I made a delicious loaf of Italian bread the other night to go with supper. Italian bread is different from French bread in that traditional French bread (baguette) is made from only flour, water, yeast, and salt. Italian bread adds a little milk, sugar, or fat to soften up the loaf.
Sometimes we buy those $1 loaves of "french" bread at Walmart and either make sandwiches with the bread or make garlic bread with it. They're pretty good stuff if you don't have time to make homemade. They have few preservatives and are much cheaper than buying sliced white bread for sandwiches. A few cuts with my electric knife and I have some great sandwich bread with a little more stretch to my dollar.
But I wanted a recipe so that I could make those at home. I've been trying french bread recipes and they're good, but not the texture that my husband prefers when we make garlic bread at home (because he's prefers store bought - ugh!). I knew the loaves I bought at Walmart were a little soft, not hard and crusty like a traditional baguette. I decided that Walmart is really selling Italian bread instead of French bread. The quest was on to find such a recipe!
I used my basic White Sandwich loaf recipe because I wanted light, airy bread, just soft and not crusty for my loaf and just eliminated the oil from that recipe. I kept the water, yeast, sugar, flour & salt. This recipe is small enough that it makes one loaf, no more, which is perfect to go with supper or for some sandwiches. It saved me a trip to the store and turned out spot on! This little loaf is the size of a traditional loaf of french bread that you would buy at the grocery store in a clear plastic bag, often sold in the deli/bakery section.
I wrapped my hot loaf in a cloth instead of letting it cool on the counter, with just a small opening for steam to escape, and this worked perfectly to produce a soft, moist loaf of Italian bread which wasn't crusty and hard like a typical baguette (which is also delicious but not the texture I was after).
This Italian Bread recipe will be my go-to recipe for those long, unformed loaves of bread that I USED to buy. I do think I'll try this recipe in a loaf pan though. I loved the texture of this bread so much and the soft interior that I think we will also love it for sandwich bread. It will be kind of like those sliced loaves of Italian bread found in the sandwich bread section of the grocery store, often found in clear/white/red wrappers.
I make the dough for this bread in my bread machine. That gives me the perfect amount of kneading for a delicate dough which turns into delicious bread! I'm sure you could try it by hand though and it would turn out wonderful.
Here's how I made an Italian Bread Loaf AT HOME MY WAY:
Italian Bread (one small loaf)
(Bread machine - dough only -
bakes in the oven)
- 1 cup very warm water (hot but no hurt is my rule - like hot bath water)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 packet of active yeast or (2 teaspoons yeast)
- 3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Measure 1 cup very warm water (hot but no hurt - should feel like hot bath water). Add yeast and sugar. Let sit a few minutes until starting to get frothy.
Add to bread machine pan.
Next add the flour and salt last.
Set bread machine to dough setting.
When dough setting is complete, dump onto floured surface. I just use a dinner plate covered with flour. Toss with flour until you can pick it up but not completely squishing the air out of it. Be gentle. Form into a long loaf. I like to give mine a few twists like a corkscrew for shape.
Place in french bread pan or on a cookie sheet (sprayed, oiled or greased). Let rise 45 minutes.
Bake in PREHEATED oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until browned well.
Let cool about 10 minutes and then wrap in a clean towel leaving a small vent for steam - until cool.
Cool completely before slicing.