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Italian Bread

Author The Food Nanny

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water 105-115 degrees
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar divided
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 7 to 9 cups All Purpose Flour divided
  • Butter
  • 1 egg white
  • Sesame seeds optional

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl combine the water, yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir just until the yeast is dissolved. Cover with a small plate or paper towel and let stand until the mixture is bubbly or foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Ina large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, mix the salt, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, butter, the yeast mixture, and 3 1/2 cups of the flour. Keep adding flour, 1/2 cup at a time, up to 3 1/2 cups, for a total of 7cups. The dough should be firm and completely away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time, up to the remaining 2 cups.
  3. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until doubled in bulk, 20 to 40 minutes. Grease a baking sheet or sheet pan and set aside.
  4. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a thick baguette shape, about 10 inches long. Place the loaves on the prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make three angled 1/2 inch deep slashes on the top of each loaf. Beat the egg white with a fork and brush it over the loaves. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds if desired. Let the loaves rise uncovered until doubled in bulk, 20 to 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough has doubled, bake for 30 minutes. For a crispier crust, spray water in the oven with a spray bottle just before making and again a few times during baking.
  6. Turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack. Serve the bread hot or allow to cool. Enjoy!!