Loaves with soft, airy crumbs are my favorite, and here's a crusty Italian bread 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
- Mix the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the whole-wheat flour and 3/4th 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.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand overnight or for eight hours.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake the bread for 40 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
- 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:
More delicious vegan breads from the archives: