Bon Appetit's Italian Pepper Bread

READY IN: 3hrs 45mins
YIELD: 2 loaves




  • Oil large bowl and set aside. Warm salt pork in large skillet over low heat until some fat is rendered. Increase heat to medium-high and saute until crisp. Drain pork on paper towels. Reserve 1/4 cup fat from skillet.
  • Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, reserved pork fat, salt and pepper in large bowl. Dissolve yeast in remaining 3/4 cup warm water. Let stand until foamy and proofed, about 10 minutes.
  • Add to pepper mixture. Add salt pork and 3 cups flour, stirring vigorously until mixture forms smooth batter.
  • Blend in remaining flour 1 cup at a time to form stiff dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer to prepared bowl, turning to coat entire surface. Cover and let stand in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  • Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and cut in half. Divide each half into thirds. Roll each piece into 12-inch-long rope. Place 3 ropes on ungreased baking sheet and braid together, pinching ends to seal.
  • Repeat with remaining dough. Cover lightly and let stand in warm, draft-free area until doubled, 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375*F. Brush loaves with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake until crust is golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped, 40-45 minutes. Cool on racks.
  • Italian Pepper Bread can be prepared ahead, wrapped tightly in foil and frozen.