Italian Bread

I've posted this before but it is so good I'm showing it again.  This Italian bread if easy to make and seriously one of the most delicious breads that I make.
 Here is the recipe:

The Recipe:

Sponge:
1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Dough:
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
1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
The Sponge: Combine all of the sponge ingredients, mixing just till a cohesive dough forms. Allow it to rest, covered, for 24 hours. I forgot about mine and let it rise 48 hours. When the sponge is ready, it will be filled with large holes and bubbles.
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, about 3 minutes by machine, or 5 minutes by hand. (The gluten will continue to develop as the dough rises, so you don’t want to develop it fully during the kneading process.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. To help develop the gluten and distribute the yeast’s food, turn the dough twice during the rising time: gently fold all four sides into the middle, and turn the dough over.
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, 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 the beaten egg white mixture and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

I've made this so many times and I've changed a couple things in the recipe.

I let the biga rise for 2 days.  This gives the bread a very good yeasty flavor.

I also braid it very tightly.


Instead of brushing it with an egg white wash I now use a whole egg which gives it a richer color when baked.

I also sprinkle the top with sea salt just before baking.

This makes a big loaf and leftovers are wonderful toasted or made into French bread.

Comments

There's something so special about braided bread.
laurie said…
mmmmm, I can smell it from here!!!
Susan said…
I wonder - do you get up at 2A just to make sure you have enough time in the day for all of this wonderful cooking and baking?
It is a delicious bread! Goes with anything really!

Have a great day!

Christer.
Guillaume said…
I love all bread, but I love Italian bread most of all.
TARYTERRE said…
Bread is my Achilles heel. I love the way it smells. I love the way it looks. And I love the way it tastes. This looks fabulous.
I completely agree!!! I have made this recipe from your blog and just LOVE it!!!
Mary Ann said…
And I bet the kids LOVE it!
Dear friend, you DO know October Farm is addictive, don't you? :):)
I'm sure I can smell that bread all the way from Pennsylvania to California.