Making Italian bread (or any bread really) is much easier than most people think. This recipe makes 3 nice size loaves. The bread has a nice crust and soft center with great flavor. It also holds up well if you freeze it for later use. (pictures at the bottom)
3 cups of warm water
1 full Tablespoon dry active yeast (if you have packets use a packet and a half)
1 1/2 tsp. white sugar
2 tsp. salt
8 cups of all purpose flour (I used unbleached flour or you can use half white and half wheat)
Mix the water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl until dissolved and let sit for 10 minutes to proof.
Stir in 4 cups of the flour and mix it until smooth and set it aside for approximately 15 minutes.
Add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix again. Add more flour 1/2 cup at a time to form a stiff dough and pour out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough adding flour lightly as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic (it should spring back when you press two fingers into it).
Put into a greased bowl and in a warm spot to rise approximately 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down, turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead for a minuted then place back in the greased bowl to rise again for 30 minutes.
Spray a cookie sheet lightly and sprinkle cornmeal over the sheet
After 30 minutes, punch the dough down again and separate into 3 pieces, forming them into a loaf (a football type shape) and place on the cookie sheet
Set back into a warm spot and let rise about 25 minutes or until correct loaf size.
I brush them lightly with water and place them in a 450 degree preheated oven and bake approximately 30 minutes (turning the pan after 15 minutes and sprinkle a bit of water again on top) and bake until the tops are lightly browned and they sound hollow when you tap on them.
It’s ok if they touch when baking as you can cut them apart.
Your family will LOVE this super easy bread. My niece and daughter grabbed the first slices as soon as the loaves were cool enough to handle!