Italian Bread 101

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Recipe photo

Italian Bread 101

star rating (73) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

You know that Italian bread you get at the supermarket, the crunchy braid loaded with sesame seeds? The recipe below will create that loaf.

Overnight Starter
3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup water
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Topping
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds

The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine the starter and the remainder of the dough ingredients, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it's supple, but the surface is still somewhat rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as above, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for about 5 minutes; the dough should have formed a ball, but its surface will still be a bit rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients, including the starter, into the pan of your machine, program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough, deflate it gently, and let it rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into three pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Braid the ropes (tucking the ends under), set the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise it rise for about 60 to 90 minutes, or till it's very puffy.

Brush the braid with the egg white glaze. Sprinkle it heavily with sesame seeds. Bake the bread in a preheated 425°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes; the longer it bakes, the crunchier it'll be. Remove it from the oven and cool it on a wire rack (or cool it in the turned-off, door-propped open oven). Yield: 1 loaf.

Reviews

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  • star rating 04/24/2015
  • Thoria from KAF Community
  • I made this last night, and we are in heaven! My husband was flipping out over how good it was. I did double the recipe and had to put it diagonally on my half sheet tray. The bread didn't look that great after I braided it, but as it rose again it puffed up wonderfully. It came out looking fantastic and quite large! Next time we have a big family dinner my hubby wants me to make this instead of individual rolls. This foolproof and easy recipe is definitely a keeper!
  • star rating 04/17/2015
  • nbarnstable from KAF Community
  • Turned out perfect! Looks just like the picture in the recipe. Toasts up nicely, and is great for dipping in some olive oil. I'm curious though, would it be possible to double the recipe, and leave the length of the braid strand at the specified 18" length, in order to achieve a taller loaf? I'd love to have a more sandwich sized bread when it's done. I assume I'd have to lower the baking temperature to ensure the interior would be done before the crust burns. Any thoughts?
    I would recommend using the same amount of dough but braiding it shorter and placing it in a 9 X 5 inch baking pan. I would lower the baking temperature to 375 degrees and bake for approximately 35-45 minutes. If the top becomes brown before the interior seems done, cover with foil for the later part of the the bake. Barb@KAF
  • star rating 04/01/2015
  • Baby Bump from KAF Community
  • Although I had trouble with the recipe to start (I always make it exactly as written the first time I make a recipe) because it was too dry, I tweaked it a bit and on the third try I think I got it - but instead of making bread on this try I turned them into rolls. Terrific! They were like a New York kaiser roll. Because I live in New Mexico I had to add more water - I'm up to 1 1/3 cups of water for the recipe. However, the bread is still not rising as high as a commercial bread.
    Bravo! If the recipe isn't rising as high as it should, perhaps high elevation recipe adjustments need to be made. There are some tips on our website and our Baker's Hotline can offer suggestions (855-371-2253). Happy baking! Irene@KAF
  • star rating 03/28/2015
  • Marian from Cleveland, OH
  • What a great recipe! I have been baking bread for years and this recipe is now one of my favorites. So tasty and the texture is fantastic. Highly recommend this recipe!!!
  • star rating 03/24/2015
  • from
  • Excellent recipe! Nice chewy, very flavorful bread. The ingredients are few but the method makes a ver tasty bread.
  • star rating 03/22/2015
  • Michele from Acushnet, MA
  • I usually make a 4-strand braid rather than a 3 strand braid. It is easier to divide the dough evenly into 4 pieces and it looks nicer when it is done. Also, there are more crannies for the sesame seeds!
  • star rating 03/22/2015
  • Grpa from Fredericksburg, Va.
  • This is a fantastic recipe. It's easy, and even though I've never done a braid before, mine came out almost perfect (just a bit sloppy on the end I started the braid). Half of the bread was gone in a day, because I have no self control, and it just tasted so wonderful. I did go against recommendations and use a bit of rye flour in the poolish (about 1/2 cup-- I'm sorry!). Everything still came out well (aside from my sloppy braid--I ate that part first and cut it out of all the photos...), and the little hint of rye lent itself well to the overall flavor. Overall, an easy bread to make, as the recipe was super easy to follow (even though I strayed a bit), and the end result tasted as great as it looked! I came back to baking my own bread recently after reading the labels of store bought breads. I'm not paying $3-$4 for a bag of chemicals. It's easy & fun, great texture (crispy outside & fluffy inside), super! THANK YOU KA. Grpa
    Welcome back!! It is fun and easy to make your own bread, plus you know what ingredients are being used in the loaf. Don't apologize for experimenting. That's what is it all about. JoAnn@KAF
  • star rating 03/06/2015
  • Kelba from KAF Community
  • I did EVERYTHING wrong and it is still yummy! I've been served worse in restaurants. If it could be this great when it was all screwed up, I cannot wait to taste it when I do it right! :D This is how badly I messed it up: I used rapid rise yeast (what I had) and forgot to warm the water the first time. Didn't know what to cover it with, so used cheesecloth, which stuck to the starter, so (no way out), I ripped it off and threw away some of the starter and the cloth. Wasn't sure if the starter was supposed to be turned upside-down or folded, so I folded it and put that on the bottom...still not sure if that was wrong, but assume it was. Then I made the water for the yeast too hot. Wasn't sure how much kosher salt to use, so did 1 tsp instead. Kept going forward because even if it tuned out as flat, burned stuff, I wasn't quitting. Anything new - if I mess it up horribly, that's great. It means I have nowhere to go but up. I took it out too soon. I was so afraid of burning it that I took it out at 25 minutes when it really could've used a little more time. And it still tastes great! A little home-made peanut butter and it was fantastic...like it was waiting for peanut butter, lol. Excellent. :)
  • star rating 02/19/2015
  • Em from OK
  • I tried many different online Italian bread recipes without success. I decided to try this recipe because of the high rating, and I could not believe the outcome on the first try. The bread was absolutely delicious...the flavor and texture was amazing! It was my first time using the King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour also, and I totally believe that the flour played a major part in the successful result. I immediately replaced the Unbleached All-purpose flour I have used for years, with King Arthur Flour, and will be replacing all my flours with this brand. I followed the recipe to the letter, and my bread look exactly like the one in the picture. My next venture, is to try another bread recipe with the King Arthur bread flour.
  • star rating 02/08/2015
  • from
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