One of my fondest memories of my mom in the kitchen is when she was making homemade bread. Whether it was sourdough, Italian bread or just a traditional wheat bread loaf, I could sit and watch her for hours – and I did! When I finally got old enough, I begged her to teach me how to make it myself, and I never looked back after that. There’s just something about the smell of the yeast and the dough and the hot, steamy bread when it comes out of the oven…it just reminds me of everything that’s right in the world.
With the popularity of bread machines, I think handmade bread has become a bit of a dying art. No, I’m not knocking bread machines – not at all. I had one for a long time. They’re a great time-saver, and they’re a fantastic way to have homemade bread if you struggle with dough. I had a friend who, try as she might, could never turn out a loaf of bread. She’d either knead it too much or she’d put too much flour in. It happens.
I feel blessed that I learned how to make bread by hand from an early age. Now, making bread is therapeutic for me. There’s no substitute for getting my hands into the dough and actually connecting with the food that I’m making. That’s where the love comes into the kitchen. I’ve got a lot of bread recipes in my archives, and I’ll be sharing many of them with you – starting with this Italian bread recipe. This is one of my favorites, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.
- 2 pouches active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 3½ tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons shortening
- 2½ cups warm water
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 8 to 9 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Combine the yeast and ½ cup of warm water in a large bowl. Let it rest for five minutes.
- Add the sugar, shortening, water and salt. Combine thoroughly.
- Whisk in the egg, then stir in half of the flour.
- Mix well to incorporate all of the flour.
- Gradually add more flour until the dough comes together and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Lightly flour your countertop, then turn the dough out onto the surface.
- Knead the dough for about five minutes or so, until it feels smooth and seems elastic.
- Grease a clean bowl, then put the dough ball into the bowl. Turn the dough to coat the whole thing.
- Cover the bowl lightly with a towel and place it in a draft-free area for about an hour, or until it doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Punch down the dough, then turn it out onto a lightly floured counter.
- Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a long loaf.
- Place them seam-side down on a greased baking sheet.
- Cut a half-inch to one inch slice down the center of each loaf to create the center split. You can also do four to six slices diagonally across the loaf as an alternative.
- Bake the bread for 36 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden. Remove it from the oven and brush the top of both loaves with melted butter.