My New Best Friend – and Crusty Italian Bread

For my Birthday this year, my family got together and helped me get something I have wanted for a long time – a stand mixer. Long had I been abused, confined and hampered by my lack of a stand mixer, but no more. I asked advice from friends about which brand is the best and hands down, the favorite was Kitchenaid. So why did I end up getting a Cuisinart?mixerBecause in reading over reviews, I found that newer Kitchenaids just don’t seem to have the same quality that they once did, even just a few years ago. And every person who recommended the Kitchenaid had an older one.

It was the number of positive references to the Cuisinart, in reviews for the Kitchenaid that led me to investigate it. I am glad I did. The Cuisinart is more powerful, has a better warranty, has better reviews and with the rebate Amazon is offering right now, it is quite a bit cheaper. Only time will tell if I made the right choice, but I am very happy with it so far.

I made cookies first thing, and I will blog that effort later in the week, but I wanted to give it a little tougher workout to see how it would perform. Bread. Specifically, Italian bread. I make a mean loaf of crusty Italian bread, even if I say myself, which I do; but it is a rather arduous task, taking at least 20 minutes of vigorous kneading by hand. Could I duplicate the quality without quite so much sweat equity involved? Let’s see.

This is a very simple recipe, containing just 5 ingredients. It has the added benefit of being almost entirely fat free, which is good if you are watching what you eat. I used the recipe I always do, changing only the method to utilize the mixer.
Place 1 and 1/4 c very warm water in the mixer bowl and sprinkle over it
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
Stir lightly and allow to sit for 5 minutes12Add
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Beat at medium low speed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through, if needed. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.22Turn mixer back on and gradually add up to another cup of all purpose flour. I add it in 1/4 cup increments and for this batch used about 3/4 of a cup. You know you have a enough when the dough is only the slightest bit sticky to the touch. A little more or less isn’t going to make huge difference, so don’t worry about getting it exactly right. If you want to be just like me, you can forget to take a photo of this step.

Set the mixer to medium speed and allow it to knead the dough for about 6 minutes. I guessed at this since I had no idea how to translate 20 minutes of hand kneading into an equal amount of machine kneading. I do know how the dough should look and feel though and this was the right amount of time to achieve that.
See? Nice and smooth and not at all sticky.32I then removed the bowl from the mixer, oiled it with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and returned the dough to the bowl, turning it to coat all sides, and covering it with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the top from drying out. It rose for about an hour, until it had doubled in size.42I turned it back out on my counter and after kneading just a few turns to ensure it was evenly punched down, I shaped the loaf.52Flatten into a large rectangle and turn each edge to the middle, pressing all along each seam to help it adhere. Turn the two ends to the middle until they meet and pinch together all of the seams. Roll gently to get it all smooth and shape gently into a slightly flattened rectangle with rounded ends. It’s hard to explain – I hope the pictures help. Line a large heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with corn meal, and lay shaped loaf on top of that.

Brush the top and sides liberally with water, and place in a warm spot to rise again.61It took only about 40 minutes to double again. Preheat the oven to 400ยบ, and place a shallow dish half full of boiling water on the bottom rack. Brush all surfaces of the loaf with water again, and using a sharp knife, cut four diagonal slashes on the top surface – about 1/4 inch deep or so.71After 10 minutes, brush with water again, and then a final time 10 minutes after that. Total baking time is right around 30 minutes – it should sound hollow when you tap it and be very browned and crisp looking. Remove to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.82I was quite pleased with the result. A nice soft inside, surrounded by a crispy chewy crust and with the same simple but delicious taste I am used to getting from this recipe.91Pretty awesome actually.

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41 Responses to My New Best Friend – and Crusty Italian Bread

  1. Anna B says:

    OMG, that looks delicious!!

    Reading your blog has made me want to start baking again!!

  2. wow. hungry now.

    your new toy looks really fun!

  3. Lord. Have. Mercy.

  4. Kate says:

    I want this bandage off my finger so I can cook again!!

    This looks MAHvelous!

  5. Janis says:

    Mmmm, warm bread right out of the oven! I can almost smell it! Looks great. Enjoy your new mixer! :D

  6. Daryl says:

    Less work for you .. means you’ll make it more often .. I would … of course I dont have room for any mixers and I dont cook … I often forget that momentarily when I am here drooling over what you’ve made

  7. Pearl says:

    the cuisinart looks very retro and cool!

  8. Deb says:

    WOW! Love it ….but yeast and me do not mix…we are sworn enemies!

  9. Flea says:

    Oh my word! I didn’t know you could do that with a mixer. Looks like I’ll be trying this recipe tomorrow. And your Cuisinart is gorgeous!

  10. I’m drooling.

    It’s why I can’t lose weight. I drool over fresh bread…right before I eat the LOAF!

  11. Charlane says:

    there is nothing much better than warm bread and creamy butter….

  12. annbb says:

    A perfect birthday present, I’d say!

  13. Oh man, that bread looks fabulous. Gotta love a nice thick slice of warm, homemade bread – yum!

  14. Debbie Jean says:

    Nice birthday gift!! I have always wanted one of those. Oh the smell of bread cooking. Makes me very hungry thinking of it!!

    God Bless~
    Debbie Jean

  15. Kami says:

    Um…YUM! There is nothing like a nice slice (ok, HUNK) of fresh bread with a little butter! I got a Kitchenaid for Christmas and I love it, though I haven’t had much time to properly test it. I will have to give this recipe a try this weekend!

  16. donna says:

    It so does look awesome.. So! Id love some of that to dunk in my soup.

  17. Dawn says:

    Ooooh! It’s pretty! And shiny! Always fun thing for new toys! Add to the fact that that loaf of bread looks awfully darn tasty and it looks like a match made in heaven!

    I am of the ilk that has the old and trusty KitchenAid. It hasn’t seen the light of day in a while. I may just have to brush the dust off of it now and fire it up!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. Weezee says:

    We need to visit more often!
    Look fantastic!
    I hope you enjoy the new mixer.

  19. ellyn says:

    I’m with Weezee. We will be down very soon for those marshmallows you have on tap there.

  20. Selba says:

    Wow… this bread looks so wonderful!!!

  21. maris says:

    I don’t know about the older KitchenAid – I have a new one and I’m in love with it!! But in any event that looks like some FANtastic bread! I hope when I make bread it looks that good!

  22. Rachael says:

    The bread looks delicious! Do you think I could make the bread dough the night before and bake it the next day?

  23. Donalyn says:

    You definitely could Rachael – just let it come back to room temp and then raise and it will be fine – some people think the taste and texture are even better this way in fact.

  24. Sarah says:

    I have a relatively new Kitchen Aid which I love. After seeing your loaf of bread I may try to make some. Here’s a question for you: in an air-conditioned home where is a “warm” place to put the bread to rise?

  25. Donalyn says:

    Sending you an email as well, so you get the info – this is what I would do Sarah:
    Either turn on your oven for 5 minutes or so, turn off and scoot the dough in there. Or put a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf of your oven a few minutes before you put the dough in, and leave it in there while the bread is rising. Either way, the temp in the oven will be warmer than the rest of the kitchen. The fact is, most bread, and certainly this one, will rise even in a cool room. It will just take longer is all.

  26. Anna says:

    I just wanted to drop by and say thank you for sharing this recipe! I made it this week with my spaghetti dinner and it was wonderful! I am no longer going to buy italian bread from the store!

  27. Donalyn says:

    Thanks so much for coming back to rell me Anna – glad it worked so weel for you!

  28. Katy says:

    I just made this bread. I don’t have a mixer so I made it by hand and it is fantastic! The perfect amount of crunch on the outside and chew on the inside. It hasn’t even cooled completely and it’s already half gone!

  29. angie says:

    I am trying this right now.. and im at the step where im waiting the first 20 minutes… mine did not look wet like yours…its very doughy….not sure this will work for me or not…

  30. Lorraine says:

    Holy COW is this good bread!! In fact, my husband is very disappointed when he discovers that the bread I made is NOT this recipe, but rather yet another experiment in trying to get crusty bread that’s not all dense on the inside. The first few times of making this (and in every other recipe I’ve tried) I believe I’ve added too much flour and made the dough too firm. It does firm up a bit as your kneading and resting it so err on the side of too soft. I used approximately 3-1/2 cups of flour total in the loaf I’m making right now. I used my old Kitchenaid and kneaded it on medium for probably 20 minutes (I live in Florida so humidity dictates flour amount and I think kneading time, too). I believe I hit it on the head this time. The dough was just right, a little sticky but still kinda poofy soft but could still hold its shape. I have trouble over-rising the dough the first time (in the bowl) and usually it gets away from me and more than doubles (takes about 40 minutes to double on my counter in room temp kitchen) so be careful of that because it directly effects what kind of rise you get in loaf form and in the oven. It doesn’t rise up very much in the oven for me but I wasn’t letting it rise enough in loaf form so the loaf wasn’t as big as it could have been and ended up dense. It’s all a balancing act of flour/water/kneading/rising but with a great recipe like this just keep experimenting with the rest until you get it right, and you will!! I’ll be back to let you know about today’s loaf!

  31. Lorraine says:

    It came out perfect!! Not too dense and not full of airholes either. Taste is divine!!!

  32. Donalyn says:

    Lorraine – thanks for coming back to say how it came out. So glad it went well for you!

  33. Julie Lyon says:

    Thank you! I used this recipe to make bread for the first time ever and it turned out great! I wanted bread with a nice chewy crust and this is a very nice crust. I love that I’ve found what will be my “go to” bread recipe. Thanks again. I’m enjoying your blog and glad I happened upon it.

  34. mamaxtine says:

    Despite the tell-tale bubbles, my yeast was apparently bad. But this ended up being a lovely pizza crust. Better luck next time I guess.

  35. Melissa says:

    Omg…I don’t know what is going on. I so badly want to make this bread. I have tried twice now and each time, before I even get to the point of adding additional flour mine is so thick, what could possibly be going on?? Any suggestions?

  36. Donalyn says:

    I’m not sure Melissa- I would just try to be very sure that you are measuring accurately? With 1 & 1/4 cups of liquid, it is going to take right around 3 &1/2 to 4 cups of flour.

  37. Jeanne says:

    Recipe sounds great, do you brush it three times with water before it goes in the oven?

  38. Donalyn says:

    It is actually 4 times Jeanne, but if you miss a time, it won’t be the end of the world – the water is what makes the crust thick and chewy.

  39. Kristen says:

    I have made this 4 times so far and it tastes wonderful. I have a problem with it not being smooth like yours in the pic. There are always cracks in it. How do I get the loaf to be smooth?

  40. susan says:

    The bread is great, but I did have to add more water. Thanks for the recipe!

  41. Joey says:

    Do yourself a favor, made this bread. I’m Italian and the last time I had bread this good was my grandma Fierro’s, she baked hers in an outdoor wood fired oven but this was darn near as good. Thanks, Joey

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