1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup very warm water (feels warm on your hand)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups very warm water (as before)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour (can use whole wheat instead, for a different texture)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon cold water
Make sponge, by dissolving yeast in water, and stirring in sugar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, until liquid turns cloudy and bubbly.
Make dough, by combining sponge with additional water, flours, and salt. Knead five minutes until dough is no longer sticky and feels very soft and smooth.
Oil your mixing bowl (or spray generously with nonstick coating), then place dough in bowl, and spray or oil top of dough. Cover with a floured cloth, and allow to rise until doubled. It is not necessary to find a "warm" place for rising. This dough rises warm or cold--that's the foolproof part. You can even allow it to rise for several hours in the refrigerator.
When doubled, lightly flour a board or counter, and knead again for five minutes. Texture will change quite a bit, and you'll feel the difference. Shape into loaves, either one long loaf, or two bread pan sized loaves. I like to braid the long loaf, by slicing nearly to one end and all the way through into three, then braiding the dough. Tuck ends under the opposite end. Place on well-greased baking sheet--dust with corn meal if you like that texture--and spray tops of loaves with non-stick spray again. Allow to rise until doubled, again, it doesn't need to be in an especially warm place.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat egg yolk and water together in a small bowl, then brush on top of loaf or loaves, for a nice golden crust.
Bake for 30 minutes for a single large loaf, or 25 minutes for two smaller loaves, until golden.
Remove to a rack to cool at least 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.
NOTE: This is one of the best breads you'll ever taste, and you'll be so proud to have made it yourself! Happy New Year.
Not a NESTLÉ®-tested recipe.