... are the best. Yesterday was such a relaxing day.
I spent the morning sitting outside by the pond, sipping iced coffee, reading a book. Then we were off to church. On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store for a few items. And where they were giving out free (!) brats. So a nice free lunch.
The afternoon was spent baking bread, and napping while the bread was rising. There's nothing more beautiful than rising bread dough.
I don't know if I've ever talked about how I got into baking. My mom baked a lot when I was growing up. I got started in the kitchen with her.
But then I got my first job. When I turned 16, I got a job at the infamous Katie's Cafe in my hometown. Sadly, it's no longer open. :( They were well-known for their ginormous cookies, fresh salads, homemade soups, and the bread. Ohhh, the fresh herb bread. Which came with just about everything you ordered.
My job description was "baker". How fun! I worked after school, baking cookies, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, and scones. I just loved it, and from there, my desire to learn to bake all sorts of things grew and grew.
Eventually, I learned how to make the bread. There was a breadmaker who baked bread everyday Monday-Friday, but someone had to make it on Saturdays. One summer, that 'someone' was me. I loved it. You haven't experienced life until you've experienced 50 lbs. of rising bread dough threatening to overflow off the counter all over the place.
Anyways, the bread I made yesterday isn't really like Katie's Cafe bread, but it was at Katie's Cafe where I learned to love to make fresh bread. And I don't do it often enough.
This bread is an Italian Twist Cherry Bread. Don't let them name scare you off. It's an Italian herb-flecked dough, filled with sharp provolone, fresh basil, and dried cherries. Yum. The smokiness of the cheese pairs so well with the tart-sweetness of the cherries.
And there's no reason to be scared of yeast. I promise!
You start with some scalded milk (just heat to about 110-115*F, microwave or stovetop), a little honey, and one packet of active dry yeast. Stir it around a bit, but don't beat it to death.
Let it sit about 10 minutes.
|See how it foamed up?|
Then you will add an egg, some salt, and a bit of oil.
Then add the flour and mix it up.
A Kitchen Aid is not necessary... you can totally knead the dough by hand. I'm just lazy. Knead it for 6 to 8 minutes.
Most bread recipes have a flour range. (This one is 3 to 3 1/2 cups.) That's because, depending on humidity and altitude, you might need a little more or a little less. Always start with the lower end of the range, because you can always add more. You can't really take it out.
It should be slightly sticky but definitely holding together.
Now it's time to rise! Cover it with a cloth and put it somewhere warm. Not hard to do this time of year in the Midwest.
Come back 45 minutes later and it should be a lot bigger!
Now's the fun part. This bread is stuffed, so we get to roll it out like cinnamon rolls!
Once you have it rolled out flat, sprinkle it with some shredded provolone and parmesan cheeses.
Then some dried cherries and basil chiffonade.
Then you roll it all up, like you would roll up a rug.
Then, you want to cut a slit through the top, so the insides can peek out a bit through the top.
Now you have to make it into a loaf shape. Basically, finagle it into an S shape, tucking the ends under the middle. There's no scientific method to this process, I promise.
And then it gets to rise again. Another 30 minutes.
Now we are ready to bake!
350*F for 35-40 minutes. Cover it with foil during the last 10 minutes to keep it from getting too brown.
|Garnished with a sprig of fresh basil. I love my potted herbs.|
|Cherries & cheese poking out!|
My Business Man and I ate it straight up with butter. Of course we had some salad on the side to balance out our carb-fest.
I am imagining some sort of herb butter would be so good. Fresh basil in the butter? Sign me up.
Or some sort of grilled cheese, with swiss, thinly sliced green apple, and roasted turkey breast. Oh man, why did I already eat lunch?
- ¾ cup milk, scalded (heated to 110*F)
- 3 tbsp. honey
- 1 envelope yeast
- 3 tbsp. canola oil
- ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup smoked provolone cheese, shredded
- 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ tbsp. fresh basil
- ⅔ cup chopped dried cherries
MethodIn a large bowl, combine the milk, honey, and yeast. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. To the bowl, add the oil, egg, and salt; mix until well-combined. Gradually add in the flour and Italian seasoning and mix until a soft dough has formed. Knead the dough on a lightly floured counter top until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
Place dough into a greased bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 45 minutes. When dough is done rising, place dough on a clean counter top and roll to 24x9-inch rectangle. Sprinkle on the cheeses, basil, and cherries. Beginning at the long end, roll up tightly; pinch seam to seal. Place seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. WIth a sharp knife or scissors, cut lengthwise down the center of the roll, about 1-inch deep to within 1/2-inch of the ends. Keeping cut side on top, form an "S" shape. Tuck both ends under center of "S" to form a Figure 8. Pinch dough to seal. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
Bake at 350*F for 35-40 minutes, covering with aluminum foil after 25 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.