Capri's signature wreath bread

Baking: Italian isle is famous for its ornate bread.

August 29, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

Good bread and perfectly ripe tomatoes are the heart and soul of a satisfying lunch inspired by colorful Capri, a tiny isle just off Italy's sunny Sorrentine peninsula. Bake shops on Capri are known for a bread wreath with a flourish of S-shaped decorations.

Thickly sliced or broken into chunks, this ornate bread is a satisfying complement for salads. (Italians especially enjoy it with a salad of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.) Thin slices of the bread make fine sandwiches or toast.

Italian Wreath BreadMakes 1 (10-inch) loaf

1 package (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups warm (105 to 115 degrees) water

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, softened

6 1/2 to 7 cups flour

3 eggs

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl of electric mixer. Add sugar. Let stand until yeast is soft (about 5 minutes). Add salt and butter. Stir until salt dissolves.

Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour. Mix to blend, then beat at medium speed until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Beat in 2 of the eggs. Then gradually stir in about 2 1/2 cups more flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with some of the remaining flour. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny and small bubbles form just under surface (10 to 15 minutes), sprinkling on enough additional flour to prevent dough from being sticky.

Turn dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours). Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover with inverted bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pinch off and reserve about 1 cup of the dough. Divide remaining dough into two equal portions. Shape each into a 32-inch rope, rolling it under palms. Place ropes side by side; twist loosely together, then form into a 10-inch wreath on a large, greased baking sheet. Pinch ends together to seal.

Divide reserved dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each under palms into a 10-inch rope. Beat remaining egg with 2 teaspoons water to make an egg wash; brush some of mixture lightly over wreath. Shape each rope into an S-shaped curve. Press decorations onto wreath at evenly spaced intervals. Brush decorations lightly with some more of the egg wash.

Let bread rise until it looks puffy (30 to 45 minutes). Brush with remaining egg wash.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake wreath for 20 minutes; reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue baking until wreath is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped (25 to 30 minutes). Cool on wire rack.

Pub Date: 08/29/99

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