My family laughs at me when I tell them that this poor dough never has a change for an hour, but it makes up for all that punching down with its texture and good taste. My mother-in-law taught me how to make this bread...now the recipe's been passed down to my daughter and two granddaughters.
- 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 3 cups warm water (110° to 115°), divided
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons shortening
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 8 to 10 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add the sugar, shortening, salt, egg, remaining water and 4 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
- Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape each portion into a loaf. Place seam side down on greased baking sheets.
- With a sharp knife, make four shallow diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Bake at 350° for 37-42 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Brush with butter. Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).
Originally published as Italian Bread in Country April/May 1992, p51
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