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Author Notes: All the best flavors of an Italian appetizer spread get stuffed inside a soft, light bread dough. Don't worry if your braid is messy, it will taste delicious regardless! If you don't have bread flour, you can use regular all-purpose flour but you'll need to reduce the amount of liquid slightly as bread flour absorbs more liquid. —Posie Harwood
Makes one loaf
- 3 cups bread flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant or active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 1/3 cup lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes (not in oil), roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (or baby spinach)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped Italian sausage (more to taste!)
- Combine the bread flour, yeast, salt, egg, milk, water, and olive oil in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix until well-combined, then knead for at least 5 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased, covered bowl and set it aside to rise until it doubles in size (about an hour).
- Using a light touch, deflate the dough and turn it out into a surface (the dough should be tacky enough to not need flour, but if you find it sticks too much, go ahead and lightly flour your work surface). Stretch/roll the dough out to a rectangle about 12" x 18" in size.
- Combine the butter and garlic in a small bowl and heat it in the microwave (or you can do this on the stovetop) until the butter melts.
- Brush the garlic butter evenly over the entire surface of the dough.
- Sprinkle the chopped sundried tomatoes, basil (or spinach), dried oregano, mozzarella, and sausage evenly down the center of the dough, leaving about 3" empty on either side for folding.
- Using a sharp knife, make 4" horizontal cuts into the dough down both sides. Each cut should be about 1" apart, so you'll end up with eighteen 1" strips that extend 4" into the dough on either side.
- Starting at the top, fold each strip over onto the center filling, alternating between sides to create the braided effect. It helps to fold them at a very slight angle. When you get to the end of the dough, tuck and fold the final strips underneath the loaf. Don't worry about perfection here: Your main goal is to make sure that the filling is well-contained and won't spill out.
- Carefully transfer the loaf to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel, and let it rise for about 30 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Optional but nice: Brush the top of the loaf with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a splash of water).
- Bake the loaf for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before tearing into it!
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