Makes 1 Large Loaf
I first sampled this bread in Sicily at Eastertime in Santa Caterina Villarmosa, the birthplace of my Grandfather Saporito. Grano duro, a hard wheat semolina flour, gives this bread its deep, shiny brown crust and golden interior. You can substitute unbleached all-purpose flour for the semolina, but the interior will be lighter.
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm (110º to 115º) water
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 to 4 1/2 cups fine durum semolina flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied lemon peel, diced
Cornmeal for sprinkling (if using a baking stone)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm water. Add the honey and let the yeast proof for 5 minutes or until foamy.
Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup water and the olive oil. Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour along with the salt and mix with your hands into a rough ball. Add the raisins and lemon peel and continue to work the dough, adding additional flour as necessary, until the dough is no longer sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until soft and very smooth, about 5 minutes.
Generously grease a large bowl with olive oil and add the dough, turning to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Set a baking stone on the lowest rack to preheat for at least 20 minutes, or butter a cookie sheet. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Then roll it under your palms into a 26-inch long log. Turn the dough in on itself from each end until the two ends meet in the middle, like a pretzel.
If using a baking stone, place the loaf on a peel dusted with cornmeal or place on a cookie sheet. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
Brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg yolk. If using a baking stone, dust with cornmeal, and slide the loaf from the peel onto the stone. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If using a cookie sheet, bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is a shiny brown. Remove the bread to a wire rack to cool.
This recipe is from CELEBRATIONS ITALIAN STYLE by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1995.
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