Bolas de Presunto e Linguiça

(Portuguese Ham-and-Sausage Bread)

Makes 4 medium loaves

Ingredients
  • 2 envelopes                 dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons                  warm water (100°F-110°F/35°C-40°C)
  • 3 3/4 to 4 cups            all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon               salt
  • 4 large                         eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tablespoons              olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds               linguiça and/or presunto (a Portuguese ham similar to prosciutto)
  • Egg wash made with 1 egg beaten and a tablespoon of water
  • Cornmeal for dusting

Instructions
  • Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of the flour with the salt, blending to distribute the salt uniformly.
  • Make a well in the middle of the flour and salt combination. Add the eggs and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water to the well, and then add the yeast combination followed by the oil. Blend with your hands until well blended. Continue to add the remaining flour, until a medium dough (not sticky or loose) is formed. Knead for about 10 minutes until reasonably smooth. Shape into a ball and set on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a dish towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until double, about 1 hour. To test if the dough has risen satisfactorily, poke your finger into it; an indentation should remain.
  • Without punching down the dough, use a scraper or sharp knife and divide the dough into four equal parts. Stretch or roll out each portion to approximately a 6- or 8-inch square and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  • Spread some the slices of linguiça and/or presunto over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Starting at one edge, roll the dough jelly-roll style to create a log. Thoroughly pinch the edges to seal and place seam side down so that the breads won't leak.
  • Cover the bolas with a dish towel and let rise for about 45 minutes. Place on a cornmeal-coated wooden peel (or cookie sheet), brush with the egg wash, then transfer to an oven stone or a lightly oiled sheet pan. Bake at 425° (220°C) for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on size, until richly golden. The bottom should sound fairly hollow when tapped.
NOTE: Cut the linguiça into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Because the presunto is salty, have the butcher slice it it thinly, and use it sparingly or to your taste.

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