Home-baked Italian breads make great sandwiches for a gourmet lunchbox or picnic and will impress dinner guests served alongside a lovingly prepared Italian meal. We asked Matt Jones, of the Bread Ahead Bakery and Baking School, how to ensure the best results.
1. Strong flour
You’ll need a strong flour that’s high in gluten. We get ours from Marriage’s Milliers, but any high-gluten or ‘00’ flour would work well. The strength of the gluten is required to form the lovely big air bubbles in the bread – it’s essential for the dough to develop properly.
2. Good scales
Accurate digital scales are tremendously important for home baking. You have to look at it as a scientific experiment: the basic recipe must be right and the ratios must be correct – you can’t leave anything to the imagination.
- Check out Good Food’s favourite digital kitchen scales.
Dried yeast does the trick, but fresh is more reactive, so try to track it down if you can. The bakery counter in your supermarket might be able to help. Alternatively, it’s readily available online.
4. Extra virgin olive oil
Italian flavours are all about simple, delicious ingredients. It’s worth spending a little more on a decent extra virgin olive oil, especially if you’re using it as a dip for cooked bread or for focaccia, which is topped with olive oil. The best Italian extra virgin olive oil you can buy from a supermarket is fine.
5. Dough scraper
Italian bread doughs can be wet and sticky to work with, so a cheap plastic dough scraper is invaluable. I like the bendable ones with curved edges, as they work into the rounded sides of a bowl.
- You can find these at Nisbet’s catering equipment.
Italian bread-making is just one of the many skills you can learn at the Bread Ahead Baking School.