Do I have any other panini lovers out there? Ever since receiving this little gem* as a gift a couple of months ago, paninis have made a happy appearance for dinner at least every other week, if not weekly, in our home. Something about pressing a sandwich together to form a gooey, hot, mess of panini goodness makes a regular grilled cheese feel absolutely dinner-worthy. In fact, I’ve gone so panini crazy that I even put together a panini spreadsheet, if you will, to make the panini options even more user-friendly. I like to refer to this as my Make-a-Panini model. And yes, I have spreadsheet-love issues. It’s ok. I’ll seek out therapy eventually.
The only hangup with paninis is you have to have the right bread. I hate paying 4-5 bucks a loaf for bread I know I can make for pennies at home so I went on the search for the perfect panini bread.
And this is it! Rustic crusty bread. And you won’t believe how easy it is. Not only is it no-knead, but you don’t need a stand mixer, electric mixer or any kind of mixer to make it. Just a bowl and a spoon. From start to finish, it is ready to bake in about 2-3 hours, and I promise, it is some of the most delicious, crusty, golden brown, perfect bread to ever come out of my oven.
Not only have we used it for paninis, but I’ve sliced it up for garlic bread or just served it plain (think: tear off chunks as you go!) with a wide variety of meals. I like to bake up both loaves of bread the same day and pop one in the freezer for easy access next time we get the hankering for delicious, crusty bread.
Read below for the recipe and for step-by-step photos. I promise, you’ll feel like a bread rockstar after making this loaf!
*If you don’t have a panini press but want to get in on the panini-love, no worries! For years I just used my skillet and weighed down the panini sandwich with another heavy, smaller skillet. Anything that presses the sandwich while it cooks in a hot skillet will work great!
Note: I often use half finely ground white whole wheat flour with good results. The bread is a bit more dense with the whole wheat flour but still delicious.
Also, look at the last paragraph of the recipe for variations to baking if you don't have a baking stone. Also, check below the recipe for step-by-step pictures.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough (see note)
- In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel but don't seal the bowl airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
- Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife (I have only ever made two loaves out of the batch of dough so I just divide the dough in half to form my first loaf). Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes for room temperature dough; if you have used the dough out of the refrigerator, let it rest for 1 1/2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
- Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.
- After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.
- If you don't have a baking stone, try turning a rimmed baking sheet upside down and heating it in the 450 degree oven for 10 minutes prior to baking. When ready to bake, slide the parchment paper with the dough on it directly onto the overturned baking sheet and bake according to the recipe. You can also stretch the rounded dough into an oval and place in a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for 40 minutes if fresh (add an extra hour if the dough has been refrigerated). Bake in the loaf pan in the 450 degree oven, watching the time carefully - check after 20-22 minutes.
*Click HERE for a printable PDF file of the below step-by-step instructions*