Place the beans in cold water to cover by about 3 inches. Soak for 8 hours or overnight, refrigerated. Drain well and set aside.
Combine the whole garlic clove, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a cheesecloth bag. Tie the bag closed and set aside.
Place the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute for about 7 minutes or until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crisp. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the onion, carrot, leek, and celery and saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but have not taken on any color. Add the reserved soaked beans and cheesecloth bag along with the stock or broth and bring to a boil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are very tender.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the escarole and saute for about 4 minutes or until the escarole is wilted. Add the escarole to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and, if using, crushed red pepper. Serve hot with Dad's Sausage Bread, if desired.
Dad's Sausage Bread:
Heat the water, olive oil and honey in a small saucepan over low heat to 115 degrees. Set aside and keep warm.
Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle water mixture over the flour, blending the liquid in with a wooden spoon. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add additional flour, 1/4 cup at time. Place the dough on a clean surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces and form each piece into a loaf shape. Cover and allow to rise for about 1 hour or until loaves have doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, place the sausage and black pepper in a nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Drain off excess fat; place the sausage on a triple layer of paper towel to drain thoroughly.
Place 2 of the eggs in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. Place remaining egg in another small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.
Combine the sausage with the mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Add the 2 beaten eggs and mix to combine well. Set aside.
Cut into but not through each loaf of dough, lengthwise, and open up each half. Place an equal portion of the sausage mixture down the center of each loaf. Pull the sides up and over the sausage to encase it, working the dough closed. Place the loaves, seam side down, on a greased cookie sheet or pizza stone. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each loaf with remaining beaten egg. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm.
The soup can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store, covered and refrigerated. Reheat before serving.
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