Homemade – Italian Bread – Pane di Casa

April 29, 2008

Once a month Italyville.com will post “Homemade” – authentic homemade Italian recipes. Since this is the first homemade post, well….. we’re going to have to start at the beginning; one of the foundations of the Italian culinary experience, something Italians simply CAN NOT eat without. Pane = Bread. If I had a lira for every time my father asked “where’s the bread?” when I was growing up, I would have a whole lot of worthless lire… but if they were Euros, I’d be a rich man! and half as rich if they were dollars…. damn the dollar!! sorry.

We were very lucky that my mother made homemade bread once a week when we were growing up… and still does. I can remember talking about “American bread” which was pretty much every other variety but mostly sliced sandwich bread. It was comical to us when we saw our friends bring sandwiches to school and their bread had the crust cut off. You cut off the crust? Isn’t that the best part? It is to Italians! We still fight over the end piece of bread….. even if you’re successful at securing it, take your eyes off it for a second and it might disappear!

So here it is, the recipe for the bread we grew up on.

Pane di casa

What you’ll need – (all these amounts are guestimated):

  • 3-4 ounces of fresh yeast
  • 5 lb bag of bread flour
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/8 of a cup of canola oil
  • water

We start by cutting about a 1/2 inch slice from a block of fresh yeast. Fresh yeast is becoming more difficult to find at grocery stores but you should have better luck at a local bakery (we have a local baker in the family…. so it helps.) Place your yeast in a bowl with 1.5 cups of warm water and mix the yeast and water with your hands until it feels like the yeast has completely dissolved.

Take a small amount of bread flour (a few handfuls) and put it aside, then take the rest of the bread flower and put it in an extra large bowl. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and pour your yeast water in. Add the canola oil, 2 cups of warm water and salt (sprinkle it over the flour.) and mix the ingredients with your hands. Once you start mixing, check the dough consistency and add small amounts of flour or water as needed. Make sure to knead the dough well so that all the ingredients are mixed together properly.

Once your dough is ready, place it on a flat surface and cut it in half, then in half again so that you have 4 pieces of dough that are approximately the same size. It sounds funny to explain it like that but if you try to cut off 1/4 at a time…… well, the last piece probably won’t be the same as the first piece. get it? got it? good.

Now that you have your four equal size pieces, knead them individually again and then form each piece of dough into a small ball. We like to make a few small slices in the dough with a knife for decoration but you don’t have to. Place 2 pieces of dough side by side on a cookie sheet or baking tray that has been lined with tin foil and sprinkled with flour. Set your 2 trays aside and let the the dough rise. We put the trays on a table or bed and cover them with 2-3 blankets so that the dough rises quicker. It usually takes about 1.5-2 hours for the dough to rise when we do this…. it should rise to about double the size once it’s ready.

When the dough has risen, place it in the oven preheated at 350 degrees and cook until golden brown. It should take about 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Make sure to turn your trays around and switch them from the top/bottom rack after 40 minutes so that each bread is evenly cooked.

This bread is great for sandwiches, toast, bruschetta and much more.

To think, we used to feel embarrassed pulling out a sandwich like this at the lunch table at school when everyone else had white sandwich bread! Thanks Mom!


13 Responses to “Homemade – Italian Bread – Pane di Casa”

  1. 'A Tuscan view.....from Umbria' Says:

    It’s worth it for the smell alone. Great looking pane, good rise, nice crust, I’m impressed, is there no end to your culinary talents?:) Amanda

  2. Liz P Says:

    That does look irresistable! And it has reminded me that it’s been too long since I’ve baked that good basic bread. Now, I have to ask… do you really cover it with blankets?

  3. Maryann Says:

    You mean Wonderbread? That marshmallowy flavorless stuff? haha We Italian kids fought over that crust, Joe! We called the end of the bread the “submarine” and the middle was a “battleship”. It was worth fighting for and grandpa said it was good for your teeth 🙂

  4. Proud Italian Cook Says:

    What a great post! When I look at that bread I want to cut off a piece, cut it in half and pop it in my toaster! There’s nothing like Italian bread toast! I love the smell of it in the morning!

  5. bleeding espresso Says:

    Yeah kids in Italian houses definitely had a whole different bread experience; thanks for the memories 🙂

  6. My Melange Says:

    Such a talent you are Joe 🙂 Homemade bread always tastes better…I think it’s the love kneaded in!

  7. Julie Says:

    I remember everyone at school being fascinated by my sandwiches. They were huge, my favorite was; “eggplant, prosciutto and blue cheese or sharp provolone” on the heel end of some crusty homemade bread.

  8. Maria from Philly Says:

    I feel like we’re related Joe, same stories in my house. I still call it “American Bread” or “Pan’Americano” as my mom calls it. I love making homemade bread, you can’t beat the falvor, the texture and the smell!!! Covering it with blankets is the secret to a good bread rising 😉

  9. joe@italyville.com Says:

    Amanda, you’re right… the delicious smell fills up the whole house!

    Liz… it’s true:) keep’s it nice and warm:)

    My mom said it was it good for your teeth too Maryann…. I thought I actually broke a tooth a few times:)

    It does make great toast doesn’t it Marie? Yum.

    It’s true Michelle…. so glad we did. Can’t imagine living on the pane americano.

    Thanks Robin… lots of love kneading.

    Julie, I wish I appreciated it more… I’ll take one of those eggplant sandwiches, sounds delicious.

    Maria, we probably are related! according to my friends, I know and am related to every other Italian:)

  10. Pat Says:

    My husband has similar memories! His classmates had the “wonder bread” PB&J sandwiches and he had the loaf of Italian bread stuffed with salami and cheese! 🙂

    Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  11. joe@italyville.com Says:

    Hi Pat, the other kids would always look over and wonder what we were eating…. suckers!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Joe, did you know that the word company/companion is made up of “con”+”pane”? (n gets changed to m in front of b & p)

    Check it out on dictionary.com:
    [Origin: 1250–1300; ME compainoun < AF; OF compaignon < LL compāniōn- (s. of compāniō) messmate, equiv. to com- com- + pān(is) bread + -iōn- -ion; presumably as trans. of a Gmc word; cf. Goth gahlaiba, OHG galeipo]


  13. joe@italyville.com Says:

    anonymous, I didn’t know that… very interesting! just for that, I think I’ll make some pane today:)

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