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Italian Bread with Sesame Seeds (Scali)

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Recipe by: Chef John V., A Good Cooking Recipe!

Serving size: 2 loaves

Preparation time: about 4 hours

Hint: Measure all ingredients exactly and don't add a bit of this or a little less of that. Follow the recipes and instructions and you will have a very authentic Scali bread as a result.

Amount/Measure/Ingredient:

1 3/4 cup water, 110 degrees F
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup flour, all-purpose
1 tablespoon yeast

3 cups bread flour
1/2 to1 cup all-purpose flour, depending on humidity
2 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons regular salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, not extra virgin

1 egg white, beaten with 1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Preparation:

This will be a very stiff dough, needing a lot of mixing and it will be slow to rise. (Important note* Flour varies in moisture content with the seasons and where you live. In winter the humidity is less and so is the moisture content of the flour and the reverse,  is when in the summer,  it is humid and the flour is moister.  This very much affects this particular recipe. The work around is to add a bit more water in the winter and a little less in the summer. Never add more than a few tablespoons, as the dough should be very stiff but it should come together in a ball after mixing.)

Combine the first four ingredients and mix together well. (This is a sponge, a mixture that helps the yeast develop and increase volume during baking.) Let the mixture sit covered with plastic wrap until very bubbly and it falls back on its own, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the room temperature.
Add the next four ingredients and mix by hand or on a mixing machine with a dough hook for 8 minutes at low speed.

After mixing, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm draft- free place until double in size. This will take about 1 hour. After it has risen, punch it down and repeat the process one more time.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat the egg white with the water and set aside.
After the rising process, place the dough on a floured surface and divide in two equal pieces. Now divide each ball in three. Roll the pieces into 3/4 inch by 18 inch strips. Place 3 strips parallel with each other and 2 inches apart. Pinch the dough together at one end and begin to braid the dough. If you don't want to braid the dough you may form the dough into two round loaves. Place the loaves on greased baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 40 minutes. Carefully and slowly remove the plastic wrap, brush the dough with the egg white mixture all around and sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds. *(Note if you have formed round loaves---Make 4 deep slashes with a razor blade or sharp knife across the top of the dough, being careful not to tear and deflate the dough.)

Place in the pre heated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the baking pans around after 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Enjoy when slightly cooled with your favorite Italian dish and Virgin Olive oil.

Need some help on braiding bread? (Click Here!)

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