Makes 1 loaf, about 3 3/4 pounds

This old-fashioned sheepherder's bread recipe is light on ingredients, big on flavor, and oh so delicious. 

How to Make It

Step 1

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups very hot tap water with butter, sugar, and salt. Stir until butter melts; let cool until warm (110° to 115°). Stir in yeast; cover and set in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Step 2

Add 5 cups of the flour. Beat with a heavy-duty mixer or spoon just until batter is stretchy, 2 to 5 minutes. Mix in enough of the remaining flour, about 3 1/2 cups, to form a stiff dough.

Step 3

To knead with a dough hook, beat on medium speed until dough pulls from side of bowl and no longer feels sticky, about 5 minutes. If required, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Step 4

To knead by hand, scrape dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes, adding flour as required to prevent sticking. Rinse bowl and rub with oil. Return dough to bowl and turn over to coat with oil.

Step 5

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Step 6

Meanwhile, if using a 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven, cut a circle of foil to fit bottom of pan; put foil in pan. Rub the foil and sides of pan generously with salad oil. A nonstick pan that is not worn needs no preparation.

Step 7

Knead dough with dough hook or on a floured board to expel air, then form into a smooth ball.

Step 8

Place dough in baking pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled again, 45 minutes to 1 hour; watch closely so it doesn't rise too much.

Step 9

Bake, uncovered, in a 350° oven until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, 50 to 55 minutes.

Step 10

Remove bread from oven and invert onto a rack (you'll need a helper); remove foil and turn loaf right side up. Cool at least 45 minutes. Serve warm or cool, cut into wedges.

Step 11

Nutritional analysis per ounce.

Chef's Notes

With this loaf, Anita Mitchell won the bread-baking contest at the National Basque Festival in Elko, Nevada, in 1975. She used a cast-iron Dutch oven, but a nonstick pan makes the bread easier to manage. Bake the loaf up to 1 day ahead and store, covered, at room temperature. Freeze to store longer.

Ratings & Reviews

bascabaker's Review

November 13, 2012
A family classic. My mother-in-law used to let the dough rise overnite in a cool kitchen...the lid was pushed up about 1" in the morning. She baked as BSGASTON indicates at 375* for 12 min w/lid then for about 30-35 min w/out lid til golden.

RhondaMarsden's Review

May 29, 2012
I grew up with this recipe. This was my mother's "go-to" recipe. I've made it in one single enormous loaf, and also divided it into thirds for smaller loafs. This remains my husband's favorite.

PJDowell's Review

February 07, 2012
Have made this bread for years exactly as written and it is superb. So glad to find it online in case I lose it!

Kerrycanrun's Review

July 13, 2011
I made this recipe in 1975 using a cast-iron Dutch oven with a glass lid. Over the years, I misplaced the recipe, and I am very happy to see it here! It was an absolute success.

bsgaston's Review

March 20, 2010
Great & Impressive looking loaf.Sunset, Jan.'87 recipe: 'Grease foil, inside of Dutch oven and lid. Place dough in Dutch oven and cover with lid. Let rise in warm place until dough pushes up lid by about 1/2", about 1 hour. Bake, covered with lid, in a 375* oven for 12 min. Remove lid, continue to bake until golden brown." I still follow those directions. DELISH!