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2 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbls yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbls kosher salt
8 cups of bread flour
1 head of garlic
white of one egg
coarse grain salt
Warm up the mixing bowl of your mixer, especially if it is metal. Pour in the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top and allow it to proof, this typically takes 10 minutes. It’s done when the yeast has floated to the surface. In a separate bowl add in this order: olive oil, honey, salt, and eggs. Beat this wet mixture into the yeast and water mixture.
Add six cups of flour slowly, set the other two aside. If the dough is pulling away from the side of the mixing bowl turn it out on a floured pastry sheet or bread board. If it isn’t pulling away from the bowl add a bit more of the flour you’ve set aside.
Knead your dough. If the dough is really sticky you can add some of the flour you’ve set aside. You want to try to use as little flour as possible, this will give you a lighter, fluffier final product. Flour varies on how much moisture content it has, so it can help to “rest” the dough before you knead to give it time for the flour to absorb water (so you don’t accidentally add more flour than necessary).
Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it alone for 10 minutes. Kneading usually takes about 20 minutes. When it’s ready it shouldn’t stick to your hands anymore. You can also do the window pane test by pinching off a walnut sized bit of dough and teasing it out and holding it up to a light source. If you can tease it to a sheet thin enough to see light through (without tearing the dough) then it is ready.
Wash your mixing bowl and put a bit of olive oil in the bottom. Put the dough in the bowl and coat it with the olive oil so it doesn’t dry out while it rises. Cover it with a damp towel as well. Put the dough in a warm place and let it rise. You can use a seedling heat mat to help speed up the rising with gentle bottom heat. Let it rise for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and then divide it into three. Roll the three dough lumps into long “snakes” of dough. Place the the dough snakes on a large, greased baking sheet and braid them. Tuck the ends under to make it tidy.
Place your baking sheet in your warm place or on your seedling heat mat and place a damp towel over the top. Let it rise again. It will take half the time as the first rise.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Fill a large baking pan with water (large enough that the pan will not boil dry).
Separate the whites of an egg and brush it over your loaf. At this point you can add poppy seeds or sesame seeds if you desire. Poppy seeds are the traditional topping.
Bake for 40 minutes. Put the baking pan of water in the oven below the bread—this helps the bread cook thoroughly without the outside burning.
Serve hot and press the bread pieces in coarse salt for a tasty treat.
GARLIC BREAD OPTION:
Halve the honey
Crush about six cloves of garlic or so into the dough when you’re mixing in the flour