Cracked Black Pepper Bread
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons butcher's grind cracked black pepper
- One 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fine salt
- Vegetable oil, as needed
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In a small saucepan, combine the milk, butter, sugar, and pepper. Place over medium-high heat and bring to about 110 degrees F. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the milk. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
Pour the milk and yeast mixture into the bowl of flour and mix until a soft, ragged mixture is formed. Transfer the mixture to a well-floured work surface and knead until a soft elastic dough is formed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and place in a warm spot, until puffed and doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Transfer the dough to the work surface and, using your hands, gently flatten it into a 10-inch-long oval shape. Fold the dough into thirds lengthwise, overlapping the sides in the center. Press down on the overlapping sides to seal and make a seam. Place it seam side-down in a buttered 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, cover with a kitchen towel, and return to the warmest part of the kitchen until the dough has risen about 1 1/2 inches over the top of the pan, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Brush the top of the dough lightly with warm water and, using a sharp knife, make 1/4-inch-deep slit down the center. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the pan and place in the center of the rack. Continue baking until the loaf sounds hollow when rapt lightly with your knuckles on the bottom and top, and a thermometer inserted in the center reads 200 degrees F., about 15 minutes.
Transfer the bread loaf to a cooling rack and let cool for 2 hours before using.
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