Traditional Italian bread is moist, has a thin, crisp crust, and works well with any meal.
At breakfast, this bread is perfect for scooping up the egg yolk on your plate. Pair it in the Italian way with fruit compote and a dark coffee with a splash of milk to start your day or serve with lunch or dinner alongside pasta or soups. It also works well in a hoagie or even as a pizza-bread base.
When sliced thin, use it to make little French toasts, or as the base of hors d’oeuvres topped with either membrillo paste and Manchego cheese, or ricotta, honey, and pumpkin seeds.
The end product is two nice-sized loaves for the week.
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water (95 F to 110 F)
1 tablespoon butter, or margarine, softened
5 cups bread flour, or high-gluten flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon cold water
Cornmeal, for sprinkling on the baking sheet, optional
Steps to Make It
Making the Dough
Ingredients for Italian bread dough gathered
In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, yeast, and warm water.
A yellow bowl of sugar, salt, yeast, and warm water mixed together
Stir in the softened butter or margarine, whichever using.
Butter stirred into the salt and yeast mixture in a yellow bowl
Sift in one cup of flour at a time until you have a dough that can be easily kneaded by hand without sticking to your hands.
Flour mixed into butter and yeast mixture in a yellow bowl
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is soft and not sticky.
Dough turned out on a lightly floured surface
Lightly grease a medium-sized bowl with olive oil and flip dough over so that the top is also greased.
Dough resting in a yellow bowl
Cover with a clean kitchen towel or wrap paper and let rise for 30 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.
Proofing a Second Time
Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with coarse cornmeal, if desired.
A baking sheet that has been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal
Remove the dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured table, and divide into two equal parts.
Dough on a cutting board that has been cut into two equal parts
Roll each dough half into an approximately 15 x 9-inch rectangle.
Two rectangles of dough on a cutting board
Roll the dough tightly along the 15-inch side, pinch the seams, and taper the ends of each loaf with your hands at a 45-degree angle.
Two tightly rolled doughs on a cutting board
Place the loaves on the prepared baking sheet and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 20 minutes.
Baking the Bread
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Make 3 deep diagonal slashes on each loaf.
Two rolled doughs that have been scored and are resting on a baking sheet
Bake the bread for 20 minutes.
Lightly beat the egg white and cold water in a small bowl to create an egg wash. This step is key for a traditional Italian bread.
Lightly beaten eggs in a blue bowl
Remove the loaves from the oven and brush with the egg wash.
Loaves removed from the oven and brushed with an egg wash
Return the loaves to the oven for another 5 minutes.
Two baked loaves resting on a baking sheet
Serve bread warm or cold and enjoy.