Week 87: Italian Supermarket Bread

Americans who were raised in neighborhoods with a large Italian-American community grew up with a staple they call Italian bread, readily available at their local supermarket. This familiar braided loaf is topped with sesame seeds and its nutty taste, sturdy crisp crust, and soft interior never disappoints. It’s made with semolina and double-zero flour, and it’s well worth getting those flours so you can make it again and again. I prefer the crust to be on the dark side, but it’s more common for it to be paler than that.

I started off by studying the method of making the No-Knead Italian Bread on Leites Culinaria, one of my most favorite food websites, and took from that the use of semolina and double-zero (00) flour. I added some sugar and olive oil to enrich the dough because I found that many commerical brands have some kind of sweetener and fat in the list of ingredients. I also mixed in some flax seeds with the sesame seeds to use as topping.

Step 1: Make dough

  • 165g semolina flour
  • 140g double-zero (00) flour
  • 135g all-purpose flour (or 100g all-purpose flour + 35g whole wheat)
  • 4g sugar
  • 7g salt
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp anise seed, crushed (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk flour with sugar, salt and yeast to combine.
  • 300g room temperature water
  • 15g olive oil
  1. Add water and olive oil and mix thouroughly, so there are no dry bits left. You can use your hands, a dough whisk, or the handle of a wooden spoon.
  2. Scrape sides down to clean it off and incorporate all the dough into one place. It’s very wet and sticky, so that’s fine.
  3. Cover, and let rest overnight.

Step 2: Shape

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Scrape dough out of bowl into a very well floured surface (about 2 level Tbsp worth)
  3. Knead to incorporate flour into the dough so that it’s not as sticky and easier to work with, using a bench scraper if it starts sticking to counter
  4. Clear flour off countertop (get it all!) then oil the countertop for the next step
  5. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces, about 261g each
  6. Roll out into logs about 12″ long and place on baking sheet
  7. Braid, press ends to seal, then fold under.
  8. Cover and let rest about 30 minutes to an hour, until slightly puffed.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees

Step 3: Bake

  • 1 egg white beaten with a pinch of salt
  • Sesame seeds (about 1 Tbsp)
  • Flax seeds (about 1 Tbsp)
  1. Mix egg white with salt to break it up.
  2. When dough is ready, brush it with the egg white and sprinkle with seeds.
  3. Bake at 425 for 30 ~ 40 minutes, until golden brown.
  4. When ready, turn off oven, and cool bread inside with the door open.


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