I love bread. Especially warm out of the oven bread. About 20 years or so ago Glenn and I had one of those automatic bread machines. We used it a lot the first year or so, then the novelty wore off. I don’t recall why, probably was replaced with the newest fad in kitchen gadgetry…perhaps a deep fryer or a sandwich press. Not long after, all of those “bread only” bakeries began popping up in our area. There were many days I’d find myself strolling in, purchasing a fresh, warm loaf of the “flavor of the day” [maybe a cranberry walnut] and preceding to eat half on the way home! Me behind the wheel [bread strapped safely in the passenger seat] and tearing hunk after hunk off on the drive home. Thank goodness I worked out a lot in those days, and that “novelty” also wore off. Fast forward to present day, and here I am baking up a storm… again 🙂 This time using a good old fashioned oven. I bake french bread, Italian bread, dutch-oven bread, ciabatta, pretzels, banana bread, corn bread, zucchini bread..the list goes on and on. It’s fun to take a basic recipe, say Italian bread, and “spicing” it up with herbs and cheese. Which is what I’ve done with this recipe. This is truly a simple recipe. It’s possible to go from water and yeast to fresh out of the oven bread in less than 45 minutes. This recipe has 2 rising periods, one in the bowl [15-30 min] and one on the baking sheet [5 or more minutes]. The longer the second rising time, the rounder or fluffier the loaf. This time around a skipped the second rise to see what would happen. What I got was more of a ciabatta, a somewhat flatter loaf. Perfect for a hearty sandwich. I sliced the loaf into four, three inch wedges then sliced those through the middle for amazing BLTs. A quick, light toasting elevated the bread to perfection. Pure yum…a perfect summer meal.
Parmesan & Basil Studded Bread
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 Tablespoon salt
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons basil, fresh & finely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated [reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons for sprinkling top of bread]
2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Place warm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast into water and allow to sit [bloom] about 5 minutes.
Add sugar, salt and flour. Using dough hook attachment of mixer [or by hand] knead ingredients together until a soft dough forms. When dough begins to pull from sides of bowl, add chopped basil and Parmesan cheese.
Continue mixing just until cheese and basil are fully incorporated into the dough.
Place a damp [not wet] towel over the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for 15-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a baking sheet, by sprinkling a thin layer of cornmeal and/or flour over the surface [about 1/2 Tablespoon total], this allows much easier removal from the tray.
Turn out dough onto prepared baking sheet and shape into long loaf.
Make slits with a knife diagonally across the surface [3-4 slits an inch or so apart]. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with reserved Parmesan.
Cover the dough with the towel once more and let rise 5 minutes or so (the longer the better).
Remove towel, and bake for 12-15 minutes or until top is brown and crusty.
Let cool slightly before slicing, otherwise bread will appear soggy, or gummy. Let it rest at least 10 minutes, then enjoy.