Do you want to know how to make homemade crusty Italian bread recipe, with a soft, airy and open crumb and a fragrant crust, just as you would eat it if you were in Italy? Here is the basic bread dough for fast and easy homemade crusty bread.
You’ll only need 4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. A bowl to mix everything and a few hours of leavening. We’ll show you how to divide the dough into loaves and how to cook them perfectly. The result will surprise you!
You will have a crisp, delicious and fragrant homemade bread, which remains soft for days, even perfect for freezing. Worthy of the best bakeries!
Homemade Crusty Italian Bread Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 min and about 4 hours of leavening
- Cook Time: 25 mi
- Yelds: 10/12
- 300 g (10 oz) of manitoba flour
- 200 g (7 oz) of “00” flour + more for dusting
- 400 ml of water (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon of dry brewer’s yeast (about 10 g /0,35 oz)
- 1 teaspoon of sugar (about 10 g/0,35 oz)
- 1 teaspoon and a half of salt (about 15 g /0,53 oz)
Start by preparing the necessary ingredients to make homemade crusty Italian bread recipe. In addition to “00” flour, we will use manitoba flour, because it’s particularly right for leavened products as bread.
In fact, manitoba flour has a high protein content and has a high water absorption power (up to 90% of its weight) so it is perfect for making crusty bread with airy and open crumb. If you can’t find manitoba flour, use 500 g (1,1 lb) of type 1 flour (read the paragraph below “What is the Best Flour to Make Bread?”)
Step 1) – Choose a rather large bowl because the dough will have to triple its volume during the leavening. Then add the yeast, salt and sugar (which is used to activate the yeast). Now mix the flours together.
Step 2) – Stir with a fork (or if you prefer with a whisk) and gradually add the water at room temperature. Start with 370 ml, adding the rest of the water only if the dough requires it. You’ll need to get a soft dough.
Step 3) – Now sprinkle a handful of flour over the dough then cover with cling film and let rise in the oven (closed and off) for about 2-3 hours, the time necessary for the dough to triple in volume. Why place the dough in the oven? The dough for bread, pizza or focaccia rises better and earlier in a humid and warm environment, around 28 ° C (82 F), so this is the quickest and most handy solution. If the oven is too cold and you want to speed up the rising times, turn on the oven light.
Step 4) – As you can see, the dough has risen well and is very soft. Now turn the dough over on a floured work surface.
How to Fold Bread Dough
Step 5) – Don’t worry if the dough is soft, dust your hands and make two wallet-style folds, from left to right and vice versa. Then, still with floured hands, make two more folds from top to bottom and vice versa.
How to Shape Homemade Bread
Step 6) – In this step, sprinkle a little flour on the surface, lift the dough and turn it, so as to find the surface without folds above. Now with a sharp and long knife, cut 3 loaves of equal size.
Step 7) – With floured hands, lift the loaves from the ends and place each loaf in a large oven pan lined with parchment paper and lightly dusted with flour.
Then, always with floured hands, shape the sides and give the round shape to the ends of the loaves of bread. Sprinkle the surface with a final handful of flour. If you want, with the same method, you can also make just 2 large loaves of bread or smaller loaves.
Now the loaves of bread must rise therefore, as before, place the bread to rise in the oven off and closed for about 1 hour / 1 hour and a half, until they double in volume.
The dough will not rise only in height but also in width, therefore, at the end of the rising, you will see that the loaves will have stuck together. Don’t worry; it will be enough to separate them using a knife and flour, then give them back their shape by pressing them sideways and they are ready to be cooked.
How to Bake Bread in the Oven at Home so Perfect
Step 8) – Preheat the oven to 250 ° C (482 F) and only when it’s very hot, enter the pan with the bread, in the lower part, in contact with the base of the oven. Cook for about 12 minutes. Then move the pan to the center of the oven and cook the loaves for 5 minutes.
Finally, without opening the oven, lower the temperature to 230 ° C (446 F) and allow to complete the cooking for another 5 minutes, until golden brown bread. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.
Homemade crusty Italian bread is ready! As good as that of the baker, rather more because you did it!
How to Store Homemade Crusty Italian Bread
Paper bag + plastic bag: to keep the bread fresh and crispy for 2-3 days, you can put it first in a paper food bag, then in a plastic bag. The humidity that the bread releases is absorbed by the paper bag and the plastic bag will limit its exposure to the air, preventing it from becoming hard;
White, soft and damp cloth
Wrap the bread in a white cloth, close all sides well and keep it in an open bread container, away from heat sources: the product remains crunchy and does not lose its original characteristics;
If you realize you’ve made too much bread, your best bet is to freeze it. So store it in plastic bags suitable for food, close well and freeze. When you decide to eat it, it is sufficient to take it out of the freezer a few hours in advance and let it thaw at room temperature without a bag. DO NOT defrost in the microwave.
What is the Best Flour to Make Bread?
We tend to use the “00” flour considering the absolute best but in reality the flour for the bread should have a higher gluten strength than “00”, otherwise it will fail to rise properly.
The “00” flour is obtained by macerating the innermost part of the wheat seed and contains practically nothing since in the grinding process all elements rich in fiber, vitamins and mineral salts are eliminated.
It’s low in protein (maximum 9%) and used alone is not suitable for products that require long leavening as bread.
Type 1 Flour and Type 2 Flour
They contain a fairly high amount of bran and wheat germ which make these flours rich in nutrients useful for the body. They contain a high percentage of protein (12%) in particular gliadin and glutenin, the gluten proteins.
They alone are perfect for making bread, pizza and focaccia. Known as “bread flour” or “pizza flour”, when you buy them, always check the percentage of protein that must be equal to or greater than 12%.
White whole wheat
It’s another type of flour excellent for making homemade bread, rich in natural fibers. It has a high percentage of proteins (12%).
It’s considered a special flour because it absorbs even 90% of the liquid and is used to increase the effectiveness of weaker flours such as “00”. Rich in protein, it’s often used to make bread, because with it the crumb is soft, airy and open.