plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
active dry yeast
egg, lightly beaten
4 -4 1/2 cups
unbleached all-purpose flour
- Stir together 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, the yeast and 2 tablespoons lukewarm milk in a small bowl; let the mixture foam and bubble.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining milk and sugar and the butter, just until the butter melts.
- Let the mixture cool to 100° to 105°F, or until barely warm.
- Combine the milk mixture and the yeast mixture in a large bowl.
- Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and beat in the egg.
- Mix in the unbleached flour, 1/2 cup at a time.
- When the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the remaining flour to form a smooth, elastic dough, just slightly on the slack side; this should take 5 to 10 minutes. Note: This dough is also easily prepared using your bread machine's dough cycle, or with the aid of an electric mixer (knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes).
- Lightly grease a large bowl, place the dough inside, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise until it's doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Punch the dough down, knead it briefly on a lightly floured work surface to remove large air bubbles, and divide it in half. Roll the pieces with your hands to form two 12-inch long cylindrical loaves.
- If the dough resists rolling, let it rest, covered, for several minutes; when you return, you should find the gluten relaxed and the task much easier.
- Place the loaves on a well-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between them.
- Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let them rise until they've almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven until it's golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves reads 190°F.
- Cool overnight, uncovered, on a wire rack.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 200°F With a serrated knife, cut the loaves diagonally into slices about 1/2-inch thick.
- Place the slices, close together, on ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets and bake them until they're completely dry, about 1 hour.
- Increase the oven temperature to 300°F and bake the slices until they're lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, turning them halfway through the baking time to check their progress and prevent over-browning. Cool on wire racks.
- When thoroughly cooled, these will keep for many weeks in an airtight container.
- Note: For a sweeter zwieback, we melted 4 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and brushed the mixture onto one side of the cut slices before baking them, which took 10 to 15 minutes longer because of the extra moisture.