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Catholic Recipe: Overnight Basic Italian


  • 2 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water (approximately)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Vinegar
  • Details

  • Yield: 2 loaves
  • Prep Time: 10 to 12 hours
  • Difficulty: • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 15+
  • Origin: Italy

This recipe was taken from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking and is a good recipe for any saint who comes from Italy.

You begin by making a basic Italian dough and letting it rise slowly overnight. Mix it together before you go to bed and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning take it out and punch it down and form it into loaves and bake it.


Combine the yeast and 1/4 cup water in a large bowl, stirring until yeast is dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 11/2 cups of water and salt. Beat for 10 minutes, gradually adding flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil (see note). Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise slowly in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours or overnight.

Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal or line one with kitchen parchment.

Punch down the dough. Turn out again. Divide in half, shape into torpedo-like loaves, and place on the baking sheet. (I like to bake these loaves on a baking stone to get an Old World rustic effect.) Cover with a tea towel and let loaves come to room temperature—about 45 minutes.

Make diagonal slashes in the loaves. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk—about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray the loaves with vinegar and gently slide into oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Spray the loaves again after 20 minutes of baking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

NOTE: I always use olive oil with Italian bread.


This recipe is also good for breadsticks. I like them plain, but you can add cheese or herbs to the dough or simply sprinkle them on sticks before you bake. To form the sticks, pinch off 1-inch pieces of the dough after you punch down the dough the first time. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a breadstick—10 to 12 inches long. Place the sticks on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart, or place in pans especially designed to bake bread sticks. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Brush with an egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes, until crisp and lightly brown. Transfer to a wire rack. They are good to serve with soup or just for munching.

The The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking may be ordered from

Recipe Source: Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Brother Rick Curry, HarperPerennial, 1995
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