Homemade Italian Bread

When I have guests over for dinner, chances are I will cook a 4-course Italian dinner for them (antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce). With such a dinner I always bake this bread. Freshly baked bread is a treat that will impress your guests. It is not a lot of work if you have a stand mixer. Allow about 4 hours from start to ready to slice, but most of that is inactive time. Bread is also great for fare la scarpetta, cleaning every last drop of sauce from your plate with bread. This bread has a great crust and neutral flavor that doesn’t overpower the food. This is the reason why I do not generally bake bread stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, or the like, because then the bread would play the lead rather than a supporting role.

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I posted about this bread before, but that was when I didn’t have a stand mixer yet and was using my bread maker to make the dough. The use of olive oil and part semolina flour makes this bread ‘Italian’. I use Turkish semolina flour that is more coarsely ground than the Italian semola di grano duro rimacinata, but only about half the price and easily available from Turkish supermarkets (that are all around the Netherlands).

Ingredients

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Recipe can be scaled to your liking

250 grams (1 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp) all-purpose flour or bread flour

250 grams (1 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp) semolina flour (semola di grano duro)

300 ml (1 1/4 cup) lukewarm water

20 grams (.7 oz) fresh yeast, or 7 grams (2 1/2 tsp) dried yeast

60 ml (4 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

10 grams (2 tsp) salt

12 grams (3 tsp) sugar

flour for sprinkling

Preparation

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Crumble the yeast into the water, add the sugar and stir.

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Combine the two flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Process until mixed on medium speed.

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While the mixer is running, add the yeast mixture and the olive oil.

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Remove the paddle attachment, scraping off the dough, once all the flour has been incorporated.

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Insert the dough hook.

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Knead on medium speed until all of the dough has gathered around the hook, about 10 minutes.

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Scrape the dough off the hook.

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Before rising.


Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about an hour. A great place for this is a cold oven with just the light turned on.

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After rising.

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Knead the dough briefly by hand, just to remove any trapped air. Shape it into a loaf and put it on a baking sheet.

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Cover with a dish cloth and allow to rise for another hour in a warm place. This second rise is called ‘proofing’.

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Preheat the oven to 225C/440F (not using the fan). Sprinkle the bread with flour.

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Bake for 30 minutes at 225C/440F or until golden brown and the bread sounds ‘hollow’ when you tap on the bottom.

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Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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Wait at least half an hour before cutting the bread, preferably an hour. When the bread is still too warm, the texture is not optimal yet.

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25 thoughts on “Homemade Italian Bread

  1. Your loaf looks fantastic, Stefan. You should hear Zia and I talk of bread back in the day. It’s as if we’re mourning the loss of a family member. It’s all about the crust. If the loaf doesn’t have the right crust, it just doesn’t cut it with us. Yours seems to be the real deal and since I want to bake bread again, this is a good recipe to start. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, John! It would be great if you were to use my recipe as a starting point. If you like a thicker crust, you could try to increase the time (to 40 minutes, say) and lower the temperature (400 degrees). Good luck!

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  2. Hi Stephan, your photos and your words have been copied and pasted over on Scoop.it by this person http://www.scoop.it/t/le-marche-and-the-food
    I and others have found some of our posts on his page. While he links back to our sites, he never asked for permission, and he copied our photos and entire recipe in our words. I have registered a DMCA complaint with Scoop.it but they ingnored it. If you gave this guy permission, then ignore this, but I thought you’d like to know just in case. Maybe more complaints will register with Scoop.It.

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  3. Great looking bread, Stefan. We love bread with a hard crusty exterior and a soft chewy interior. This looks just fantastic and I love the addition of the semolina; however, I do have a question. Why do you not bake it with the convection fan on?

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    1. Thanks, Richard. I do not use the convection fan because it strips away the water vapor near the surface of the bread, and thus the bread will dry out faster. I put a dish with some water in the oven when I bake wholewheat bread (since enough moisture is even more important for wholewheat) to increase the humidity in the oven. The interesting thing about ovens is that the humidity is as important as the temperature, but regular kitchen ovens only allow you to set the temperature. When my current oven breaks down, I’ll buy a combi oven and won’t have to worry about humidity anymore 🙂

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