Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cat’s Wacky Pesto Bread

(stolen, with improvements, from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Breach Machine Baking)

5/8 c. milk
Scant 2/3 c. water
2 T olive oil
4 cups bread flour (white is recommended and I’ve never tried it with whole wheat)
1 ½ t salt
1 ½ t sugar
1 ½ t rapid-rise active dry yeast (I use the bread machine yeast)

7 T pesto (I’ve used basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, but never cilantro pesto—though it might be good)

I use a bread machine for the dough, which usually takes about 2 hours to make (that includes the warming up, the kneading and the rising.

If you are doing it by hand, I suggest that you make the water warm and put the yeast in it until it comes alive (some would say put the sugar in there, too, but I’m not convinced it really matters). Mix together the dry ingredients (holding back some flour for working in after you do your hand mixing) while the yeast is cooking up and finally add the rest of the wet ingredients to the yeast mixture before going for the mixing/kneading. I think kneading should last a good 5-10 minutes—more if you’ve got the gusto. Then let it rise.

Once the dough is ready, pull it out and roll it out into a rectangle about 10-12 inches long. Depending on the way the dough is behaving, I’ll sometimes push it and make it longer. I have let it sit covered for about 10 minutes at this point, but you don’t really have to, which saves you a little time.

Next you get to spread the pesto on the dough. Leave one long edge un-pestoed to allow for a little seepage after you roll it up. Now roll it, “jelly-roll” fashion (lengthwise). The seam side should be down and I usually now make the transfer on a piece of baking paper on a baking sheet. I also tuck in the ends (usually folding them under). Now it sits with a piece of oiled plastic on top for about 45 minutes (I will put it on the porch or in a sunny room). You can also just put it on the stove and if you don’t like to use plastic wrap, you can just goo it up with olive oil and it won’t dry out (which is the reason you put that plastic on it anyway).
Start pre-heating your oven after about 20 minutes into the second rise. I use my baking stone for this bread, which means I heat the oven to about 500 to make sure that my stone (pizza stones work just fine, too!) is hot enough. If you aren’t a baking nut like I am, just pre-heat to 425. You baking stone people will need to turn it down to 425 before you put the bread in anyway.

After the 45 minutes are over, brush (rub or spray) olive oil onto the dough. Then, take a sharp knife and cut peek-a-boo holes cross-wise on the top of the bread. I like to put quite a few, but that’s mostly because I like using knives. Then take a coarse salt and sprinkle as much or as little as you want. I like to use the kosher coarse salt, but I would think the sea salt would be fine, too.

Get it in the oven and cook it for 25-30 minutes. I usually set the timer for 15-20 minutes so that I can make sure it doesn’t burn. If it looks nicely browned at 20, I’ll take put some tin foil on top so it won’t brown anymore. It really does need at least 25 minutes to cook fully, though (even with the stone).


-Cat Eskins

No comments: