Saturday, January 14, 2012

Italian Bread

A dear reader, Karen L., has been patiently waiting longer than she should have had to for me to post this recipe for Italian Bread. After planning on making the bread for more days than I can tell you, I finally did it today.

This is one of those strange bread recipes that rises in the refrigerator. Why that doesn't give the yeast chilblains and cause it to shrivel up and die, I've never been able to figure out. But I do make a few different breads by this method and I always have good luck in turning out nice looking loaves. ("Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die." Who said that?)

So for you, kind and patient Karen, here is my Italian Bread recipe.


4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cups unsifted white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 rounded tablespoons dry yeast
1-3/4 cups warm water (120-130 degrees)
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 1-1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt and the undissolved yeast.

Using a candy thermometer, warm 1-3/4 cups water and the butter until temp on thermometer reaches about 125 degrees.

Gradually add this water mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of a mixer. Add about 3/4 cups more flour and beat at high speed 2 minutes more.

By hand stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. (Add small amounts of additional flour if needed in order to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Or the floured surface.)

Cover dough with plastic wrap and then a towel. Let rest 20 minutes. (The dough, not you.)

Next I divide the dough into four equal pieces and form each piece into a small loaf and place on a cookie sheet that has been greased and lightly sprinkled with corn meal. Brush loaves with oil or soft lard.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator.

Uncover dough and let stand at room temp for about 10 minutes. Make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf with sharp knife.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 18 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush with egg white mixed with cold water. Return to oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes longer until golden brown.

NOTES: One of these loaves made into Garlic Cheese Bread . . .

. . . serves 2 people alongside an entree of spaghetti or lasagna. It's also great combined with a large tossed salad for two fresh from the garden in the summer time. OR it can serve only you if you're home alone, really ravenous and want to sit down and eat a whole loaf washed down with a couple glasses of good red wine. (Big cheesy grin!)

I make my Garlic Cheese Bread by combining minced garlic with butter, spreading the butter on both sides of slices of this bread, grating a combination of mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan cheese which I push in between each bread slice, and over the top of the loaf. Put in a 425 degree oven until cheese melts and starts to get little golden brown spots on it. See if you can wait to eat it until it cools enough so you don't burn your lips, tongue and roof of your mouth.

(You may notice an absence of cornmeal on my cookie sheet in the pictures. I discovered I was plumb out and was too lazy to get out my grinder and corn to make more. Please forgive me.)

I don't put a pan of water in the oven to get a super-crisp crust on my Italian Bread because I almost always make Garlic Cheese Bread with it and don't need the lovely hard crust I might want if serving it plain. But you certainly could add the pan of water during baking as I'm sure it would help in creating a crustier loaf.

When a recipe says to let rise in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours, I've read that the optimum time to bake your bread is after it's risen for 8 hours. Today I baked the loaves after they had risen for 6 hours and I think they turned out great.

So there you have it, Karen, and anyone else who may be interested. I hope the recipe works for you. (Sincere thanks for your patience, Karen!)


dr momi said...

Man that garlic bread is making me hungry!!!

Stephanie said...

Oh my gosh that looks soooooooooo good!! I have never heard of a recipe that rises in the fridge. Definitely giving this a try:) Thanks for sharing

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

If you receive any nasty comments on this post under the name 'anonymous', I would point the finger to a certain gluten free, sheep/goat/chicken/ dog/ bad toothed cat lady in NY. Just saying...this post is torture.

Unknown said...

Sorry about the delay in commenting...I had to wipe my keyboard off ;-) (drool)
I thank you for this cool recipe. This will be a good excuse to throw out leftovers so the bread can go in the fridge ;-)
Your photos are very appealing.

Mama Pea said...

dr momi - Very bad to eat something heavy like that so late in the evening. Just sayin'!

Stephanie - You're welcome! I sometimes have a hard time finding just the right (not too warm, not too cool) place for bread to rise but that just doesn't enter the picture when "rising on ice", as rising in the refrigerator is sometimes called.

Jane - OMG, I forgot how dangerous she can be!

Nancy - Thanks, m'dear! What IS it about bread that is so very appealing?? (Especially homemade bread!)

2 Tramps said...

Your loaves look so good! The cheese/garlic bread is so decadent. We have not had dinner yet here and I sure wish it was going to be your bread! I think we will be baking tomorrow...

Mama Pea said...

2 Tramps - Sending a loaf immediately. Start grating the cheese. ;o}

Judy T said...

Mmmmm.... Yummy!!!
How on earth do you ever have enough room in your fridge to fit that much bread? Oh, wait... you don't have a house full of teenagers. Yeah....


Sparkless said...

Oh my those loaves and garlic cheese bread look delicious! My weakness is bread and cheese not candy or chocolate.

Sue said...

I am starving right now waiting for hubby to wake up for breakfast and you show me pictures of ooey-gooey garlic cheese bread?

It looks soooo good.
And here is your DUMB question of the day (and why does it always come from ME??)--why do bread recipes ALWAYS make at least 2 loaves of bread?
Hubby and I love our bread hot out of the oven-fresh--not reheated. But all the recipes that I LOVE make 2,3,or 4 loaves. My favorite(!!!!) wheat bread recipe makes 3 loaves. I'm good at math. If I try to cut the recipe back, it's not the same.

judy said...

Even at 4:46 in the morning ,that bread looks to die for.

Amy Dingmann said...

Lovely looking recipe! Especially when its turned into cheese bread. Does one HAVE to share that with the other people at the table, or can you just consider that loaf your meal?

Anonymous said...

I thought I smelled that fantastic bread wafting all the way to our house! Gorgeous, beautiful, gorgeous!!! Thanks for recipe!-"M"

Cat Eye Cottage said...

That bread looks delicious! How long does it stay fresh, and how do you store it? I don't know how long it would take us to eat 4 loaves.

Jane said...

I will have to try this one delicious ! Blessings Jane

Patty said...

This bread looks like a wonderful treat! I can't wait to try it, and make the awesome garlic cheese bread. My family is going to flip over this, I know. :) Thanks for sharing!

Mama Pea said...

Judy - Annnd I put the bread to rise in my spare refrigerator! Never would fit in my main one in the kitchen.

Sparkless - You and I are alike there, too. I like good FOOD! And will always take salty over sweet for munchies!

Sue - A very good question and one I'm not smart enough to answer! I suppose people think if you're going to go to the trouble to make homemade bread, you might as well get 2 or 3 or 6(!) loaves out of it. But you are so right . . . nothing tastes as good as bread fresh out of the oven. Since there are usually only the two of us, also, I always freeze the "other" loaves. But they never taste nearly as good as that first loaf, do they?

judy - Well, hello, Early Bird. Yup, I could eat some of the bread first thing in the morning!

Mama Tea - I could think of worse things for you to eat for a meal!!

Anonymous "M" - There's not much that smells better than bread baking in the oven!

The Weekend Homesteader - I always freeze what we don't use immediately so I don't really know how long it would stay "fresh" on the counter. For the Garlic Cheese Bread it tastes almost as good out of the freezer as when first baked.

Blessings Jane - Hope you like it!

Patty - It's really an easy recipe and because you can have it in the refrigerator ready to bake when it's most convenient, I think it will be handy for such a busy lady as you!

Karen L. said...

WhooooHoooo!!! Thanks so much Judy for posting this. And hey, you are not late doing this. I was not "pushing" you to post this .... like I am about your quilt blog (just gotta get that dig in, don't I? Sorry ... and after you being so generous posting this recipe. Guess I owe you big time now.) So thanks for the recipe, the photos (yea, I had to wipe up my keyboard too), and all the extra advice. But why can't I rest for 20 min. when the dough is??? Seriously, I am making this soon. We have a hard time getting crusty bread in the south and when I complain about that, people look at me like I am from another planet. Hmm, perhaps I should take a look at myself in the mirror? I will let you know how many times my husband says "mmmmmm" when he eats this the first time. Did I mention how generous you are for taking the time and effort to post all of that? Well, you are!!! Guess I had better go see if I can print that recipe out.

Dmarie said...

that garlic cheese bread looks fabulous--thanks so much for sharing the idea!!

Mama Pea said...

Karen L. - No, dear girl, you were giving me no grief about getting this post up (unlike your incessant badgering about my quilt blog -- sigh) but I did say I would get it written out for you a looooong time ago. I keep my yeast and flour in the refrigerator and I can't tell you how many mornings I pulled them out onto the counter thinking I would get the bread made that day. Then I'd put them back in the refrigerator at night. BUT I finally did it and you're so very welcome. Hope the recipe works out for you and proves to be a keeper!

Dmarie - Well, when we had the restaurant we made Garlic Cheese Bread like that and people would come in just for the bread with a beer or glass of wine. It's ooey-gooey and so yummy!

Erin said...

I'll have to try that recipe, I love that it makes so many loaves! I have a good recipe I've been using but it only made 1 medium loaf and I was afraid to tinker much with the amounts LOL

Mama Pea said...

Erin - The four loaves are small. If you formed the dough into two loaves, they would be about equal to normal sized loaves . . . but still the individual slices wouldn't be as big as sandwich sized loaves. Clear as mud??

judy said...


Akannie said...

My word...that DOES look good, all cheesy and garlicky...

A wise baker once told me that cold does not kill yeast--heat does. That why all the artisan bread recipes work so well.

Also--I'm betting that you could leave the dough in the fridge and make another loaf another day, the way the bread recipe I use does. See http:

Just sayin'....we LOVE us some bread down here at Honeysuckle Hill !!

Claire said...

I hardly dare ask, but is that Garlic Cheese Bread the very same that I used to serve our lucky customers at a certain restaurant? (No worries if you can't broadcast that online. :) Looks delicious!
As for the quote at the beginning of your post, the first place I remember seeing this was on a mural on one of the walls of CCHS! I looked it up, and Google came through, again! The quote is somewhat modified from a poem from Alfred Lord Tennyson called "The Charge of the Light Brigade." It is about a suicide charge by British soldiers in the Ukraine during the Crimean War (1854-1856). Thanks for giving me something to look up and learn!

Mama Pea said...

judy - 'Fraid so, Mrs. J.

Akannie - Lotsa good tips, Bread Baker Friend! I should try leaving one of the loaves in the refrigerator more than the 24 hours and see what happens. Whether it work with this particular recipe or not . . . we'll see!

Claire - Nope, not the same recipe but Papa Pea would like me to switch to that "other" recipe 'cause he thinks it's better. I've just never broken down the ingredients from making 200 loaves at a time (not quite) to a reasonable sized batch!

Thanks for the info on the quote. Boy, somebody did a good job of brainwashing those guys, eh?

Deb said...

holy cheese bread, batman! That looks yumalicious! I want to crawl through the computer. Now. Yes, we will be making this--thank you for sharing!

judy said...

Well I still like momma pea and know why you should keep your anonymity

Mama Pea said...

Deb - Thank you! We had a couple loaves of this bread again tonight (it's getting to be a habit!) when we had a friend of my hubby's over for dinner of soup and Garlic Cheese Bread. Funny how a loaf of the bread can make a simple soup meal a little more special! ('Course, the chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream mighta helped, too.)

Wendy said...

I can almost smell the garlic of this bread it looks so good! I am going to have to make some this coming weekend.

Mama Pea said...

Wendy - If you don't want so much of the garlic flavor, instead of minced fresh garlic in the butter, you can just use garlic powder. But we think fresh garlic is a super-good food so us that whenever we can. And if everybody eats it, nobody complains!!