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Italian Bread

 Italian Bread
I have really been enjoying learning to work with yeast. It is not as scary as I thought it was going to be and I can’t wait to try so many new recipes. Although I am not sure many can top this recipe! I absolutely love bread dipped in oil and vinegar and this bread was perfect for dipping. It has the perfect crusty outside with the soft spongy inside. The flavor of this bread is also perfect. It is just like the bread they would serve you at a nice Italian restaurant. This is a recipe that I plan to make very often. ln fact I plan to make it to go with our Christmas Eve dinner this year which is usually an Italian themed meal. If you love crusty bread, I promise this recipe will not disappoint!

Italian Bread
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Overnight Starter
3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
Dough
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup water
2 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons saltTopping
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:
The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine the starter and the remainder of the dough ingredients, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s supple, but the surface is still somewhat rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as above, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for about 5 minutes; the dough should have formed a ball, but its surface will still be a bit rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients, including the starter, into the pan of your machine, program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough, deflate it gently, and let it rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into three pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Braid the ropes (tucking the ends under), set the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise it rise for about 60 to 90 minutes, or till it’s very puffy.

Brush the braid with the egg white glaze. Sprinkle it heavily with sesame seeds. Bake the bread in a preheated 425°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes; the longer it bakes, the crunchier it’ll be. Remove it from the oven and cool it on a wire rack (or cool it in the turned-off, door-propped open oven). Yield: 1 loaf.

Adapted From: King Arthur

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