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How to Make Classic Italian Bread

Why this recipe works You might assume that you have to make a trip to a bakery for good Italian bread, or else settle for pale, doughy supermarket loaves, but making your own from scratch is surprisingly simple. For a classic loaf with a thin, crisp crust and a chewy but tender crumb, we started with bread flour and then focused on our biggest challenge: flavor. We hoped to shorten the rising time for the bread, but that meant we would be reducing the fermentation time, which provides a lot of flavor. To make up for this, we added yeasty tang by using beer as the main liquid in our dough. Preheating our baking stone for an hour gave us a nicely browned crust, and misting the loaf with water before baking helped the exterior of the bread stay supple and encouraged additional rise and a light, tender crumb. We prefer to use a mild American lager, such as Budweiser, here; strongly flavored beers will make this bread taste bitter.

  • makes 1 loaf
  • rising time 1½ to 2½ hours
  • baking time 25 minutes
  • total time 3 to 4 hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
  • key equipment pizza peel, baking stone, water-filled spray bottle, instant-read thermometer

how-to-make-classic-italian-bread

  • 3 cups (16½ ounces) bread flour
  • 1½ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) mild lager, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) water, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1). Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk beer, water, and oil together in 4-cup liquid measuring cup.

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2). Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add beer mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.

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3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

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4). Line pizza peel with 16 by 12-inch piece of parchment paper, with long edge of paper perpendicular to handle. Gently press down on dough to deflate any large gas pockets. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter (side of dough that was against bowl should now be facing up) and press and stretch dough into 10-inch square.

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5). Fold top corners of dough diagonally into center of square and press gently to seal.

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6). Stretch and fold upper third of dough toward center and press seam gently to seal.

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7). Stretch and fold dough in half toward you to form rough loaf and pinch seam closed.

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8). Starting at center of dough and working toward ends, gently and evenly roll and stretch dough until it measures 15 inches long by 4 inches wide. Roll loaf seam side down.

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9). Gently slide your hands underneath each end of loaf and transfer seam side down to prepared pizza peel.

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10). Reshape loaf as needed, tucking edges under to form taut torpedo shape. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaf increases in size by about half and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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11). One hour before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Using sharp paring knife or single-edge razor blade, make one ½-inchdeep slash with swift, fluid motion lengthwise along top of loaf, starting and stopping about 1½  inches from ends.

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12). Mist loaf with water and slide parchment with loaf onto baking stone. Bake until crust is golden brown and loaf registers 205 to 210 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating loaf halfway through baking. Transfer loaf to wire rack; discard parchment. Let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.

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