1-1/2 cup milk
In small saucepan heat milk just until bubbles form around edge of pan; remove from heat. Add sugar, cheese salt, basil, and butter; stir until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl; stir until yeast is dissolved. Stir in lukewarm milk mixture. Add 3 cups flour and egg to mixture; beat 2 minutes with a spoon until batter is smooth. Gradually add remaining flour and 1-1/2 tsp. black pepper, mixing with hands if necessary. Knead dough on a lightly floured board for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place dough in large greased bowl; turn over to bring greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place (85 degrees F), free from drafts, until double in bulk (about 45 minutes to an hour).
Punch dough down; knead in bacon bits; divide dough in half. Cut one half into 3 equal parts; roll each to make a 20-inch strip, tapering ends. Braid strips together; pinch ends to seal. Place on large 17 x 11-inch greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and place on same baking sheet. Cover with clean towel; let rise again until double (about 45 minutes). Brush surface of breads with egg yolk mixture and sprinkle on cracked black pepper to taste. Bake at 375 degrees (F) for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cool or slightly warm with softened butter or margarine.
Makes 2 loaves of bread, about 24 servings
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