Braided Italian bread – a freshly baked, warm loaf of bread is something that really can’t be beat.
Who would have though something so normal would still be able to impress us so much? It’s only been a staple in our diets forever.
And here I am, not alone according to Google Reader, fearful of working with yeast. Its apparently mystifying powers to recreate itself and create rising dough still intimidates me (insert Alton Brown’s yeast sock puppets to explain the not so mystifying reasons – I’ll keep my magic).
This year I have conquered pizza dough a few times, some simple no knead dough, and now this crusty, braided Italian bread.
There were a few fails in there as well, and in all honesty, if I could figure out where I went wrong, I would blog about it so that others could point and laugh. After reading another blogger’s post about working with yeast, I am determined to become less fearful of it and work with it more. Ut oh, do I smell a 2011 goal coming up soon?
Braided Italian Bread
from Fake Ginger
- 1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, about 65F
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water, about 65F
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups (8 1/2 to 10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
The Sponge: Combine all of the sponge ingredients, mixing just till a cohesive dough forms. Allow it to rest, covered, for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature. When the sponge is ready, it will be filled with large holes and bubbles.
The Dough: Add the water to the sponge, and mix till smooth. Add the flour, yeast and salt, and knead the dough till it’s fairly smooth but not necessarily elastic, about 3 minutes by machine, or 5 minutes by hand. (The gluten will continue to develop as the dough rises, so you don’t want to develop it fully during the kneading process.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. To help develop the gluten and distribute the yeast’s food, turn the dough twice during the rising time: gently fold all four sides into the middle, and turn the dough over.
Divide dough in thirds, and roll each third into a 20-inch-long rope. Braid ropes. Set the braid on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until just puffy.
Preheat oven to 425F. Gently brush the braid with the beaten egg white mixture and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
This braided Italian bread is a no fail recipe!
Seriously, try it! Send pictures when you do. Let’s kick yeast’s booty and become amazing artisan bread makers. Haha, ok. Maybe just try this and let me know it comes out. We’ll save the enthusiasm for later.
I even contacted the person’s blog who it was on after waiting a full 16 hours because my sponge was a little under bubbly. They were small bubbles, but there. The blogger assured me things would still be ok. Sure enough, things were ok.
Once you’ve stepped back from your beautifully braided loaf, it will hit you, “Damn, I’m a good.” 😀