Bread is one of those things that should never be missing on a table, better if a crusty Italian bread.
Different types of Italian bread
Italy has more than 250 types of bread, with about 1000 different variations.
Bread can be prepared:
- with different types of yeast: sourdough, beer, dehydrated
- with or without fat (extra virgin olive oil, but also lard, in the North)
- with an incredible variety of flour, from wheat to corn, from durum wheat to spelt
- with or without salt (the most famous example of the latter being the “toscano” bread)
- plain or with seeds or other particular ingredients (olives, pumpkin, etc.)
- in a huge variety of shapes.
Characteristics of my Italian bread loaf
Today I come to you with this crusty Italian bread recipe, in which I use:
- dehydrated beer yeast
- no fat at all
- whatever mix of flour you prefer … but I share with you my secret one
- a small amount of salt
- with no additional ingredients … but you can add some seeds to make it super tasty and even healthier
- a trick to have no skills required to shape it!
A quick note about leavening. I usually let the dough rest in the fridge, for about 20-24 hours. If you are in a hurry (i.e. you have about 5 hours before you will eat your homemade bread), make the leavening happen at ambient temperature; in this case, the time needed is about 3-3.5 hours.
How to eat this bread
Finally, some suggestions on how to use this bread.
An amazing way is fare la scarpetta, a funny expression that means clean the dish after a good pasta with sauce, better is the sauce is a tomato-based one, or an amazing ragu bolognese like my mom’s one.
Another great way is to cut it into slices and prepare crostini, with garlic and tomato, or (my favorite, typical from Tuscany) liver.
Staying in Tuscany, this bread loaf will be an important ingredient of one of the tastiest soups you will ever eat, the ribollita. If you have never tried it… trust me, follow my instructions and you will find perfect comfort food for a cold winter day.
But now… don’t lose time and start cooking our rustic Italian bread!
Crusty Italian bread
- Mixer (optional, but highly recommended due to high hydration)
- Dutch oven
- Chopping board (or a surface to knead on)
- 500 gr Flour My mix is: 100 gr strong flour, 100 gr wholemeal spelt flour, 300 gr wheat flour type '0'
- 350 gr water tap water is good, but use it after 10 minutes rest.
- 2 gr dehydrated beer yeast
- 8 gr salt
- 3 gr diastatic malt A good substitute is a tablespoon of honey.
- Add flour, malt and yeast in the mixer bowl.
- Start mixing, at minimum speed, slowly adding water. When half of the water is absorbed, add the salt.
- Go on mixing, adding the remaining water, until the dough is smooth and the glutinic net is created. Let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle some flour on the chopping board, then work the dough on it, doing what we call "folding the dough". Do that at least twice. Watch the video as a reference.
- Put the dough into an oiled bowl, then cover it with a transparent film. Let it rest for about 20 hours in the fridge (it must double in size). Alternative: about 3 hours at ambient temperature.
- Put the dutch oven into the oven and light it at 230 °C. After the temperature is stable, remove it from the oven, drop the dough into it (no need to shape it!), cover and put it back into the oven.
- Cook it for 30 minutes at 230 °C, then lower at 200 °C and remove the cover. After 15 minutes, the bread is done. (Note: leave the oven door slightly open during the last 5 minutes). Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool down on a grid. When it has reached ambient temperature… you can enjoy it. Buon appetito!
- malt (or honey if you cannot find it) is essential to get it crusty
- last 5 minutes of cooking, keep the oven slightly open (I use a wooden spoon to block the oven door). This will avoid having a loaf crunchy outside but wet inside
- cooling the bread down on a grid with air below is important, to have homogeneous cooling
- use a mixer to create a better glutinic mesh. The result will be an evenly leavened loaf, with homogeneous texture
- not losing the loaf shape while cooking is the hardest part of making homemade bread. The dutch oven has been truely enlightening to me: the loaf is always perfect!
Let me know in the comments if the results were satisfying for you and your family. My daughter loves this rustic Italian bread 🙂
And if you love baking as much as I do, you can have fun with my Neapolitan pizza, with a typical pinsa from Rome or with one of my focaccia bread recipes (both with sourdough or an easier one with dried beer yeast).