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St. Joseph's Bread(Pane di San Giuseppe)
Recipe from: Cooking With Grace
by Grace Pilato
Cookbook Heaven  at
St. Joseph's Bread is a traditional bread served on St. Joseph's Day, March 19. It is an egg bread with a crumb that has a tighter, denser weave, allowing the dough to be used for fancy bread-sculpting designs. Breads in the form of crosses, staffs, wheat sheaves, images of St. Joseph, and braids of the Blessed Mother adorn the St. Joseph table and are eaten throughout the feast day. r make this bread throughout the year when I am in a sculpting mood.
Yield: 2 loaves, about 1 1/3 pounds each
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: first, about 2 hours; second, about 1 hour
Baking Time: 30 minutes
  • Proofing Mixture:
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • For the Dough:
  • 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 large eggs, beaten slightly
  • For the Work Surface and Baking Sheets:
  • Extra flour for work surface and kneading (if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • For the Egg Wash:
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. To proof the yeast, pour 1/2 cup warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface, and stir with a fork for about 30 seconds. Let stand for 5 minutes, until the mixture is frothy. (If the yeast does not froth, it is no longer active and should be discarded.)
  2. While the yeast is proofing, place the flour and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Make a deep well in the center of the flour by pushing flour up the sides of the bowl. Pour the proofed yeast mixture, the 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and eggs into the well in the flour.
  3. Holding the edge of the large bowl with one hand, use the other hand to mix the liquid into the flour. Starting from the center, slowly work your way around the bowl, incorporating a little of the flour at a time. Keep going around until all the flour and liquid is combined to form a soft dough. Rub the extra dough clinging to your hand into the mixture. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the stickiness is gone. If there is flour left in the bowl, add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the ingredients are combined into a non-sticky mound of dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly oil your hands to prevent the dough from sticking. This dough needs to be firmer than the other bread doughs; knead more flour into it. The firmer the dough, the easier it is to get more definition in your sculpted bread. It will not rise as much, allowing you to make more intricate designs.
  5. To knead, divide the dough in half. Knead for about 10 to 15 minutes. The dough will become smooth, elastic, and satiny.
  6. Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in the palm of your hand and rub the oil over the entire surface of the dough. Place the dough in a large, unscented plastic bag. Push all the air out of the bag and close it at the top with a twist tie, leaving room for the dough to rise and double in bulk inside the bag. Place in a draft-free warm spot (about 80 degrees F) to rise.
  7. In about 1 1/2 hours, the dough should be ready. To check on its progress press two fingertips about 1/2 inch into the dough. If the indentations remain when your fingertips are removed, the dough is ready. Punch the dough down and knead briefly to distribute the air bubbles, about 30 seconds.
  8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cornmeal on each of two 17x11-inch baking sheets. Divide the dough into two portions and form loaves. Place the loaves on the baking sheets. Brush top with egg wash. Allow enough room for each to double in size. The second rising will take about 1 hour.
  9. Prepare the oven by arranging on oven rack on the bottom shelf and the other on the second from the top shelf. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  10. Place one baking sheet on the bottom rack and bake for 15 minutes, then transfer it to the upper rack, baking for an additional 15 minutes. Place another baking sheet on the bottom rack. This is my staggering technique of baking, making the best use of the oven space, allowing you to be more efficient. The loaves will take 30 minutes to bake. You will know the bread is done if it makes a hollow sound when you tap on it or by its golden brown color.
  11. When done, remove the bread from the baking sheets immediately and place on wire racks or kitchen towels to cool.
If you are going to use the bread on the same or following day, store the loaves at room temperature in a brown paper bag. This will help retain a good crust. The bread will keep fresh this way for up to 2 days.
This bread freezes very well and will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap individual loaves in heavy-duty aluminum foil and place in reclosable plastic freezer bags. To reheat frozen bread, remove plastic bag and allow to defrost at room temperature. Place unwrapped bread directly on the oven rack in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 7 to 10 minutes.
The photograph shows how these loaves can be sculpted.

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