Italian Bread


For as long as I can remember, my mother made this bread. She used it for long loaves, foccacia and pizza. I remember coming home from school on Fridays and there was a bowl on the counter with the squishy dough – pizza for dinner!

During the summer, when we were in Westport, there would be a line of kids outside our back door on Saturday morning, waiting for a piece of my mom’s wonderful bread and butter. My mother made foccacia way before foccacia became fashionable.

This is a very versatile dough. As a bread it has a crisp crust and a tender interior, not too airy, sturdy enough to toast or for bruschetta or garlic bread. For pizza, it makes a great thick-ish crust pizza, bold enough in flavor to still be present under sauce and cheese. And for foccacia, it’s an absolute dream, holds the dents, olive oil floats in them, salt and rosemary a perfect addition. Foccacia is supposed to be a very simple thing, olive oil, salt, perhaps rosemary, everything else is just tooooooo much.

This is a really simple recipe. No fuss, no muss. Bloom, soak, add flour, rise, rise, bake! It will make more sense as we go along.

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 C warm water
  • 3/4 C flour
  • 2 C warm water
  • 3 heaping t salt
  • 5 C flour
Preheat oven to 425.

Dissolve one package of yeast to 1/4 C of warm water. Add 3/4 C of flour and knead to form a ball.

Cut a cross in the ball (not too deep or it will fall apart). Pour 2 C of warm water in a deep narrow bowl, add the ball of dough. Once the ball of dough rises to the top , transfer it to a large bowl. Add 3 heaping teaspoons and 5 cups of flour, one at a time, kneading after each addition. You can use a wooden spoon for the first 3, perhaps 4, the fifth you will need to knead by hand.

Once all the flour is added, knead the dough for a couple of minutes.

Butter a bowl, add the dough, cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise.

You want it to double in size.

Once it has doubled, shape into 2 loaves, place on baking sheet, cover and let rise again. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 30 minutes. I lightly spray the baking sheet first, just in case.

Remove loaves from oven and  let cool completely before you cut into it. I know, not easy! I NEVER make it to completely, usually to warm.


Once cooled, slice and enjoy!

Even better with the butter I made!

For foccacia, after the dough has doubled in the bowl, oil a baking sheet, spread the dough out in the baking sheet. Cover and let rise again. After it has risen, press your fingers into the dough to make divots. Sprinkle the top with olive oil and salt. I like to add rosemary, perhaps a little garlic. Bake until golden brown.

For pizza, after the dough has doubled in the bowl, lightly oil a baking sheet, spread the dough out on the baking sheet. Cover and let rise again. After it has risen, add sauce and cheese, and whatever toppings you want. Bake until bottom is browned and cheese has melted.

13 Responses

  1. I’ve made my own foccacia before, but I’m eager to try your recipe as pizza dough and crusty bread. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Yummmmmm…how did we go all these years and I never got this recipe? Looks delicious…I have a favorite foccacia recipe but this looks very versatile…
    Guess I need to bake one on one of these rainy, nasty days!

  3. What a fabulous, rustic bread! I love your childhood story about the neighbors lining up for some of your mom’s bread…I’m sure the aroma in your house was incredible. With this lousy weather we’ve been having, I think baking a loaf or two would be the perfect antidote! Thanks for the great recipe…now off to check the butter recipe~

  4. I love homemade bread, yours looks like it has a really nice crumb. I agree, simple is best. I will have to try your version soon.

  5. As much as I love bread and foccaccia I was sidetracked when I read Westport. I used to spend time there every summer visiting my grandmother. Who knows, maybe we were neighbours?

  6. Annie, I so wanted to make this to use with our burrata dinner tonight, but just wasn’t able to do so today. Rats! Check out my post on the dinner though. Next time I will plan ahead to make your Mom’s bread.

    I’ve reached the 5 year anniversary for my blog. If you get a chance, pop over and register for my giveaway! You will like it, I know. 🙂


  7. That crust looks perfect. I love a good rustic bread and family recipes are the best.

  8. Yum! I adore fresh baked bread. Great recipe!

  9. […] From the Book Shelf has a great post on Italian Bread […]

  10. […] Post that did not get the attention it deserved: My Mom’s Italian Bread – I thought it was great and the photos were terrific, but it didn’t seem to get much […]

  11. […] have a go to bread recipe. It’s easy and versatile. I can make loaves or pizza or focaccia from the dough and […]

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