I’m a sucker for a good loaf of bread. Not the bags of Wonder bread at the grocery store, mind you. I’m talking golden, handmade, artisan breads from places like Central Market, Whole Foods and Market Street (who, by the way, makes THE best loaf of sourdough East of San Fransisco… no lie).
So, when I saw this Italian bread, I knew I had to give it a try. And what better way to do that, than to infuse it with a little garlic? It can put a mean spin on your breath, but I could eat the stuff all day long. I love it that much! My braid’s a little wonky at the edges, but who cares what it looks like when it tastes so amazing! It’s just what you’d call ‘rustic’, right??
Garlic-Infused Italian Bread
Adapted from: The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
1 c cool water, about 65 degrees F
2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 c cool water, about 65 degrees F
2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1 egg white mixed with 1 tbsp water
Combine all of the sponge ingredients, mixing just until a cohesive dough forms. Allow it to rest, covered, for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature. When the sponge is ready, it will be filled with large holes and bubbles.
Add the water to the sponge and mix until smooth. Add the flour, yeast, salt and garlic, 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 together. 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 325 degrees F. Gently brush the braid with the beaten egg white mixture and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.