Easy Homemade Italian Bread Recipe
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If you happened to think “I would try to make homemade bread but I can’t find a simple and basic recipe for making it at home”, keep reading because in this article we will tell you the recipe and all the secret to making the perfect homemade Italian bread. The article also includes tips on how to make the perfect dough at home using brewer’s yeast, not sourdough.
We know sourdough is very hyped these days, but our experience and our Italian heritage tell us you can bake amazing bread at home with brewer’s yeast and you won’t regret it.
There are thousands of bread recipes all over the place, but we want to focus on homemade Italian bread, which is considered universally amazing. The reasons why very often (almost always) homemade bread doesn’t come out as it should, are usually related to the choice of ingredients and too much haste. In fact, a piece of good homemade bread is prepared only by choosing the best flours and having patience.
Before moving on to the basic homemade bread recipe, here are some useful tips for you. If you want to skip to the recipe, use the table of content below.
What Flour Should I Use?
We have been used to work with all-purpose flour but this flour is of any use when making homemade bread: in fact, it’s best to use a flour with a high gluten strength otherwise your bread won’t rise as much as it should.
To keep things simple, gluten strength indicates the quantity of gluten flour has or can produce.
Gluten is fundamental in bread making and it’s formed when two of wheat’s native proteins, glutenin, and gliadin, come into contact with water. To make it short: the more gluten flour can produce, the better your bread will be because the dough will be able to hold gas bubbles formed when mixing ingredients, and those gas bubbles are what allows the bread to come out perfect.
So said, for your homemade Italian bread you need a high-gluten or a whole-wheat flour that has about 14% protein.
We recommend working the ingredients with bare hands, but if you prefer to use a stand mixer, we have a few recommendations for you.
How Long Should My Bread Rise?
Once the dough is ready, the bread must be left to rise before being put in the oven otherwise it will not be as high as it should be and the flavor of the yeast may be too strong and acidic.
The rising times depend on the size of the bread, the type of yeast used, and the environment: on average, it’s 4 to 5 hours.
In all cases, the best trick to understand if the dough is ready for baking is to take a small ball of dough, place it in a glass and cover it with cold water: when the ball has risen to the surface, it means that the dough is ready for the oven.
The bread must also be left to rise in a dry place so that it does not dry out and it is important that the surface does not dry out: we, therefore, recommend placing it in a container covered with a slightly wet cloth so as to keep the temperature constant and give the bread the opportunity to create the humidity that is necessary for leavening.
How should I cook my bread at home?
The oven we use at home is an appliance that must be understood before being used at its best. For this reason, the advice is to experiment until you find the right temperature for your bread and, consequently, its cooking time.
In general, it is always good to preheat the oven and bake the bread after placing a bowl with cold water on the bottom of the oven which will allow the bread not to dry out and to cook evenly.
Remember that if the oven temperature is too high, your bread may be overcooked on the outside and raw on the inside, but if it is too low, it may look moist but as soon as you will open it, you’ll discover it is undercooked both outside and inside.
How Do I Make Crusty Bread?
Even if the temptation to eat freshly baked bread is so great, to make sure that the bread does not lose consistency, it is good to let it cool on a raised and open wire rack underneath. In this way, no moisture will form and the bread will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Here we are: follow the recipe below and start making your homemade Italian bread at home:
Ingredients for 800 Grams Loaf
- 15 grams (0.52 oz) of fresh brewer's yeast
- 450 grams (15.87 oz) of whole-wheat flour
- 350 grams (12.34 oz) of water at room temperature
- 10 grams (0.35 oz) of fine salt
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- Sift the flour on a hard work surface mixing it with the salt and, when the yeast is completely dissolved, use it to dilute the flour by working the first dough with a fork;
- Gradually add the water and start working the dough with your hands for at least 15 minutes, so as to make sure that the mixture is firm and smooth;
- Once the dough is smooth and firm, form a ball and place it in a floured bowl covered with a damp cloth;
- Leave to rise for at least 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume (it can take up to 5 hours, depending on your work environment);
- Once the leavening time has elapsed, take the dough again and work it lightly on a hard and floured surface and form the rounded shape or the elongated shape loaf. Make incisions on the surface of the bread using a fine pointed knife;
- Leave to rise for another 2 hours;
- After the second leavening time, bake at 200° C for about 50 minutes remembering to place an aluminum bowl with water on the bottom of the oven (NB: the cooking times depend on the oven, as well as the temperature. We use a convection oven);
- Remove from the oven, place on an open and raised wire rack and let the bread cool without covering it so that it remains crisp.
Preparation time: 6.7 hours
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 7.5 hours
Homemade Bread: FAQ
Should I use Dry or Fresh Yeast to Make Bread?
Fresh and dry yeast are basically the same thing and using one or the other makes no difference.
Dry yeast is more practical because it lasts longer but you have to be careful when using it because some need preventive activation, usually in water and sugar, to start working.
Instant dry yeast, the one that does not require activation in water, must be added directly to the flour but remembering to slightly increase the amount of water for the dough.
We recommend fresh yeast or dry yeast, never instant dry yeast: homemade bread requires time and love!
In many countries, sodium bicarbonate is used to make bread, but for our homemade Italian bread, the bicarbonate may not be strong enough to allow a complete leavening.
Should I Use Salt for Homemade Bread?
Salt is not essential for bread but if you add it, it should never be added together with the yeast.
This is why we prefer to mix it with flour and then add the yeast or add them once the dough is almost formed.
If dry instant yeast is used, the salt must be added when the dough is already sufficiently formed.
Should I Use Oil in My Bread?
There are two schools of thought: those who argue that it should be added and those who argue it is not necessary.
Fat, of any type, gives the bread special characteristics. In the case of oil, it gives crunchiness.
In reality, however, you can do without it, entrusting the crunchiness of the bread to cooking.
Should I Use Sugar to Make Bread?
Sugar speeds up the leavening process and gives the bread an amber color. It can be replaced with honey or malt but it should never be avoided.
Homemade Bread Made Easy
If you want to learn the art of making homemade bread, we recommend these two books:
- Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish
- Carol Field’s The Italian Baker
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