February 3, 2013

Basil Pesto and Cheese Pull Apart Bread

A new year has dawned upon us. Happy New Year!
I just realized that an entire month has gone by and I have not posted anything here. But then, I haven't been as regular with my posting for some time now. But I have been cooking. Not a lot, and not necessarily anything different. But even then, I have a whole load of recipes sitting in my drafts that are waiting for me. The recipe is done and the photographs are taken. But since there's always an attempt to tell a story, I think I am faced with a writer's block. What can I say that I haven't said before? What are my thoughts and how do they link to the recipe? And is there a not so long winded way in which the story can be told? Sometimes, I lose time in just wondering about these things that I forget to actually blog.
I have baked "with" other food bloggers a few times before and I have enjoyed it. Very often, while my enthusiasm to bake again together remains intact, life has a way of making other plans. So, when Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen asked if we'd be interested in baking a bread a month, I liked the idea. But I knew that I have my moments when the spirit is willing and the flesh is tired. Sometimes, the schedule is tired. I will bake along with this group now as I know We Knead to Bake!
The first bread was a pull apart bread. I have been wanting to make it for some time now and this seemed like the perfect opporutnity. And the way Aparna had posted it, it seemed easier than some of the other methods I had read about. So I baked it last week. We ate it straight out of the pan... so I have no picture of the entire loaf.

My filling was a mixture of different gifts we had received over the holiday season and a little bit of imagination.
For the Dough:

1/2 cup warm Milk
1 tsp Sugar
2 tsp active dry Yeast
3 cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Mixed Herbs (Parsley, Basil, Chilli Flakes)
3/4 cup Milk (+ a couple of tbsp to brush over the bread)
For the filling:
2 tbsp Butter, melted
4 tbsp Basil Pesto
1/4 cup Cumin Gouda Cheese, grated
1/4 cup Habanero Jack Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm milk. Keep aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast mixture bubbles up.
Add the flour, salt, softened butter, and herbs into the bowl and mix well. Add the 3/4 cup of milk and knead till you have a soft, smooth dough which is not sticky.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let it rise for about 1 hour or until almost double in volume.
Deflate the dough, shape it into a square and roll the dough out into a larger square that is about 12" by 12". Brush the surface of the square with the melted butter. Evenly spread the pesto, chilli flakes and the grated cheeses. Lightly press the filling onto the dough.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips. Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks).
Grease and lightly flour a 9” by 4” loaf tin. Layer the square slices, cut sides down into the loaf tin. Cover the loaf tin loosely with cling film and allow the dough to rise for an hour. Lightly brush some milk over the top of the loaf. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Bake the dough for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is done and the top is golden brown. Attack!

This bread is great as a side with some soup. But mostly, it is great to just eat simply. Pull yourself a piece and enjoy!