by working it in the air with your hands and then lightly stretching it on a floured surface. Fold the rectangle in half, lightly stretch it out a little bit and then fold in half again.
- Pinch the seam tightly together with your fingers, ensuring no openings remain. Refer to the photo on the right for an idea of how it should look.
- Repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
- Leave the loaves on the floured work surface, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place each loaf onto a lightly greased and floured baking sheet or baking stone*, stretching each loaf gently as you place them, and sprinkle each with flour. Cover the loaves again with plastic wrap and let rise for about 20 minutes.
- Cut a few diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf and bake for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Enjoy alone or with any of your favorite meals!
*If you will be making bread often, I highly recommend purchasing and using a baking stone. It allows the bread to bake more evenly and reduces over-browning on the bottom.
Let me know the results after making this rustic Italian bread. Also, if you haven’t yet, visit the Made From Scratch Recipes Facebook page to connect with other food enthusiasts!