At most Italian restaurants, the bread is an essential component of the meal. It comes out before your salad for you to enjoy with some butter or perhaps olive oil for dipping. Then, the basket is filled again and again throughout your meal so you always have bread to dip in your sauce or enjoy with your salad. If you've ever wished you could make restaurant-quality Italian bread at home, you're not alone. And with these instructions, you can do just that.
- 4 cups unbleached bread flour
- 2 tablespoons potato flakes
- 1/4 cup dry milk
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 1/3 cups water, 120 degrees F
- 3 tablespoons pure olive oil
- 1 egg white, beaten lightly
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1. Preparing the dough.
Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a very large mixing bowl. Stir gently to distribute the yeast, and then let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy. Add 2 cups of flour, the salt, and the olive oil to the bowl. Stir to form a soft dough, and then beat this mixture (by hand) for 1 minute.
Slowly start adding one more cup of flour, stirring it in as the dough continues to thicken and come together. Then, turn the dough out onto the counter and knead in the last remaining cup of flour. You should be kneading for at least 5 minutes in total, and the dough should be smooth, elastic, and non-sticky by the time you're done.
Step 2: Rising the dough.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover it in plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place (70 degrees F is ideal), and let it rise for about 90 minutes. The dough should be doubled in size; if there's any doubt, let it rise a little longer.
Step 3: Forming the loaves.
Punch the dough down to remove the extra air, and then use a sharp knife to cut it in half. Shape each half of dough into a long loaf, and place each loaf on a baking sheet. Brush each loaf with a little olive oil, and then cover them in plastic wrap. Let them rest for about an hour.
Step 4: Baking the loaves.
Remove the plastic wrap, and brush each loaf with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes. The bread should reach 190 degrees F on a food testing thermometer when it's done.
If you don't have the time or expertise to do Italian baking at home, visit a place like Tony & Joe's Pizzeria.