Do you know what “Italian Bread” means? Italian bread is typically known as unsweetened, yeast-leavened, and baked into a thick oblong loaf with tapered ends. Recently, I have been baking this Italian Bread twice a week. After constantly practicing for more than 10 times, the result turned out very good and I even got full approval from my Italian friends. So what are you waiting for? You are going to have so much fun with this!
- 500 g wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 25 g fresh yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh yeast
It is also known as compressed yeast or cake yeast. 25 g of fresh yeast can be replaced by one package of active dry yeast, which usually corresponds to 2 1/4 teaspoons (1/4 oz).
- Lukewarm water
It is tap water at a temperature between 36.5 and 40.5°C (98 to 105°F). It is just like “room temperature”: not hot and not cold either! If not, the yeast will die or will not grow enough!
- Find a warm place for the dough
Some ideas: near a heating vent, on top of the refrigerator, or in the oven (turned off) with some water in a small bowl (this is what I do).
This recipe is adapted from GialloZafferano. This Italian food website has so many useful videos and some of them are also in English.
I know that you are wondering where to get fresh yeast. Well, probably it depends on where you are. I have never seen fresh yeast in any grocery store in Texas, for instance. However, it can be found very easily in Italy or Finland. I have also tried this recipe with active dry yeast. The result was fine, however, fresh yeast works faster and has a better smell than active dry yeast. More information about yeast is available here.
- In a small bowl, crumble fresh yeast with your fingers. Add sugar and lukewarm water. Mix thoroughly, and let rest for about 5 minutes (you will see a lot of bubbles on the surface of the yeast mixture).
- In a large bowl, add flour, salt, olive oil, and the yeast mixture. Stir with a spoon until you cannot see any more flour.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean, slightly floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes to form a smooth and soft dough. If necessary, add some more flour, but try to use as little as possible.
- Place the dough in another large bowl (slightly greased with olive oil) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it to rise in a turned-off oven with warm water in a small bowl for about an hour and 30 minutes, or until it doubles in volume.
- After the first rise, dump the dough onto the counter, and punch it down gently. Form into an oval-shaped loaf, and cut slashes on top of it as you desire. Make sure that slashes are not too deep; about 1 cm (1/3 inch) is enough.
- Let the loaf rise again at room temperature on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).
- Bake for 25 minutes and reduce to 180°C (350°F) for 20-25 minutes or until slightly dark brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.
Here is the Italian Bread with a cheese sampler and a gourmet sandwich.
If you like this recipe, you might also be interested in how to make Anise Almond Biscotti.