Crusty Italian Bread

Crusty Italian Bread

I made this recipe recently for our church’s ladies meeting that I hosted at my apartment. I served the bread with olive oil and black pepper for dipping and I thought it was absolutely delicious! It took a good bit of time to make but was totally worth it!

3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (can use a mixture with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Let rest about 5 minutes to get frothy. Add flour and salt and stir. After mixing the flour in, add oil and mix well.

Knead the dough, slapping it several times with the palm of your hand to help develop the gluten. Knead for about 5 minutes.

After kneading, place into an oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a greased baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven to preheat.

Turn dough onto floured surface and punch out most of the air with a couple of quick hits. Roll into small loaves (I made about 6 small round loaves). Cover and allow to rise for 40 minutes.

After rising, make a quick cut in the middle of the loaf. The cut should be done with a very sharp blade so that you do not have to saw back and forth. This will help the dough to rise well.

Place the dough onto the preheated baking stone. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then, turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake another 25-30 minutes. Loaves should sound hollow when thumped if they are ready.

Placing a pan of water in the oven underneath the bread can help to create a crusty bread that works great to dip in olive oil and black pepper, just like in your favorite restaurant.