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Poaching dough moistens the starch on the crust, giving the crust a unique chewiness and an all-over golden brown color.
Hands-on: 35 minutesTotal: 3 hours 25 minutes
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1¾ tsp. active dry yeast (1 package)
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 3 cups bread flour
- 4 quarts plus 1 Tbsp. water, divided
- ½ cup baking soda
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- 1 large egg
- 3 Tbsp. pretzel or kosher salt
- In a large bowl, combine water, brown sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add milk, butter, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough bread flour to create a firm dough. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8–10 minutes. Return to bowl, dust the top with flour, and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch risen dough, knead briefly, then cover and rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
- In a large saucepan, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. At the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and add baking soda. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Turn risen dough onto a floured surface, divide into 3 equal portions, and form a 3-strand braid. Drop braid gently into simmering baking soda bath for about 30 seconds, turning to coat all sides. Carefully remove loaf with 2 slotted spoons or a spider, shake off excess liquid, and place on prepared pan.
- Whisk egg with a tablespoon of water and remaining salt. Brush the top of the risen loaf. Sprinkle with pretzel salt and bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 30–40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.