Italian Bread (white) with sesame seeds
This recipe makes 2 good sized (2lb. 2 oz. each) loaves. There are 3 risings for a total of 6 hours (first rising 3 hrs., second rising 2 hrs., last rising ~1 hour). You can start this as late as 9 in the morning and it will be ready for baking at 3 and depending on who is home, there *might* be at least one loaf left for dinner.
Servings Prep Time
2large loaves 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 6 hours
Servings Prep Time
2large loaves 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 6 hours
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Start this 10 minutes before you begin: Active dry yeast (not instant) requires hydrating.* Put the 2 tsp of yeast in the lukewarm water and let sit for 3 minutes. Use a small wisk to mix the softened yeast and water and let sit for about 10 minutes. *If you use Instant yeast, you will use less and not need to do this step.
  2. I have a heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer. I put the water/yeast mixture in the mixer and add 5 cups of four and with a dough hook, let it mix for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the 6th and 7th cup of flour slowly–mixer on the lowest speed–about 5 more minutes for each cup added. After the 7th cup, add the salt.
  4. After about 5 more minutes add the 8th cup of flour let it mix for 5-8 minutes. The dough will become very smooth and adhere as one ball, but still be sticky.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the mixing bowl and turn it out onto a well-floured surface (I have a marble slab that I use).
  6. I kneed for an additional 15 minutes adding ~1/2 to 1 cup of additional flour depending on how soft/sticky the dough is.
  7. Prepare a very large bowl by adding 3 tablespoons of olive oil (*who am I kidding, I just splash some in…).
  8. Kneed the final dough into a ball–sticky enough to hold together cohesively and then roll it in the bowl to coat it on all sides with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise in the oven or microwave where there is no draft.
  9. I let it rise the first time for at least 3 hours and then punch it down and roll into a ball again.
  10. Let it rise for 2 hours the second time and then divide to two loaves and shape for final proofing. I generally proof it on (or in) the stone or pan that I will final bake in. If you are adding sesame seeds, brush the top with egg white and water mixed, and sprinkle the sesame seeds.
  11. After rising ~30 minutes, I take out the middle rack (I bake on a lower rack) preheat the oven to 520 degrees F (takes at least 20 minutes on my oven) and put a cast iron skillet on the bottom of the oven.
  12. By ~1 hour, the final proofing has doubled and I score the tops and place in the oven. I pour about 2 cups of water in the cast iron skillet to create steam. Bake for 15 minutes (add water if it completely evaporates too soon).
  13. After the first 15 minutes, I turn the bread and turn down the oven to 440 degrees F for about 30 more minutes. (No more steam after the first 15 minutes.) If the tops start to get too dark, move it to a lower rack.
  14. I ended up with 2 loaves that were a smidgen over 2 lbs. each.
Recipe Notes

Few things:

  • Truth is, I rarely measure the flour–I did for the purposes of sharing this recipe, but I am looking for a consistency more than an exact measure. I also sift my flour, so that will affect measurements.
  • I do not add the salt until the dough is no longer ‘wet’. Salt retards yeast so I never mix it with water or even too soon into the mixing like I’ve seen told to do in some recipes.
  • Total kneading time should be about 20 minutes–no less. I do count the mixing (after the 7th cup into the 20 minutes). More kneading the better.
  • I bake at very high temperatures for a shorter amount of time and use steam in the first 10 minutes. This creates the hard crust and soft inside.
  • I bake at very high temperatures in a gas fired convection oven. If you do this, you must ensure that you have the bread on a low enough rack so you don’t scorch the top.┬áThe bread [from my lips to God’s ears] will double in the oven in the first 10 minutes–be sure at the high temperature that you have it low enough on a rack. You might want to start in the middle and move it down after the first 15 minutes. I have it on one slot lower than center that I use.
  • I freeze one (if one doesn’t immediately disappear) after it sits for about 2 hours. It doesn’t have to be room temperature–in fact it is better if its not before you freeze it.

I’m going to make a video one of these days…