1. Prepare the starter. The day before you plan on baking, dissolve the yeast in the water in a small mixing bowl. Stir in the flour to obtain a thick paste. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the starter ripen for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Leftover starter will keep for several days in the refrigerator and can be frozen. 2. Make the dough: Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 3 tablespoons water in a large mixing bowl. When the mixture is foamy (5 to 10 minutes), stir in the lard, the remaining water, and the 1/2 batch of starter. Mix well with your fingers or a wooden spoon. Stir in the salt and the flour, 1 cup at a time, to obtain a dough that is stiff enough to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but soft enough to knead. The dough can also be mixed and kneaded in a mixer fitted with a dough hook or in a food processor fitted with the dough blade. 3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 6 to 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary. The dough should be pliable, but not sticky. 4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Punch down the dough. 5. Form the loaves: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each out to form a 14-inch long tube. Divide the tubes between 2 baking sheets with 6 inches space between each. Cover the loaves with dampened cotton dish towels and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (The dough can be allowed to rise at a lower temperature - even in the refrigerator - but the rising time will be 3 to 4 hours.) 6. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 7. Lay a dampened piece of thick kitchen string or twine (about 1/8 inch thick) on top of each loaf, running the length of the loaf. Bake until the breads are lightly browned on top and sound hollow when lightly tapped, about 30 minutes. Let the loaves cool slightly and remove the strings. Transfer the breads onto a wire rack to cool completely. Recipe is from _Miami Spice_ by Steven Raichlen. Posted to EAT-L Digest 01 Feb 97 by Felicia Pickering
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