Mrs. Branca was a beloved neighbor of our Publisher, and an outstanding cook and homemaker. Often, she’d make Marietta Branca’s Italian Sausage Bread, a delicious treat. She would often be found in her kitchen, baking pies, breads and making homemade pastas. This bread would be served with extra virgin olive oil, some cheese, salumeria and olives, for a glorious meal.
- 1 1/4 Cups water; lukewarm
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package dry active yeast
- 5 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 8 ounces cubed mozzarella cheese
- 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 1 egg yolk (for brushing on top of dough), beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- Combine the lukewarm water, salt, yeast, saffron, and fennel seeds in a metal bowl and maintain a lukewarm temperature (115 degrees F) to keep the yeast active. Sift the flour into a large bowl, and make a well in the center of it. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix well (you will have to use your hands).
- Knead the dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), then pour the oil over the dough and knead until no longer sticky (about 5 minutes). Place in a large bowl, cover with a towel, and put in a warm place until it doubles in size. (Press the dough with your fingertips; if they leave a stubborn imprint, it has risen enough.)
- Removing sausage out of casing if necessary. Cook sausage until browned, crumbling into small bits. Drain grease, set aside to cool. In a bowl, combine sausage, cubed mozzarella, 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk. Add oregano, salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 inch, into a rectangle, as large as you can make it without creating holes or ripping it.
- On a baking sheet greased with olive oil, place the rolled dough. Spread the sausage mixture on the surface but keeping a 1 inch border clear. Carefully roll the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the edges shut, and place seam side down on the baking sheet spread with cornmeal. Don’t panic if there are holes or you ripped multiple tears. It is inevitable. Don't try to patch them, as it never works. The holes or tears give the bread a rustic character.
- Brush top of loaf with egg yolk mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Check and if not golden brown, continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes with the oven door ajar.
- Allow the bread to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
- Cut slices with a bread knife, and serve warm or at room temperature.
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