Braided Italian Loaves
From the 1994 KLO dinner — Italy
Interspersed in this recipe are Stephen’s comments. This was the first time he made bread, and it came out fantastic! In 1995 he made bread sticks and crepes, and was voted our Bread Man.
Braided Italian Loaves
- ~5 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 2 packages of dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- oil (not 10w-40!)
- egg white
Combine sugar, salt yeast, and 2 cups flour.
Heat butter and 1-3/4 water in pan over low heat until it reaches the temperature recommended by your yeast package. (Butter may not melt entirely)
Mix liquid into dry ingredients with a mixer at low speed until blended (a hand mixer works fine for me). Beat 2 more minutes at medium speed (this helps form the gluten). Add another 1/2 cup flour to thicken batter and beat another 2 minutes. Stir in 1-3/4 cups flour to make a dough (I do this by hand, but a Kitchen Aid should also do a good job).
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in more flour as required to get desired consistency (about 3/4 cup). (Just beat the living daylights out of it for about 10 minutes. Either this part or braiding the loaves is the most fun. I can’t decide which.)
Divide dough into two equal portions, cover, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Grease a large cookie sheet and dust with cornmeal.
Working on a lightly floured surface, take one portion of your dough and divide into three equal portions. Form three ropes with the dough that are a little longer than you want the final loaf to be. Place the three ropes side-by-side and begin braiding from the middle of the loaf to one end. Now braid the other half of the loaf (I bet that you saw that one coming huh?). Place the loaf on a cookie sheet and brush on oil. Repeat with the second half of the original dough.
Cover loaves with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 425F. Remove the loaves from the fridge, uncover and let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes.
Beat egg white (one egg will do) and 1 tablespoon of water. After loaves have baked for 20 minutes, brush them with the egg-white mixture and bake 5 minutes longer. Loaves should turn a beautiful shade of brown and sound done when you thump them. Cool the loaves on a wire rack when they are done.