Traditional Italian Bread

Traditional Italian bread

The Spruce 

  • Total: 85 mins
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Yield: 2 Loaves (24 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
13 Calories
0g Fat
2g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 Loaves (24 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 13
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 19mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 0g
Calcium 4mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Traditional Italian bread is moist, has a thin, crisp crust, and works well with any meal. If you haven't tried baking fresh Italian bread yet, this simple recipe will get you started.

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.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast 
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water (95 to 110 F)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or margarine, softened)
  • 5 cups bread flour (or high-gluten flour)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water (cold)
  • Optional: cornmeal (for sprinkling on the baking sheet)

Steps to Make It

Making the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for dough
    The Spruce 
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, yeast, and warm water.

    Stir together salt and yeast
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  3. Stir in the softened butter or margarine.

    Stir in butter
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  4. Sift in one cup of flour at the time until you have a dough that can be easily kneaded by hand without sticking to your hands.

    Mix in flour
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  5. 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.

    Turn the dough on a lightly floured surface
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  6. Lightly grease a medium-sized bowl with olive oil and flip dough over so that the top is also greased.

    Place dough in bowl
    The Spruce
  7. 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

  1. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with coarse cornmeal, if desired.

    Grease a baking sheet
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  2. Remove the dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured table, and divide into two equal parts.

    Divide dough into two parts
    The Spruce
  3. Roll each dough half into an approximately 15 x 9-inch rectangle.

    Two rectangles of dough
    The Spruce
  4. 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.

    Tightly roll dough
    The Spruce
  5. Place the loaves on the prepared baking sheet and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 20 minutes.

Baking the Bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

  2. Make 3 deep diagonal slashes on each loaf.

    Score the bread
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  3. Bake the bread for 20 minutes.

  4. 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 beat eggs
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  5. Remove the loaves from the oven and brush with the egg wash.

    Remove loaves from oven
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  6. Return the loaves to the oven for another 5 minutes.

    Baked loaves
    The Spruce 
  7. Serve bread warm or cold and enjoy.

Italian Bread Basics

You may have had Italian bread before, but it's important to know what characteristics you can expect it to have:

  • The inside is moist, thick, and very absorbent, perfect for soaking up soup, sauces, and oils.
  • Italian bread tends to be an elongated oval shape, not too thin and not too thick. 
  • Unlike French bread, which tends to be sweet, Italian bread often has a savory taste that adds to its versatility.
  • Italian bread dough is typically wetter than other doughs because it uses more liquid (water or milk) and fat (butter or olive oil).
  • Despite its savory flavor, many Italian bread recipes do use sugar.
  • Traditionally, Italian bread is baked on a stone to give it that signature thin crisp crust, golden brown in color.
  • Italian breads baked in wood ovens have a smokier flavor.