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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Sandwich Bread (Part 1)

I really enjoy making bread dough.  I love kneading the dough and the final texture of it.  It's so much fun to play with!  Then there's the science of the yeast and the rising dough.  Making bread is just like a little science experiment in your kitchen.  Just ask any biologist, yeast is very important to science!

The only problem with making bread, I have to find someone to eat it!  I just don't eat that much bread these days.  Since I moved to New Jersey (over a year ago), I have bought one loaf of bread.  Since I got my braces put on (six months ago), I haven't bought a single loaf.  I decided it was too much work to eat sandwiches with the hardware on my teeth.

When it finally came time to the Why Bother? sandwich bread challenge, I decided I had to try something a little different.  You can buy so many different varieties of bread at the local grocery store, farmers market, local bakery or Panera.  I even live equidistant to all four of those places!  I had to make a bread that I would want to eat.

After looking through my five bread-making cookbooks, I settled on two very different loaves.  Today I present to you a pesto swirl bread!  Swirls of freshly made pesto in between airy layers of white bread.  While it came out delicious, I wouldn't suggest using it as a sandwich bread.  The swirls of pesto made the swirls of the bread pop out when the bread was sliced.  Each piece of bread was like a little slinky.

The slinky effect was the exact reason I decided to make a cheese sandwich out of my bread.  The idea came to me in the mid afternoon and I was thinking about it all through my long train ride home.  Two slices of pesto bread, filled with fresh, homemade mozzarella cheese, grilled and melty.  There was no way it couldn't be amazing.  And I was right.

Come back on Sunday for part two of sandwich bread!

One Year Ago: Nectarine Melba Crumble
Two Years Ago: Chicken Picatta

Pesto Bread
Adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

5-6 cups bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups hot water
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pesto

Mix 2 cups flour with yeast, sugar and salt.  Add hot water and 2 tbsp olive oil.  Mix together with a wooden spoon or the mixing blade of your stand mixer.  Add flour in 1/4 cup additions, allowing the flour to incorporate before the next addition.  You should add almost 3 cups of additional flour before the dough starts to come together.  Once it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, while still holding onto the bottom, switch to the dough hook or pour out onto a lightly floured counter top.

Knead dough by hand or machine for 8 minutes.  If the dough starts to stick, add 1 tbsp flour and continue kneading.  Lightly coat a bowl with cooking spray and place dough in bowl.  Roll dough around to coat it in oil.  Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 40-50minutes, or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured counter top.  Divide dough in half and gently press dough into a rectangle that is the width of your loaf pan and about 10 inches long.  Spread 1/2 tbsp of olive oil on the rectangle, avoiding the edges.  Add 1/4 cup pesto to each rectangle and spread evenly.  Gently roll up dough so that you have a tube that fits in your loaf pan.  Pinch edges together to seal the roll.  Pinch ends together to seal in the pesto.  Carefully place the rolls in the loaf pans.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow loaves to rise for another 40 minutes, or until they reach the top of the pans.

Twenty minutes before ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 F.  Bake the loaves for 40 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Remove loaves from the oven and let cool on their sides in the pans, on a wire rack.  After 20 minutes, remove loaves from the pan and allow to cool completely while resting on their sides.
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