The beauty of this recipe for Rustic Italian Bread is that the dough can be made in a bread machine and then baked in the oven – OR it can be made in the traditional way. So, you choose!
Unlike typical Italian bread, this bread is very light. It’s called “rustic” but I don’t think the name really fits. It’s more like “light as a feather Italian bread”!
Both recipes take 3 hours, 45 minutes – including 1 hour for cooling the bread. But that’s not all “hands on” time.
Ingredients (The same for both methods.)
- 1 cup water – temperature 100 F to 115 F Here’s a trick, if the water feels slightly warm on your wrist, then it should be fine. You only want it “warm”, not “hot”! Too hot – or too cold and the yeast doesn’t work. Of course, if you’re using a bread machine, it heats the water for you!
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 cups BREAD flour – Interestingly enough – in Canada, they can use ordinary flour. Somehow the flour in Canada is “different”.
- 2 tsp. sugar – Yeast needs sugar to “work”.
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 (1/4 oz.) package active dry yeast – I called Pillsbury and they said to use regular yeast – even with a bread machine. 1/4 oz. yeast = 2 1/4 tsp. OR 1 cake fresh yeast
- about 3 Tbs. cornmeal
- 1 egg white, beaten – spread on the bread BEFORE baking
Using a Bread Machine to Make the Dough
Oven at 375 F Bake 25 – 35 minutes Yield = 1 (12-slice) loaf
Place all ingredients – EXCEPT the cornmeal & egg white – in bread machine according the manufacturer’s directions. Set on “dough” setting.
When dough cycle is finished, remove dough and place on lightly floured surface. (I use a dish towel.) Punch dough down – meaning press it down with your hands, which flattens it out. If dough is too sticky, mix in a bit of additional flour before shaping.
Cover dough with a clean cloth. (I use the same dish towel.) Let dough “rest” 15 minutes. It will have already begun to rise a bit again. Nothing seems to keep a good dough down. ; o )
Shape dough into a baguette shape about 12″ long.
Prepare a cookie sheet by spreading 3 Tbs. of cornmeal on it. Place formed dough onto cookie sheet. If the baguette shape becomes a bit “messed up”, just pat it back into submission! I find the best way to cook or bake is not to take it too seriously. There’s alot you can do to “fix things” before they’re baked/cooked. And believe me, even wedding cakes can be fixed up – I know ! So don’t freak out – just find a way to fix the problem. I also find that talking to yourself helps immensely !
Now cover your lovely creation and let it rise in a warm place (80 F to 85 F) for 20 to 25 minutes. If your kitchen is cold, you can fill a 13″ x 10″ pan with hot water, place it in the bottom of your oven and let your bread rise in there. I’ve also been known to heat the oven a bit and then shut it off, but you may not want to try that in case you heat the oven too much.
After 20 – 25 minutes your dough should be about double in size. If the bread has been rising in the oven, obviously, take it out and set the oven to 375 F. Take a sharp knife and make a 1/2″ deep cut along the length of the bread. (Oops – I just realized the directions say “1 cut”, and I had read it as “one 1” cut”… oh well, my bread turned out OK..)
Brush sides and top of loaf with some of the beaten egg white. I use my fingers…
Bake for 25 to 34 minutes – or until bread sounds hollow when tapped lightly. I’ve found that bread often cooks faster than the directions say. My bread was ready in 25 minutes, but each oven are different.
+ Tip – if you like a soft crust, cover the bread with a dish towel as it’s cooling. Enjoy!
Directions for Traditional Method
Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup. Level off with a knife. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Mix well. Add warm water and oil. Mix well. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. (I use a dish towel.) Knead dough 10 minutes or until smooth. (To knead dough, push away from you with the palm of your hand, turn dough, fold over and repeat.) If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Place dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise in warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough, place it back onto the lightly floured surface and cover with inverted bowl. Allow to “rest” for 15 minutes.
To form the dough into a baguette and to bake the bread – refer to the directions above, as they’re the same. Enjoy!
++Recipe courtesy of Pillsbury