It goes without saying we are living in trying times. During times of uncertainty it is only natural to turn to areas of comfort. For me one of the biggest comforts is cooking or simply being in the kitchen. Today I found myself in the kitchen with family baking fresh homemade Italian bread. Bread (in my opinion) is one of the most essential forms of food a cook (baker) should learn how to prepare properly before anything else.
Don’t fret however if you’ve tried before and the results weren’t as exciting as you imagined. Bread (as we know) can sometimes be tricky to get ‘just right’ or make look like those perfectly snapped Instagram shots from famous bakeries. But here’s the good news – you don’t need to be in a famous bakery nor a seasoned baker to prepare and bake incredible loaves.
Homemade Italian Bread is not only incredibly tasty but also easy to prepare. If learning to bake bread for the first time this is a version of bread that any new baker could easily find success with even on the first try!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 Pack Dry Yeast (Make sure it is not expired)
1 1/2 cups of luke warm water
2 TSP of Sugar (or substitute with Honey as we did in this recipe)
2 TSP of Kosher Salt
5 1/2 Cups of sifted flour – (I like king Arthur Flour)
In a mixing cup put your packet of dry yeast along with 1 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Stir for a few moments and let sit until you see the yeast bubbling. (Usually just a couple minutes)
Meanwhile in your stand mixer attach the dough hook. Put 3 cups of your sifted AP Flour, salt & sugar. Turn your mixer on slow and gradually incorporate half of the wet yeast mix into the dough.
*Instead of sugar I included about 2 Tablespoons of honey as a substitute. You can add this to your dough mix once the mix begins to incorporate well.
After 1-2 minutes of mixing add in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of your flour and gradually incorporate the remaining wet yeast mix.
Allow the stand mixer to continue to mix the dough until fully incorporated and the dough forms one solid shape.
Remove the dough from the mixer and place on a floured surface. Begin kneading by hand thoroughly until the dough forms a nice smooth texture with no lumps. If your dough is too wet you can gradually add flour as you go.
Once your dough ball is well formed and smooth place in a large glass bowl with a bit of olive oil. Place a cloth over top of the bowl and place in an area of the kitchen that does not get any drafts of air.
Allow dough to rise for 1 hour.
After 1 hour the dough should be roughly twice the size. Remove from bowl and separate using a bread scrapper into two equally sized portions.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place both loaves onto the baking sheet. Recover with a cloth and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
After your dough is fully risen take a sharp-edged knife and cut slits into the top of the bread. Place in oven on 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes take a spoon and tap the top of the loaves. If you hear a hollow sound than you know your bread is finished!
Remove from over and place on a baking tray. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.