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4.75 from 4 votes

Rustic Italian Bread

How to make crusty rustic homemade Italian bread loaf. Tender crumb, crisp crust. Perfect with pasta, soup, and Sunday dinner.
Prep Time1 d 6 hrs
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time1 d 6 hrs 35 mins
Course: Yeast Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf
Author: Melanie - Gather for Bread


For the sponge:

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

For the dough:

  • 3-3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp salt


To make the sponge:

  • Mix together the flour, water, and yeast together in a medium bowl. Sit until it resembles dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit (dough will rise and fall) at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours.

To make the dough:

  • Combine 3 cups bread flour and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on low and slowly add the water while the mixer is running. Let this mix for 2 minutes until the dough starts to come together. Lift the head of your stand mixer and place a piece of plastic wrap tightly over the bowl. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
  • After the 20 minute rest, remove the plastic wrap. Add the sponge and salt. Knead on <g class="gr_ gr_145 gr-alert gr_spell gr_run_anim ContextualSpelling ins-del multiReplace" id="145" data-gr-id="145">medium low</g> speed for 8 minutes. After 4 minutes, if the dough is sticking to the side of the bowl add the last 1/2 cup of flour a little at a time. The dough should slap the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom (you do want it to stick to the bottom). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a smooth round ball.
  • Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, and cover tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled, about an hour.
  • After the dough has doubled, remove the plastic wrap. After the dough has risen for about an hour, it’s time to start turning it. Slide a plastic bench scraper or rubber spatula <g class="gr_ gr_129 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_run_anim Grammar multiReplace" id="129" data-gr-id="129">under</g> one side of the dough; gently lift and fold a third of the dough toward the center.Let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Repeat the previous step after the 30 minutes are up and then let it rise for a second 30 minutes.
  • After the second 30 minutes of rising, it’s time to form the loaf. Remove the dough from the bowl and gently press it into a 10-inch square. Gently dimple it. Fold each corner diagonally into the middle. Using your fingertips and starting at the top of the dough, pull the underside of the dough up over the top, stretching it considerably, and begin to roll the dough up into a rough log. With each roll, press the seam firmly to seal. Continue to do this, forming the dough into a fairly tight log, 5 to 7 more times.
  • Place the dough, seam down, on a rimless baking sheet (or one that is upside-down) that is lined with parchment paper. Gently tuck the dough into place on the parchment. You should end up with a long thin loaf that is 16 inches long. Transfer dough to <g class="gr_ gr_141 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_run_anim Grammar only-ins doubleReplace replaceWithoutSep" id="141" data-gr-id="141">parchment</g> lined inverted baking sheet or parchment lined pizza paddle.
  • Finish shaping the loaf into a taut 16-inch-long torpedo-shaped loaf by tucking the edges under with your hands. Lightly mist the dough with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • While the dough is rising, prep the oven and your baking stone. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the baking stone heat for 30 minutes (but not longer than an hour).
  • When the dough has doubled, score the top with <g class="gr_ gr_140 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_run_anim gr_inline_cards Grammar multiReplace" id="140" data-gr-id="140">a razor blade, diagonally and 1/2 inch deep and spray lightly with water. Carefully slide the loaf and the parchment onto the hot baking stone in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 more minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown. Let the loaf cool completely on a wire rack until it is room temperature. (about 2 hours cooling time) Serve and enjoy