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This traditional recipe originated with Basque sheepherders who baked their bread in heavy cast iron pots in the ground.

1/2 c. sugar 1/2 c. butter, cut up 1 1/2 tsp. salt 2 pkgs. active dry yeast 7 1/2 - 8 c. all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan heat water, sugar, butter and salt just until warm, 105 to 115 degrees and butter is almost melted, stirring constantly. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl, stir in the yeast. Cover and let stand in a warm place about 15 minutes or until mixture is bubbly.

Using a wooden spoon stir in 4 cups of the flour, beating to form a thick batter. Stir in 3 cups more of the flour to make a moderately soft dough. (To maintain a smooth dough, add the flour in portions and stir after adding each.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Shape the dough into a ball. Place in a greased bowl; turn dough over once to grease the top surface. (This helps keep the dough from drying out.)

Cover and let rise and warm place until double, about 1 hour. The dough is ready when you can lightly and quickly press two finger tips 1/2" into the dough and the indentation remains.

Punch dough down; form into a smooth ball. Cover and let rest about 10 minutes. Grease the bottom and sides of an oven proof 4 1/2 or 5 quart Dutch oven. Cover and let rise until dough is about 1/2" below top edge of pan, about 1 hour. Bake bread on the lowest rack of a 325 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped with your finger. Cover bread with foil, if necessary, to prevent over browning. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack. Makes about 16 servings.

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