Did you ever want to know how to make crusty Italian bread?
It’s simple… It’s about the most basic bread recipe you can have because it only has the following ingredients:
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 table spoon dry yeast
I’m lazy these days so I use a bread machine on dough setting just to mix, kneed and raise the dough…
Simply put the water in the pan… sprinkle in the salt… put in the flour put the yeast on top.. Turn the machine on!
If you are making it by hand:
Warm 1/2 cup of the water.. put in a large bowl and sprinkle in the yeast.
Let that stand for 5 minutes. Then put in the rest of the water. Then sprinkle in the salt.. and begin mixing in the flour a bit at a time… eventually it’s to thick to stir with a spoon, so get your clean hands in there and mix it up.
Put flower on your cutting board… and kneed the dough until it is elastic and smooth.
Let the dough rise about an hour in a warm place…
See why I like bread machines to do the hard work?
Ok… now that you have risen dough…
line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Now some people go to some length to form the loaf… but in my experience all you need to do is shape it by hand into an Italian loaf shape and put that on the baking sheet.
cover it with a kitchen towel and let that rise while we do the next part..
Start preheating the oven to 375 degrees. If you have a convection setting use that..
Put a pan in the bottom rack of the oven.. I use the bottom of a broiler pan..
Boil a tea kettle of water.
When boiled pour some of the water into the pan in the oven… please be careful!
Now you will see steam coming off the water and into the oven… this is how you get crust..
Once you have a preheated oven… take a look at the loaf… has it risen enough? It should have risen for about 30 minutes… so wait it out.
Make an egg white wash… in a cup.. put one egg white and about 2 tablespoons of water.. mix it up… brush that onto the loaf.
Next step is optional… sprinkle sesame seeds onto the loaf… they will stick to the egg wash..
Now put the loaf in the oven on the middle rack…
Bake 20 minutes…. very carefully brush on egg wash again… bake 20 more minutes.
The bread is done when it is golden brown like my photo..
Next part is essential… DO NOT CUT THE LOAF HOT RIGHT OUT OF THE OVEN.
Right out of the oven the loaf is so hot, if you cut it.. all the moisture will rush out as steam… leaving you with a dry bread…
It is best to let the loaf cool on a rack until it is just a bit warm before cutting it.
If you can’t wait… experience says if you wait at least 10 minutes before cutting it the loaf will be fine.
Fresh bead, no preservatives!