One of the absolute softest homemade breads out there, this soft Italian bread recipe is perfect for pasta night!
Table of contents
❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe
- It’s perfectly soft and fluffy. Even the pickiest of people will love this bread! So soft and tender, perfect with a bowl of pasta.
- It’s easy to make. The dough is simple to work with, rises quickly, and handles easily.
- It’s pretty! If you want something special and lovely, there’s nothing like a braided loaf.
This is an overview of the ingredients. You’ll find the full measurements and instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.
- all-purpose flour
- olive oil
- dry powdered milk (available in the baking aisle of the grocery store, or you can get it online)
- instant yeast (my favorite brand is very affordable and available in bulk)
- sesame seeds (buy them in bulk for big savings over the spice aisle!)
You’ll need the following for this homemade bread:
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- A bread machine is so helpful for turning out perfect dough. Since I use it just for the dough, this very basic model is fine.
- A baguette pan if you want rounded skinny loaves
- A pastry brush for brushing on the egg wash
Step One: make the dough
You can knead this dough by hand, stand mixer, or bread machine. Add in the ingredients into your bowl or bread machine. The order doesn’t matter, just throw them in.
If you are using a bread machine, select the dough cycle.
If kneading by hand or stand mixer, knead until a soft dough forms.
The dough should not seem wet or sticky, and it should clear the sides of the bucket or the mixing bowl. If its sticky, add more flour a teaspoon or so at a time. If it seems too dry, add water a teaspoon or so at a time.
Keep kneading until the dough is elastic and a “window” forms when the dough is pulled apart. When it’s kneaded enough, place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Place it in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.
Step Two: shape
When the dough is ready, divide into three equal parts and stretch them out into ten-inch logs. Cover them with a damp tea towel and let them rest on the counter for about fifteen minutes. This will let the gluten relax so that it can be stretched out more easily.
Stretch into 18-inch logs, then begin your braid. Cover with heavily greased plastic wrap and place the loaf in a warm place to rise again.
Don’t let it rise too long! If it gets too puffy, the braid shape will be ruined.
Step three: bake!
Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cover with heavily greased plastic wrap and place the loaf in a warm place to rise again.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the center.
Bake for 30 minutes, until baked through and very golden brown.
Cool on wire rack. Slice and serve!
🥫 Storage instructions
This bread will keep well at room temperature, tightly covered, for 2-3 days. By day 3 it will be best toasted.
It also freezes very well. Once the loaf is fully cooled, wrap it tightly and pop it in the freezer.
No big deal. Try poppy seeds, coarse salt, or just the plain egg wash.
The powdered milk is really essential for this bread’s super soft texture. It’s very inexpensive and available at the grocery store. Get some!
👩🏻🍳 Expert tips
Start braiding in the middle and then braid both ends. If you aren’t comfortable braiding, that’s okay! This makes a great oval loaf as well.
If the logs keep snapping back, cover them with a damp towel, and let them rest. Once the dough relaxes, it will be easier to stretch out.
📘 Related Recipes
🍽 Serve it with
This loaf goes well with just about any homemade dinner. Here’s a menu that would be great:
- Spinach and Chicken Skillet Pasta
- Caesar Salad
- Fresh Fruit
- Triple Berry Cobbler
📖 Here’s the recipe
Super Soft Italian Bread
For the bread dough:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoon dry powdered milk
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
For topping the dough:
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Add all ingredients to a bowl or bread machine bucket, and knead until very smooth. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl, and not seem wet or sticky. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
- Divide risen dough into two or three equal pieces (depending on whether you are making baguettes or braids) and roll gently into 10 inch logs. Allow them to rest, covered in greased plastic wrap, about 15 minutes or so. This will make them easier to work with.
- Pull them out a bit longer, to about 18 inches long. Then begin your braid, or simply shape your loaves.
- Place the loaf on a baking sheet either prepared with parchment or sprayed with cooking spray. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, pressing to help them stick.
- Cover the loaf with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-60 minutes. Keep an eye on the loaf, as the pattern will be ruined if it over-rises. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes for baguettes, or 30 minutes for the braid..
- Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
5 thoughts on “Braided Italian Bread (Soft and Fluffy)”
Easy recipe to follow. Taste was wonderful but didn’t rise much on 2nd rise, so my two loaves were kind of flat looking.not sure where things went wrong.
This is my new favorite bread recipe. So soft inside, with a nice crust on the outside. I make the dough and do the first rise in my bread machine, then shape the dough and let it rise again on the pan I will bake it on. Everyone loves it.
so glad you enjoyed the recipe Stacy! thank you so much for letting me know 🙂
This recipe took way longer than one hour. Perhaps next time can you calculate the time correctly?
I am guessing she did not include the rise times. I have yet to see a yeast bread that you can complete in one hour.