This dish is as beautiful as it is delicious; it will steal the spotlight on any table. (Note: Allow for at least three hours of time for bread to rise, bake, and cool before any event.)
1. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, and yeast. Mix thoroughly.
2. Add the water and mix to form a shaggy texture.
3. In the bowl, use your hands to knead the dough. Dust your hands in flour as you go to keep it from sticking to your hands. Knead 3-4 minutes. The dough should remain light, and sticky.
4. Once the dough is holding together well and still feels sticky yet firm, add a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the dough and shape into a tight ball (the olive oil adds flavor and keeps it from sticking to your hands).
5. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Cover bowl with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise for one hour.
6. Once the dough has doubled, carefully remove it from bowl and place onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently shape the bread into a rectangle shape (being careful not to compress it too much as it will release all of of its gases) and cut into three strips with a knife.
7. With floured hands, sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough strips and gently braid them together, folding the ends. With an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water), brush the top of the braid to achieve a nice rustic look.
8. Cover bread with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap and let rise for an additional 20 minutes. While it’s rising, preheat oven to 500 degrees.
9. Bake bread for 10 minutes at 500 degrees. After first 10, lower oven temp to 325 degrees and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
10. While bread is baking, mix together the butter and honey for the spread. Place in refrigerator and let cool. Once the spread is slightly stiff from cooling, use whisk to give the butter an aesthetic texture (optional).
11. After bread is finished baking, remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing. Slicing the bread before letting it cool completely will give it a gummy texture.