2teaspoonsolive oilto give bread a golden exterior
¼cupfreshly grated Parmesan Cheeseoptional
Using a Bread Machine
Place water, flour, and salt into the bread machine in order specified by your machine. Make a well into the flour and add the yeast to the well. Set to dough cycle and turn on.
Once the dough cycle is complete, punch the dough down shape into a large oval shape. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another 30 to 60 minutes, or once dough has nearly doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled again, cut diagonal slits on top of bread dough every 2-3 inches
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until browned and the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool completely.
Preparing without a Bread Machine
Pour water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over warm water and let the yeast bloom, or get foamy and bubbly, for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the flour, salt, and oregano, and garlic powder (if using), together and stir in the foamy water with a wooden spoon (or dough hook of a stand mixer) until incorporated.
Knead until dough is nice and smooth--about 5-10 minutes.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in warm place to rise until doubled in size--about 1-2 hours depending on temperature of your house.
Once the dough has risen, punch the dough down and shape into an oval-shape loaf. Cut diagonal slits on top of bread dough every 2-3 inches. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another 30 to 60 minutes, or once the dough has nearly doubled in size.
Brush the loaf with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until browned and the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
Bread is finished baking when you tap the bottom of the loaf of bread and it sounds hollow. You can also take its internal temperature. When it reads 190 degrees, your Italian Bread is baked to perfection.
Flour–use unbleached bread flour for best results. It is also important to measure by lightly spooning flour into a measuring cup to ensure accurate flour measurement.
Water–be sure to use warm water that is at about 105 degrees because if the water is too hot the yeast will be killed and if water the yeast will not be activated.
Yeast–Be sure you use dry active yeast (not Quick Rise Yeast) and be sure yeast is not expired for best results.
Optional Seasonings--If you would like to season your Italian bread, add 1 teaspoon of garlic powder to the flour mixture, brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese before baking.
Storage: This bread will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days and can be frozen for up to a month.