The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I'm making my first Italian loaf .. and its for my future in-laws - help!

abovethelau's picture

I'm making my first Italian loaf .. and its for my future in-laws - help!

Hi Everyone!

So I am no baking novice, but when it comes to baking bread I am not nearly as experienced as I am when it comes to cookies!

I have previously made successful white bread (with some help from everyone here in the past) and was hoping that I could get a few pointers before taking on my first Italian loaf, especially since I am making it for my future in-laws this weekend!

I am going to be using the Italian Bread recipe on this site ( , but need to make a few modifications because of time and travel restraints.  We will be driving approximately 2 hours upstate, and I plan on bringing my dough with me and baking the bread fresh for dinner upstate.

Because of this travelling and timing issue I was planning on making the dough and allow it to have its first rise and then putting it the fridge (and then refrigerated travel case) and letting it slow rise until we get up to the country.  When we get to our final destination I was going to let it get back to room temperature and rise again before baking.

I have done this in the past with white breads before, but wasn't sure if with the Italian bread I was asking for disaster, does anyone have any insight? 

I know the letting it slowly rise in the fridge allows the gluten to develop and can solve any under kneading problems, so I figured I would be in the clear if I did it for these loaves.  Due to time restraints I will need to make the dough a day before baking it, so I thought this may be a good solution, but am unsure and appreciate any insight you have to offer :)

I also have 3 questions about the recipe if any one can help:

1) It calls for instant yeast - can I use the active dry yeast packets for this and just measure the correct amounts? Or do I need to get the blocks of yeast? Or the bottles of Bread Machine Yeast (which I believe is still active dry yeast but am still unsure)?

2) The recipe calls for nonfat dry milk, can I use regular liquid nonfat milk? If so how to I adjust for it? Is there a particular reason dry milk is used?

3) Different sugar options are given, which one is the best for amazing Italian bread?


I'd appreciate any insight anyone can offer!  I know its a lot of questions but I'd be willing to trade my award winning melt in your mouth pumpkin cookies recipe for some great pointers (I'd be happy to give it to you even if you don't have any!)




Yerffej's picture

#1.  Yes you can use active dry yeast.  Use about 1.25 times the amount of Instant yeast called for if you want to be true to the recipe.

#2.  Powdered milk is used as the enzymes in the milk have been deactivated in the processing.   Regular milk can be used by heating the milk to 180° and then letting it cool to room temperature.  Reduce the water in the recipe by the amount of milk you use.

#3.  I would not add sugar to this bread but if you do, use whatever you like.


clazar123's picture

I make a similar dough and take it on a road trip for 6 hours.My recipe calls for a pre-ferment, like your recipe. This really sweetens/flavors the dough. I find that sugar is not really needed,as a result,but you could add it if you still want to.I would use whatever sugar is easiest and available for you. As for the milk, I use 2% liquid milk and since milk is pasteurized these days, I find that it really isn't necessary to heat and cool it. I've never had a problem.Just remember to reduce the water by whatever amount of milk you use. 

So here is what I do. I mix the preferment the evening before the trip. The next morning, I mix up the dough and then put it in a large, oiled plastic container and put it right in the refrigerator until I leave.(Don't forget it!) Make sure the container is big enough for the doubling of the dough. I then put it in a cooler for the trip.We go on a 6 hour drive. When I get there, I shape it,proof it and bake it. If it hasn't doubled by the time you arrive, just set it out to get warmer and raise a little faster. It should go fairly quickly.

One time I forgot to put it in the refrigerator before we left(it was a few hours) and it rose pretty significantly. I just did a quick stretch and fold and put it in the refrigerator at that point. Travelled well and we had bread that night.

An alternative is to partially bake the bread (pale but set),cool it and put it in a plastic bag. When you arrive, finish baking it.

HAve delicious fun!

abovethelau's picture

Thanks! I was wondering if you could give me some insight since you have made this kid of bread before... this recipe seems great but I am unfamiliar with Italian breads with milk in them, have you tried Italian breads made with and without milk?  Do you know what the actual difference is?  I just don't want to go through all the hassle for this bread if its actually much tastier to try the recipe that pseudochef gave me above.

And does substituting the active dry yeast make a huge difference (thats what I have)?

clazar123's picture

You can use either recipe, they both look good. I like to use milk and oil to tenderize and flavor the crumb. The Italian Bread recipe you linked to is a little larger and saltier than what I usually make but using a preferment is what really gives the loaf great flavor. The Italian Bread recipe looks like it will make 2 loaves. Pseudochef's looks like it would make 1 large loaf. If you want to use pseudochef's recipe with a preferment, just take 1 c flour,1 c water and a little yeast (1/4-1/2tsp) and mix up a preferment the night before, as described in the other recipe.Just subtract that amount of flour and water from the recipe you use.The next morning, mix the preferment with the other ingredients and put it into the oiled plastic as described earlier. If you want some milk in there, just swap it out. Pseudochef's dough looks a little more hydrated and may be stickier (maybe he can tell us)than the Italian bread recipe. If you aren't comfortable with that, you can add a little more flour to make it drier or add a little less liquid. It may have a tighter crumb but will still be quite delicious.

 As far as milk vs water in a bread recipe, the milk will tenderize and flavor the crumb,as would the addition of oil. I've made mine many different ways. Pick one,write down what you did and try it.

Fresh bread is always appreciated.

EDIT: Either yeast is fine.