Recipe: basque sheepherder’s bread

Recipe: basque sheepherder’s bread

Basque Sheepherder’s Bread
Try heating a little olive oil with fresh herbs and dunk chunks of the bread into it.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups hot water
2 packages dry yeast
7 to 7 1/2 cups unbleached flour

In a very large bowl combine butter, sugar, salt and hot water. Stir only until butter is melted. Set aside so ingredients can cool until they are warm. Stir in yeast. Cover and set aside in a warm place until it bubbles, about 10 minutes.

Add 5 cups flour and beat vigorously with a large wooden spoon until batter is smooth. Add more flour (about 2 cups) gradually to form a stiff dough. Knead, with long strokes, for about 10 minutes on a floured board. Add only enough flour to prevent sticking. Place dough in a large greased bowl; cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled ? about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down and knead about 10 minutes. Form a smooth ball. Using a solid shortening, generously grease sides and inside lid of a cast iron Dutch oven. Cut a round of foil and place in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Dust it lightly with flour. Place dough in Dutch oven and cover. Let rise in a warm place until dough pushes up lid.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place Dutch oven with the lid on in the middle of the oven. Bake 12 minutes. Carefully loosen any raw edges with knife, then lift off lid. The lid’s circled print should be on top of the loaf. Bake bread, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes more or until golden. Cover loosely with foil the last 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. Remove from oven. Loosen loaf from the Dutch oven with a flat table knife, and place on a wire rack to cool.

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