Braided Italian Bread (Soft and Fluffy)

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One of the absolute softest homemade breads out there, this recipe is perfect for pasta night!

“This is my new favorite bread recipe. So soft inside, with a nice crust on the outside.” -Stacy

slices of soft and fluffy Italian bread

Super Soft Italian Bread

A very soft and tender Italian bread topped with sesame seeds.  Perfect to serve with a pasta dinner. 
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
rising time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Serving Size 10 slices

Ingredients 

For the bread dough:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon dry powdered milk
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

For topping the dough:

  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Instructions 

  • Mix. Add all ingredients to a bowl or bread machine bucket, and mix until ingredients are combined. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl, and not seem wet or sticky.  If it is too sticky to handle, add a little more flour. If it seems dry, heavy or crumbly, add a little more water. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
    bread dough ingredients in read mahcine before and after mixing.
  • Knead. Knead until smooth and stretchy, about 10 minutes by machine or 15-20 by hand. (If using a bread machine, just let the DOUGH cycle complete. and skip ahead to the shaping step.)
  • Divide and rest. 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.  
    balls of dough cut into logs to be shaped.
  • Braid. If you are making a braided loaf, braid starting from the center and finishing on the ends. For oval shaped oaves, just shape gently into a log by pinching the bottom and side seams smooth.
    italian loaf being braided.
  • Brush. 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.
    loaf being brushed with egg wash.
  • Second rise. 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 and cool. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes for baguettes, or 30 minutes for the braid. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Video

Notes

Be sure not to undertake- the loaves will appear very brown because of the egg wash, which can be deceptive.
braided Italian bread topping with sesame seeds

❤️ 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.

  • egg
  • sesame seeds (buy them in bulk for big savings over the spice aisle!)

You’ll need the following for this homemade bread:

🍴Instructions

Step One: make the dough

grid of process shots- ingredients in bread machine being kneaded into 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!

grid of 4 images: rising braided bread, brushing with egg wash adding sesame seeds

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.

🔍 FAQs

What if I can’t find sesame seeds?

No big deal. Try poppy seeds, coarse salt, or just the plain egg wash.

I don’t have powdered milk!

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:

close up of Italian bread topped with sesame seeds
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6 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 5 stars
    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.

  3. This recipe took way longer than one hour. Perhaps next time can you calculate the time correctly?

    1. 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.