Crusty Italian bread - Recipe
Today we are going to tell you everything you need to know about making your own crusty Italian bread. Whether you are an experienced home baker, or you are a complete beginner, this recipe is simple to follow and will give you great results. Our top tip before starting is don’t over knead your dough. After a few goes, with lots of experimenting, your bread will be perfect.
Things to know:
Before we start, it’s important to know the difference between active dry yeast and instant dry yeast, and their fermentation qualities. Both can be used to make bread but we recommend active dry yeast.
Often home bakers use instant dry yeast because it is fast-rising. It is added to all the ingredients directly from the packet, unlike active dry yeast (which is added to the water first). After kneading the ingredients, an instant dry yeast dough takes roughly 1 hour - 1.5 hours to rise. After punching the air out of the dough, you can bake it straight away. You don’t need to make the dough rise twice.
When using active dry yeast, it should be soaked in the water to activate its essential sugars. After 10 minutes or so, bubbles or foam should appear at the top of the water. Add the yeast and water to the dry ingredients and begin kneading. After kneading your dough, leave it for some time between 1.5 hours and 3 hours - depending on the size of bread you’re making. After the dough has risen, punch the air out of the bread and shape it before letting it rise for a second time. This second rising could be up to 50 minutes. Put it in the oven to bake after this second rising.
Active dry yeast gives more flavour to your bread than instant dry yeast because of the fermentation that goes on during the rising. This fermentation is what creates the lovely bread flavour we are seeking. Here is a good article on the fermentation process.
Also, high quality flour will bring you better results as well.
7g active dry yeast
300 ml warm water
400g high quality bread flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Pour the yeast into warm water and, after mixing, allow it to dissolve for 10 minutes. You’ll see that the yeast is active when it is bubbling or foaming at the top.
Take 400g of bread flour. Add a teaspoon of regular salt and 2 teaspoons of sugar to the flour.
Add the yeast and water mixture to the flour, salt and sugar mixture. Combine the ingredients with your hands. If you have a mixer, put it on a low speed.
When the dough is sticking together, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and mix the oil into the dough.
Tip your dough out and knead it with your hands to create a smooth, silky and elastic consistency. If your dough is too sticky, add some more flour to it. If you have a mixer, you can use a dough hook to knead it on a low speed.
If you don’t have a mixer, use this video to learn how to knead the dough with your hands.
Remember that good dough does not stick to your hands.
Take a bowl and oil the surface of it. Put the dough into the bowl and cover it with cling film. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour - 1.5 hours.
After the dough has risen, we need to get rid of the air in it.
Flour your surface and knead the dough a bit more.
Divide the dough in half and roll those halves into two 12 inch loaves.
If the dough is sticking, put some flour on your hands and the surface.
Put your two loaves on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit of cornmeal (also known as maize meal). Brush the top of your bread with extra virgin olive oil.
With a knife cut marks into the top of your bread. Don’t make them too deep, just enough to allow the steam to come out while baking.
Cover with cling film and let it rise for a second time, for approximately 45 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 220℃ and bake your bread for 18 – 30 minutes, depending on your dough and your oven, until it’s golden brown and fully cooked.
Allow your bread to cool down, and it’s ready to be served.
Baking is a creative science. Take your time, keep practising and get to know your dough. Be proud of your bread, and most of all, enjoy eating it!
We think our handmade dough is pretty close to perfect. Take a look at our vegetarian and vegan pizza menu and see for yourself.
Love, Novapizza Vegetarian Kitchen