Braided Italian Bread

I made this for my family yesterday.  There's nothing like a good fresh loaf of Italian bread.  The aroma alone makes it worth making.
 The day before you are ready to bake it, you make the sponge (a biga).

1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Mix this together, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and set it aside for 24 hours.

 The next day it will look like this.  Scrape this into the bowl of your mixer.

1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 to 2 1/2 cups (8 1/2 to 10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

The Dough: Add the water to the sponge, and mix till smooth. Add the flour, yeast and salt, and knead the dough till it’s fairly smooth but not necessarily elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.

 Divide dough in thirds, and roll each third into a 20-inch-long rope. Braid ropes.

Set the braid on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until just puffy.

Preheat oven to 425F. Gently brush the braid with an egg white mixture made of 1 egg white and 1 tsp. water. Sprinkle the loaf generously with sea salt. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes.
Remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.

Let it cool before slicing.

This bread freezes really well.


Leeanna said…
Where's the butter? I need butter.
Anonymous said…
I do like that bread but I usually skip the braiding, it looks so sad when I do :-)

Have a great day!

Kev Alviti said…
Looks so good in a plait like that.
Guillaume said…
I love a good Italian bread.
Magic Love Crow said…
I could eat this entire loaf! My down fall! My mom makes really good bread too!
Best directions I've ever had..and of course it goes in my binder...MY JOYCE BINDER! :)
Thanks for the recipe!! I have the sponge made and sitting on the counter!!