What is Italian Bread?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Every country makes its own version of bread, and the Italians make many different torpedo-shaped loaves with a crusty exterior. Sometimes you'll find round bread or long oval bread made in the typical Italian style. Italian bread is similar in many ways to french bread, though the crust is usually not quite as hard. The interior of the bread tends to have fewer holes, exhibiting a nice smooth crumb throughout. Having bread with fewer holes is highly desirable, since Italian bread is often used to sop up sauces on plates.

Olive oil, which is often used to make Italian bread.
Olive oil, which is often used to make Italian bread.

The simplest Italian bread is usually a combination of white wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and a little bit of olive oil. Olive oil effectively binds the ingredients, making a slightly richer loaf than the typical french bread. Some variants of the bread add sesame seeds or poppy seeds to the top or sides.

Italian bread can be made into a variety of differently-shaped loaves.
Italian bread can be made into a variety of differently-shaped loaves.

The crusty exterior is achieved by basting the tops and side of the bread with water, or by spraying the tops and sides with water from a spray bottle. This makes for a chewy, but not completely hard crust. Most recipes suggest that if you are not using a stone oven for baking, which few people do, you instead use a baking stone. When you’re making Italian bread, be certain to preheat the stone as you preheat the oven in order to achieve the perfect temperature. Many cooks recommend preheating the oven for at least 30 minutes so the oven temperature reaches at least 400 degrees F (204.44 C). Other recipes call for the bread to be baked at 425 F (218.33 C).

Italian bread has few holes, making it ideal for sopping up sauces and stews.
Italian bread has few holes, making it ideal for sopping up sauces and stews.

Even at these high heats, Italian bread takes about 45 minutes to bake. This again may depend upon the size of the loaves you’re preparing. You can tell the bread is done when you hit the bread with a wooden spoon or other kitchen implement made of wood. It should have a hollow sound.

Chicken cacciatore is often eaten with Italian bread to sop up the sauce.
Chicken cacciatore is often eaten with Italian bread to sop up the sauce.

Use Italian bread in any way you like, as an accompaniment to dinner, for delicious sandwiches like Italian submarine sandwiches, or take day old bread and use it to make french toast. This is an excellent all purpose bread, but it can dry and harden within a day or two. To keep Italian bread from going stale, you can store it in plastic bags, but this takes away the wonderful chewy and semi-hard crust. Although you can revive the crust by heating the bread prior to serving it again, nothing really beats this bread when it is still fresh and warm from the oven.

Poppy seeds are often added for flavor when making Italian bread.
Poppy seeds are often added for flavor when making Italian bread.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon90880

You're not slashing the top of the bread, or not slashing it enough. The first few minutes in the hot oven cause a final, quick rise called "oven spring." You need to puts cuts in the loaf to allow room to expand, or it's going to blow out on one side.

helpme123

Why does my bread bake with one side looking stretched out of shape compared to the other side which is normal?

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