Sometimes I wish I had one of those potions from Alice in Wonderland so I can make myself small enough to lay on a slice of this Italian bread like a pillow. A heavenly soft, carbolicious pillow.
But seriously, how wonderful would that be? Because not only are you totally comfy-cozy, you also have a snack right there to munch on as needed. And then when you want to eat the bread as a sandwich or make it into a yummy baked French toast or strata or something, you can take the potion that makes you big again. It’s perfect.
Aaaaaand I’ve lost you. But homemade, soft-on-the-inside-crusty-on-the-outside classic Italian bread, remember? Yes, let’s focus more on that.
I am fairly certain that whenever I went to my grandma and grandpa’s house as a kid, my snack diet consisted of snap peas from the garden, kohlrabi stalks (no, really, so good) and sliced Italian bread from the bakery plain or with my grandmother’s plum jam on it (that is truly one of the best things about life ever, and I hope I can get the recipe one day to share it with you). So when Red Star Yeast asked me to make a loaf of Italian bread using their yeast, I was happy to take it on because nostalgia. And homemade bread. It was a no-brainer.
I was a little nervous that my recipe wouldn’t taste quite the same as what I remembered eating as a youth — that soft, aforementioned pillowy center with a perfectly chewy, flaky crust — but my friends, this recipe is just that and it is a glorious thing. It really doesn’t take much time, effort or ingredients to get there, either. Just a little flour, yeast, water, oil and a little know-how on shaping it into a batard/torpedo loaf (which is what’s going on in the photo above and it is very well-explained by the great Peter Reinhart in this video) and you’re well on your way to homemade bread blissdom.
So in conclusion, I’ll be making a loaf of this bread on the regular this fall and the Season That Shall Not Be Named. And it will be taking any and all of the following forms: Sandwich, strata, bread pudding, French toast, baked French toast casserole, croutons, grilled cheese, toast. Surely I am missing more options, but that’s just for starters.
Of course, just eating slice after slice plain (as I may or may not have done once this loaf was cool enough to cut into) is going to happen a lot, too.
If this crisp-cool weather (or in my great state of Minnesota, the weird summer-after-fall weather we’ll be having) has got you bit by the baking bug as it has me, then put this easy homemade Italian bread on your list. You can thank me for it later, with a sandwich.
- 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) Red Star active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
- 2½ cups bread or all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar and warm water. Let stand 5 minutes until yeast is foamy.
- Add 2 cups flour, olive oil and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon or with a dough hook on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand 10 minutes, adding just enough of the remaining flour until a soft, smooth and elastic dough forms; OR, increase dough hook speed to medium and knead dough in stand mixer 5 minutes, adding just enough of the remaining flour until a soft, smooth and elastic dough forms.
- Shape dough into a ball; place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise 1 hour until doubled.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or lightly grease the surface with oil or cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, punch down dough, then carefully shape into a batard/torpedo about 12 inches long. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise another 20 minutes until puffy.
- Use a serrated knife to make a few ¼-inch deep slits in the surface of the loaf. Bake loaf 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.
Disclosure: I received compensation from Red Star Yeast for recipe development purposes. All opinions are my own.