Who doesn’t love a warm loaf of Italian bread? Well, now you can make one just as good as any bakery….for pennies!
I’ve adapted America’s Test Kitchen Italian Loaf recipe to make it even easier and, IMO, tastier. The process in a nutshell: the day before, mix the ingredients in a bowl (no kneading!!!), cover, then at least an hour before serving, bake. You’ll never want to buy bread again.
Note: I highly recommend weighing your flour rather than using measuring cups – there’s too much variety, depending on how you pack in the flour.
Note: You’re going to need a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, or a Dutch oven, with lid. Make sure the handle and lid knob can withstand 500º Fahrenheit. I prefer using the 4 quart saucepan because it’s smaller in diameter thus producing a taller loaf. However, if you prefer a squatter but wider loaf, use a Dutch oven.
ITALIAN LOAF – makes 1 round loaf
- 15 oz (about 3½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
- 9 oz water
- 3 oz (3 T) beer (I prefer a pale beer)
- 1/2 oz (1 T) white distilled vinegar
The day before you plan on serving the Italian Loaf, prepare the dough.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in the water, beer, and vinegar. Mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Cover bowl with a plate or tea towel and let the dough rest on the counter 8-18 hours (the longer, the better flavor). You’ll notice a significant change to the dough – it will become wetter and bubbly:
About 2 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 500º Fahrenheit, rack in the middle position. As it gets close to 500º F, place the saucepan (or Dutch oven) with lid into the hot oven to heat it up.
When oven reaches 500º F, empty dough onto a floured surface. Fold it onto itself a few times to firm it up. Cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to line the saucepan with corner ‘ears’ sticking up. Rub paper with a light coating of vegetable oil. Place dough in center of paper and rub top of dough with a little oil. Remove hot saucepan from oven and lift paper and dough by the corners into the hot pot.
Make a 1/2″ deep slash across the center, edge to edge. (I use kitchen shears rather than a knife.)Cover with lid and place in oven. Bake at 500º F for 1/2 hour. Remove pot from oven and turn out the loaf. Discard the paper and replace the loaf in the hot pot. Put the pot without the lid back in the oven. Bake about 10 – 15 minutes (I only need 10 minutes), until temperature of loaf is about 209º F. If you don’t have a thermometer, do a visual check – the top should be browned. Remove the loaf and the bottom should be browned, too. Remove loaf from pan to a wire rack to cool. Let loaf cool at least 20 minutes (this takes some will-power) before slicing in order to get a cleaner slice.