Italian Bread Recipe

Several years ago I had a person working for me that was Italian. Her mother made all of their bread and she would bring loaves of her bread to me. It had the best texture and flavor of any Italian bread I had ever eaten. I started a quest to reproduce her bread but was never quite able to get mine to be just like hers. Until now.


The secret is in the biga. A biga is like a sponge which is left to ferment.


After the biga has fermented you add additional ingredients to form the dough. Once the dough rises you divide it into 3 pieces.


Each piece is rolled into a long rope.


Then the dough is braided.


Then placed on cornmeal and parchment paper on a cookie sheet.


It rises about an hour to an hour and a half.


This is what it looks like after it rises.


Then it is brushed with egg white.


And I cracked sea salt over the top.


These loaves do not get very dark. They are done when they look like this.


They are crunchy on the outside and dense and chewy inside. And the flavor...oh the flavor. Try this, you will like it!

The Recipe:

Sponge:
1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Dough:
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 to 2 1/2 cups (8 1/2 to 10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
The Sponge: Combine all of the sponge ingredients, mixing just till a cohesive dough forms. Allow it to rest, covered, for 24 hours. I forgot about mine and let it rise 48 hours. When the sponge is ready, it will be filled with large holes and bubbles.
The Dough: Add the water to the sponge, and mix till smooth. Add the flour, yeast and salt, and knead the dough till it’s fairly smooth but not necessarily elastic, about 3 minutes by machine, or 5 minutes by hand. (The gluten will continue to develop as the dough rises, so you don’t want to develop it fully during the kneading process.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. To help develop the gluten and distribute the yeast’s food, turn the dough twice during the rising time: gently fold all four sides into the middle, and turn the dough over.
Divide dough in thirds, and roll each third into a 20-inch-long rope. Braid ropes. Set the braid on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until just puffy.
Preheat oven to 425F. Gently brush the braid with the beaten egg white mixture and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Comments

Leeanna said…
I love bread recipes. Heck, I love bread. I've got to try this one. BTW sweetie, I hit 100 minions over the weekend and I am having a giveaway for that. I haven't seen your entry yet. Come on over and enter darlin.
TheBlakkDuchess said…
Ooooo... I think I'll start this today & bake it tomorrow instead of my usual bread... I can't wait to try it! Thanks for sharing this recipe! ^-^
Braided bread just looks extra delicious, I don't know why.
Lovely lady, the rye bread recipe was to die for. The grands devoured the loaf within 4 hours of it coming out of the oven. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.
Pretty obvious, I gotta try this one too. Thanks for your generousity. The Olde Bagg
bet your kitchen smelled good and felt cozy...

looks wonderful...i am getting this recipe and putting it right in my recipe box. love baking bread...especially at the Holidays....
Thank goodness! This looks heavenly and I'm starting this today. However, I'm also doing another loaf of No Knead. I'm afraid I'll go into withdrawal without at least one loaf in the house.
Adsila said…
I love warm homemade bread with my holiday meals or a hot bowl of chili or stew.
Pricilla said…
I'll have to try this. My Italian bread has so far been so so
Unfortunately I´m never successful with these kinds of breads. Doesn´t matter if I use the electric or the fire heated stove. So i just keep on doing my rye breads instead :-)

Have a great day now!
Christer.
I would never turn down a slice of fresh from the oven warm Italian bread. Spread liberally with real creamery butter and "katie bar the door".

Happy day.

xoxo to Teddy Red Fluffs!
greekwitch said…
How strange i just tookmy bread of the ovenh. Unfortunately it does n't look like this!!!
Brightest blessings,
G.
Mel Mel said…
Now I'm really craving good bread! I could almost smell it through the computer! Yum!
Millie said…
I just love that crusty Italian style bread! That looks so yummy.
Jennifer said…
That looks so delicious! I could never survive on the Atkins diet, I love bread too much!
LisaDay said…
Now I want bread. Baked from the oven, warm goodness bread.

LisaDay
This is the best Italian Bread ever, I promise. The dough is beautiful and easy to work with. I would love to have one loaf of your bread that lasted longer than 5 hours in my house.

I feel like the neighborhood bakery. I open the oven door and 5 people show up.
TheBlakkDuchess said…
Just pulled my attempt a this recipe outta the oven. My apartment smells divine & I'm having a hard time waiting for the bread to cool a bit so I can try some... ^-^

Thanks again for this recipe! =D