This easy homemade rustic Italian bread recipe has been posted previously on my other blog; however, I’ve made a couple of discoveries since then and wanted to share them. Also, I re-photographed the prep and final product instead of just being lazy with my iPhone.
One thing I’ve found to be very important is the gentle “knock back” (punch-down or deflating) that happens after the dough has risen overnight. During a recent bake, I forgot to pour the dough out onto a floured surface so it could rest for 30 minutes while the Dutch oven was preheating. The bread was not deflated after the first rise and wasn’t allowed to rise again — it just didn’t rise as much during baking.
My second discovery is the completely unnecessary placing of the dough onto a floured surface for the second 30 minute rise. Simply loosen the dough from the bowl on all sides and underneath (you can even flip it over once), cover again with plastic wrap, and all will be well. After the 30 minute second rise, the dough will be ready to plop into a hot Dutch oven.
- It is crucial to preheat the oven, with the Dutch oven inside, for 30 minutes so the temperature is hot enough and stable for the bread to bake properly.
- Don’t let the yeast directly touch the salt. Salt can kill yeast.
- Make sure the yeast is fresh and not expired.
- Don’t use self-rising flour.
- A ceramic bowl produces a better overnight rise than a metal bowl does.
- No need to knead for this recipe.
- The dough will rise best in a 70º F or warmer room. Try not to leave the windows open in the kitchen on a cool night when making this bread – or place it somewhere warmer.
- The rise and quality of the bread diminishes after an 18 hour initial rise. It’s best to bake it off within the 12 to 18 hour time frame.
- If the bread is getting too brown on the top during the last 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
- Treat flour and raw dough as you would raw poultry: wash hands and utensils, clean all surfaces that come in contact, avoid cross-contamination, don’t eat raw flour or dough.
Here’s the updated recipe. Enjoy!
Easy Homemade Rustic Italian Bread
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour organic, non-gmo recommended - self-rising flour is not the same and won't produce the same result
- 1 ¾ teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast make sure your yeast is fresh and not expired
- 1 ½ cups water
- In a large bowl (such as a salad mixing bowl), use a whisk to stir together the flour and salt.
- Add the yeast and whisk it into the flour.
- Add the water and mix with a large spoon until a shaggy mixture forms.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 - 18 hours (overnight is easiest).
- When ready to bake, put a covered 5 quart cast iron dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 450º F for 30 minutes.
- While the oven preheats, loosen the dough from the bowl on all sides and underneath and shape it into a ball. Cover dough again with plastic wrap while the oven finishes preheating.
- Place the dough in the preheated dutch oven and cover. Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and bake for 15 more minutes to brown the top.
- Remove bread from the oven and let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing with a bread knife.