A Very Tasty Pinterest Fail {Homemade Bread 101}

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EasyItalianBreadRecipe

I had no idea how easy it was to make delicious homemade bread! I imagined a laborious, time-consuming project that had a high risk of failing if not properly executed. (I tend to over-think things, like imagining dramatic results over something as simple and common as a loaf of bread. It didn’t rise! The horror!) In reality, it’s pretty simple. And I found a recipe so fail-proof that -even when I screwed it up- made a tasty loaf of bread.

Growing up, our best meals were always accompanied by a loaf of fresh Italian bread. Don’t get it twisted, my mom didn’t make bread (save for a few unfortunate months when she utilized her then-new bread machine. Eh.). It just didn’t take much to hop down to the grocery store and return a few minutes later with a freshly baked loaf. Well, now that I live in the country, my current location does not allow for such luxuries. I set out to find a way to stock our pantry with fresh, crusty, chewy bread that didn’t include spending almost two hours in the car.

Armed with my new KitchenAid stand mixer (thank you, Santa), I scoured the wonderful world of Pinterest for a bread recipe. I’d tried a few in the past, but was never very impressed with the results. My go-to bread/dinner roll recipe was a loaf of Rhodes frozen white bread with olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary sprinkled on top of it. Yummy for sure, but I hoped I could do better. I finally stumbled across this recipe over at Pass the Sushi, and decided to give it a shot. {Sidenote: how cute is that blog? Thank you Pinterest, for giving me another great blog to enjoy.}

My first loaf turned out great. It was golden and crunchy – but not hard – on the outside, and chewy and perfect on the inside. Mr. B and I devoured it in record time, so I set out to make another. This time, overly confident in my new-found baker skills, I didn’t read the recipe quiiiite as carefully as I should have. I added too much water to the sponge and ended up with a sticky, gooey mess that didn’t exactly have the consistency of bread dough. To compensate, I added more flour. Much to my surprise, it still worked! It made a much larger loaf, which added more fluffy goodness to compliment the crusty edges of each slice.

My whoopsie made a much bigger loaf than I wanted/needed. Like, it overflowed over the edges of the baking sheet. Opps. But, after a little bit of experimenting, I was able to figure out just the right size loaf. So here you go. Step-by-step instructions for a deliciously homemade, crusty, braided Italian bread. You’re welcome.

First, we need to make the sponge starter: In a large bowl combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon yeast. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm place. Let this rest for about an hour. It will be ready when it has formed lots of bubbles and looks like this:   (The recipe I used said to let the sponge rest 12-16 hours, but that was far too long. It may be because I used quick-rise yeast, but my sponge was ready in about 2-3 hours.)

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When your sponge is good and bubbly (like in the photo above), mix in 3/4 cup water. Mix in 1 1/2 tsp. salt and the rest of the yeast packet (about 2 tsp.). Then add in 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes (3 minutes if you are using a stand mixer), adding the remaining flour as needed to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Roll the ball of dough around in a greased bowl and cover with a clean towel.

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Set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours). (I usually set mine by the fireplace.)

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Once or twice during the rising, fold the sides of the dough into the center and turn the dough over. This helps develop the gluten and distribute the yeast’s food. Divide the dough into three equal parts, rolling each into a thick rope.

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Braid the ropes, pinch the ends together and gently tuck them under the loaf to secure the braid.

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Place the braided loaf on a greased baking sheet and cover loosely with greased plastic wrap (waxed paper works well also). Allow to rise in a warm place about one hour, or until doubled in size.

Beat together 1 egg white and 1 Tbsp. water. Brush the loaf with the egg white mixture.

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Bake at 425 degree for 25-35 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

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  • The Dose of Reality

    YUM! That looks so tasty, and my girls would have so much fun making this! 🙂 Happy SITS day!

  • Jenna

    Yum! This looks amazing! Happy SITS Day!

  • It looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing.
    Congratulations on your SITS day. I hope it’s a wonderful day for you.

  • Delicioius! Definitely trying it. I have a breadmaker but I love making bread the old fashioned way!

  • This bread is beautiful. At first glance it doesn’t look easy but thanks to your tutorial I think it is something I could handle

  • Laina Turner

    Look delicious.

  • That looks so delectable! I heart my kitchen aid mixer too. It’s at least 18 years old and going strong!!

  • passthesushi

    Pin oops or not – looks like it came out perfect 🙂