Rustic Italian Bread

When Karl-Peter told me we were going to some friends’ house for pizza last night, I had no idea I was bringing my Rustic Italian bread under scrutiny of an authentic bread baking guru. Straight from the oven I delivered this gigantic Italian loaf to our hosts and the party guests, and it was with some panic, after the tour of the bread science book library, that the bread guru himself cut into the proffered loaf.




From: Baking Illustrated


Biga (Sponge)

  • 11 ounces bread flour (2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 8 ounces water (1 cup), room temperature


  • 16 1/2 ounces bread flour (3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 10.7 ounces water (1 1/3 cups), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons table salt



  1. Combine flour, yeast, and water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead on lowest speed (stir on KitchenAid) until it forms a shaggy dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer biga to medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until beginning to bubble and rise, about 3 hours. Refrigerate biga at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.


  1. Remove the biga from refrigerator and it let stand at room temperature while making dough.
  2. To make the dough, combine flour, yeast, and water in bowl of the standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead the dough on lowest speed until rough dough is formed, about 3 minutes.
  3. Turn the mixer off and, without removing the dough hook or bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. (This allows protein in the dough to relax, making for a stronger dough that can rise higher, with a better crust)
  4. Remove the plastic wrap over the dough, and add the biga and salt to bowl. Continue to knead on the lowest speed until ingredients are incorporated (dough should clear the sides of the bowl but should stick to the very bottom), about 4 minutes.
  5. Increase the mixer speed to low (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) and continue until the dough forms a more cohesive ball, about 1 minute.
  6. Transfer the dough to a large bowl (at least 3 times the size of the dough) and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a cool, draft-free spot away from direct sunlight, until slightly risen and puffy, about 1 hour.
  7. Remove the plastic wrap and turn the dough. Replace the plastic wrap and let the dough rise 1 hour. Turn dough again, replace plastic wrap, and let dough rise 1 hour longer.
  8. Dust the work surface liberally with flour. Hold the bowl with the dough at an angle over the floured surface. Gently scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface (the side of the dough that was against bowl should now be facing up).
  9. If you want two smaller loaves, split the dough into two equal halves. Use a knife or bench scraper.
  10. Dust the dough and your hands liberally with flour and, using minimal pressure, push dough into a rough 8- to 10-inch square. If you are making two loaves, shape each piece into a smaller rectangle.
  11. Shaping the loaf—watch this video (minute 6:39 they show how to shape a batard, do the folding and then just don’t roll it into the long slug, keep it more square—I love the fiddle-y music in the video, yes?)– transfer it to a large sheet parchment paper. Dust loaf liberally with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let loaf rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  12. Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position, and place a baking stone on the rack. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.
  13. Using a single-edged razor blade, or sharp chef’s knife, cut a slit 1/2 inch deep lengthwise along top of loaf, starting and stopping about 1 1/2 inches from the ends.   Image
  14. Lightly spray the loaf with water. Slide parchment sheet with loaf onto baker’s peel or upside-down baking sheet, then slide parchment with loaf onto hot baking stone in oven. If you are not using a baking stone or tile, simply place the baking sheet in the oven.
  15. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and quickly spin loaf around half way using the edges of the parchment paper.
  16. Continue to bake until deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf registers 210 degrees. For one large loaf this will be about 35 minutes longer. For two smaller loaves this will be closer to 30 minutes.
  17. When the bread is done, transfer it to a wire rack and discard the parchment paper. Now the toughest part, cool the loaf to room temperature, about 2 hours.


Definitely 5 stars. I dedicate this loaf to Dick and Nola Christiana, Italian people to the core and wonderful friends to us. Nola here advised KP on how to make a proper pizza.


We had such a wonderful time, perhaps most wonderful all, discovering that I have a new bread baking master/mentor right here in Rochester. Thanks Ed and Lucy for a fantastic evening, and I look forward to the many loaves to come!


2 thoughts on “Rustic Italian Bread

  1. The pizza dough and the rustic Italian bread both look beautiful. If I can’t be there to help mentor you, I am glad you have someone who can do that. Baking bread is lots of fun and experimenting can lead to some wonderful (and tasty) results.

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