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In a mixing machine fitted with a dough hook, add the water, salt, sugar, shortening, and yeast. Add the flour slowly, making a stiff dough that is silky smooth.
Turn dough out into a large oiled bowl, cover with a cloth. Place dough in a warm place, and allow to double in bulk.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pound and knead the dough, until it is silky smooth. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let rise again, until doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile, sterilize the palmetto leaves or shoe strings by soaking them in boiling water.
Portion dough into 10-ounce loaves. As a loaf is formed, immediately place a palmetto leaf or shoestring down the length of the loaf, and turn the loaf over onto a baking sheet, leaf/string side down. Repeat with the remaining loaves.
Let the dough rise, leaf side down, for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bake loaves until they are golden brown, about 30 minutes.