Italian Country Loaf

Italian country loaf Making bread is one of life's simple treasures.  It takes a little patience, but the end result will leave you wanting for more. I'm not talking about the white bread loaves you find in the market.  Artisan loaves are perfect for an afternoon snack or paired up with your favorite wine. For this post, I wanted to go back to my Fig days and create an Italian country loaf.  I remember heading to the restaurant at lunch, slicing open a loaf and making incredible vegetarian sandwiches, or loading a slice with butter and throwing it under the broiler, instant pleasure!  This bread will make your baking life complete.  It's incredibly easy-no reason to be scared.  Lets get going, because once you have created an Italian country loaf, on your Baking Steel, your baking days will never be the same.



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dusting off the kitchen aid

kitchen aid, with bread paddle attachment


kneaded dough resting overnight at room temp

expanded 3 x after a 24 hour room temp ferment

divided into 2 loaves


score a criss cross design on top

cool on bakers rack


ready to slice




You can find this recipe in Baking Bread, Old and new traditions by Beth Hensperger


1 teaspoon active dry yeast (5 grams)

1/3 cup lukewarm water (74 grams)

2/3 cup milk at room temp (156 grams)

1 teaspoon honey (5 grams)

2 cups of bread flour (250 Grams)


1. To prepare the sponge: in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast with water and milk and stir to dissolve.  Add the honey and flour.  Beat with whisk until smooth.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature a least 4 hours to overnight.  This sponge can be stored up to 1 week in the refrigerator before using.  It will be bubbly.


1 teaspoon active dry yeast (5 grams)

2 cups water at room temperature (473 grams)

1 tablespoon salt (15 grams)

5 cups of bread flour (625 Grams)


1. To make the dough: Add the yeast, water, salt, and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge.  Mix for 1 minute in a mixer fitted with a paddle on medium. Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time.  The dough will be smooth, yet not pull away from the sides of the bowl.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously until very elastic, yet still moist and tacky, about 5 minutes.  And this will be very tacky.  Slam the dough hard hard against the surface to develop the gluten. Set aside uncovered for 5 -10 minutes. Knead again, and the sticky dough will smooth out without adding flour.

3.  Place dough in an un-greased deep containter, preferably plastic, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 3 hours to overnight.  The dough should triple in volume. I let mine sit overnight.

4. Remove the dough from the container.  Place on the work surface, knead lightly into 1 large or 2 small rounds, and flatten slightly.  Dust with flour and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.   Let rise at room temperature until soft and springy, 1 to 3 hours.  Load your Baking Steel onto bottom rack and preheat over at 375 F for 30 minutes.

5. Slash a criss-cross design into the top of the free-form loaves no deeper than 1/4 inch, using a serrated knife.  Place free form loaf and parchment paper onto a pizza paddle.  Launch loaf onto Baking Steel and bake until very dark and crusty, about 55-60 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  This bread is best completely cooled and reheated.

Slice and let your imagination take over

slice of toast with coffee



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