Crusty Italian Bread

Crusty italian breadCrusty breads with soft, airy crumbs are my favorite, and here’s an Italian loaf that I absolutely adore and bake up every chance I get.

This bread needs three rises, including an overnight rise, so this is one of those recipes you want to plan ahead for. But all that rising is what rewards you with a great bread, plus most of it really is idle time when you are not doing anything. I also love how versatile this bread is. You could use it for bruschetta, slice it up for a sandwich, tear up pieces of it with your fingers to dunk in your soup, or you could even slather some PB and J on it.

The recipe makes two loaves, which is perfect because I have enough bread to last us the whole week. You can freshen it up before you serve it by placing it in a brown paper bag, spraying the bag with some water, and placing in a hot oven for about 5-10 minutes. It will be like new.

Also feel free to play around with the look of this bread. I like shaping it into oval loaves but I have also shaped it in rounds in the past and sometimes I’ve made three or four smaller loaves with this recipe.

So get that oven going: fall/winter is a perfect time to bake up some bread and get your house smelling like heaven.

Crusty Italian Bread

Crusty Italian Bread
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: Makes 2 loaves, 12 slices each
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (not hot)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Mix the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add the whole-wheat flour and ¾th cup of all-purpose flour to the bowl and mix with the dough hook or with a wooden spoon until everything’s thoroughly mixed together.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand overnight or for eight hours.
  4. Now add the salt and the remaining all-purpose flour to the bowl, a cup at a time, kneading and mixing. Drizzle in the olive oil. You want a smooth but not stiff dough. Continue to knead for another eight minutes.
  5. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and then place in a greased bowl, turning over once to coat the top with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set it aside to rise in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size.
  6. Punch down the dough and divide into two. Shape each half into a loaf by punching it into a round about eight inches in diameter and then rolling it up into a loaf. Pinch the seams together and tuck them underneath.
  7. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a lightly greased baking sheet. Place the loaves as far apart as you can on the sheet, giving enough room on all sides for the loaves to rise.
  8. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside for two hours. The loaves should double in size. In the last half hour of rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a baking pan with water in the bottom rack of the oven.
  9. Just before you place the loaves in the oven, make two or three sharp slashes on the top of each loaf using a very sharp knife. You want to use a swift motion so as to not deflate the bread.
  10. Bake the bread for 40 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Remove the baking sheet to a rack and cool 10 minutes, then transfer the loaves to the rack and continue cooling them.

Nutrition facts are for one slice of bread:

Crusty Italian Bread nutrition infoCrusty Italian Bread

Whole-Wheat Atta Bread

whole wheat atta breadThe more I bake with whole wheat and wholegrain flours, the more I’ve become a fan of using durum wheat flour– called atta in Indian kitchens  – to bake breads. You have already seen me use it to make my whole-wheat french bread, among other bread recipes. The reason I love durum wheat flour so much is because breads made with it  have an airier texture– and a lighter color– than breads baked with regular whole-wheat flour. Even without the added binding and raising power of vital wheat gluten.

Also not everyone wants to use vital wheat gluten because it can make crusts a bit chewy. And many, including readers in India, don’t have access to it. So to give my bread a lift and a rise, I used sourdough.  It is easy enough to make sourdough– you do need a few days to get your starter going if you haven’t already got one. But trust me, it’s completely worth making it so you can make this bread, and more. See my recipe for a sourdough starter if you need help.

whole-wheat-breadOther than the sourdough,  this recipe needs nothing more than flour, yeast, water, salt and a tiny bit of sugar. All ingredients that are no doubt sitting in your pantry already.

You’re going to love this recipe. Have a great weekend, all!

whole wheat bread

Whole-Wheat Atta Bread
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: Makes 2 loaves
  • 5-6 cups whole-wheat durum wheat flour (atta)
  • 2¼ teaspoons or 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ cup sourdough starter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  1. Mix together the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and let it stand about 5-10 minutes until the yeast turns frothy.
  2. Add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing with the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer or with your hand. Once you have a thick but somewhat liquid mixture, add the salt and continue to mix in the flour.
  3. Use just as much flour as is needed to get a smooth but not sticky dough. You want a pliable dough that’s not as stiff as the dough you’d make for a chapati.
  4. Knead the dough for 8 minutes on medium-low speed or by hand. Turn it out onto a flat surface, form into a smooth ball with your hands, and place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat the top with oil.
  5. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to double, about an hour.
  6. Once the dough has doubled, punch out the gases and divide into two. Shape each portion into a round loaf, tucking any seams underneath the loaf.
  7. Lightly oil a baking sheet and scatter some sooji rava or cornmeal on it.
  8. Place the loaves, about four inches apart, on the baking sheet. Dust the tops with some flour, then cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let the loaves rise for 2 hours.
  9. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, use a very sharp, preferably serrated knife to score the tops of the loaves. I scored them in a crosshatch pattern but you could do diagonal slashes as well.
  11. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the bottoms sound hollow when tapped with your fingertips.
  12. Remove the baking sheet to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then remove the loaves from the sheet and continue cooling them on the rack.

Nutrition information is for one slice of bread, with 16 slices per bread.

whole wheat atta bread nutrition information

Sandwich Buns or Hamburger Buns

Sandwich Buns

Hey, there! How have things been in your world these past two months?

You may have wondered what was going on in mine after I dropped off the face of the planet, unannounced. But I was around, very much so, and missing you too. Life just got in the way and to make a long story short, I didn’t have much time to come up with fabulous new eats in the kitchen good enough to share with you.

So finally, here’s something fabulous: my whole-wheat sandwich buns.

I wanted to come back with a bread recipe because I know those are the ones many of you love. Besides, I love the idea of baking, and inspiring others to bake. So what if it’s summer? You don’t have to sit next to the oven while the bread bakes, and what are exhaust fans for? And trust me, once you’ve eaten these buns wrapped around grilled veggie burgers and some grilled veggies, you will be more than happy you made them.

Before I delve into the recipe, I wanted to give you an update on the health adventures of Lucy, my big old German Shepherd mix who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma over two years ago.

Lucy’s inspired many of you dog parents who have dealt with similar diagnoses for their beloved animals. Over the years you’ve written to ask for advice, or just share your stories of heartbreak and hope.

In May this year, two years and two months after her diagnosis, Lucy went to the oncologist for what was supposed to be a landmark checkup: the doctor had told us that if she was found to be free of cancer two years after her diagnosis and treatment, she was officially cancer-free.

She was. Her lungs were spotless with no signs of cancerous nodules, and, the vet told us, she looked great. We broke out the champagne, but our joy wasn’t to last. Within less than a month of that visit, Lucy started to limp again, this time on her surviving back leg. It can’t be the big C, I told Desi, afraid of even saying the word out loud. Hadn’t the vets just declared her cancer-free? It’s likely hip dysplasia, and that can be operated upon, can’t it?

It wasn’t. It was indeed the osteosarcoma. This time amputation to get the cancer out of her body was not an option because she’s already tripawed. Worse, X-rays showed that the nodules had indeed migrated to her lungs this time, putting the cancer in an advanced category.

Lucy started radiation therapy yesterday. It’s palliative, meaning it will not cure her, nor increase her life span. All it will do is mask the pain so she can be a little more comfortable as she winds down. Three to six months is what we have, the doctors have told us.

All the vets who see her tell us that Lucy’s is a rare case. Most dogs don’t make it past six months after an osteosarcoma diagnosis, but Lucy’s held it off for two years and four months. A miracle dog.  But if that’s supposed to make us feel good, it doesn’t. We know we are lucky to have had Lucy with us for these last few years, and grateful for them, but that doesn’t prepare us for the time she won’t be with us anymore. For now, we are fighting and hoping along with Lucy. As always, please keep her in your thoughts.

Now here’s my recipe for these Whole-Wheat Garlic and Herb Sandwich Buns, perfect to slap those veggie burgers on, hot off the grill.

Sandwich Rolls
Garlic Herb Sandwich Buns
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 8
  • 1½ cups warm water (not hot)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • For the garlic and herb mix, mix together in a small bowl:
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry rosemary
  1. Mix the yeast, water and sugar. Stir and let it stand at least five minutes or until the yeast starts to froth and multiply.
  2. Add the flours and salt. With your hands, or using a stand mixer set to low speed, knead until you have a sticky dough, around 6 minutes. If the dough is too soft, add some more bread flour.
  3. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning over once to coat with the oil, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. In my summer kitchen this took just around 45 minutes.
  4. Punch the dough down and, on a lightly oiled surface, roll it into a rectangle about 8 inches by 12 inches.
  5. Spread the garlic and herb mixture evenly on the rectangle, then, starting with the short side, roll the dough into a log (as you would for a jelly roll or cinnamon bun or parotta).
  6. Using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, cut the log into 1-inch lengths. You should have eight pieces.
  7. Place each of the rolls on a lightly oiled baking sheet, pressing each down into a circle. Place them at least two inches apart.
  8. Cover loosely and let them rise for another hour until they are nice and puffed up.
  9. I brushed the tops of mine with a mixture of egg replacement powder and soymilk to give them a glossy finish, and then I sprinkled the top with sesame seeds. You can use poppy seeds too, or leave the seeds and egg-replacer wash out altogether.
  10. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. The rolls will be golden brown.
  11. Let them cool for about 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and let them cool thoroughly.
  12. Enjoy!

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