If you’ve been following along with our weekly posts, you know that recently Karen and I joined in for a round of the Rainydaybites cookbook club on Instagram. Our first challenge was to bake one of the pull apart breadsfrom the cookbook Baking for the Holidays by Sarah Kieffer. The method for making the bread involved an interesting technique of slicing the dough into squares and assembling them in the bread pan before the final rise.
Since then, that method and the idea for having layers of flavor in some of the breads I bake have been stuck in my head. I’ve made other breads with herbs in them before and they taste good, but as I thought more about the pull apart bread, I started to think a more concentrated layer of flavor would be even better. The pull apart bread was a sweet bread, but why not apply that method, or a similar idea, to a savory bread?
I decided to go ahead and give it a try. For this round to make the process a bit faster and easier, I chose to roll the prepared dough into a spiral rather than starting out with the sliced dough method.
Spiral Basil Bread
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water***
- 1 tablespoon melted butter, slightly cooled
- 15 to 20 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
***Let’s stop for a minute and talk about that warm water. What exactly is the correct temperature? You don’t want it to be too hot or you’ll risk doing harm to the yeast. I usually use water that is anywhere from 90 to 100 degrees and have success. There is a definite science to making bread and if you want to really get technical about all of the details, check out this really informative article that I found by Barb Alpern onThe King Arthur Baking Company’s blog. It goes into great detail about how to calculate the correct water temperature to use in order to get the desired dough temperature.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and yeast. Pour in the warm water and knead all of the ingredients together until the dough forms. If the dough is too sticky you can add some flour or if it is too dry, add a bit more water. The consistency of dough can change quickly, so I tend to be conservative and only add water or flour a teaspoon at a time.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl and allow it to rise until it doubles in size. Once doubled, knead the dough for a minute or two and again form it into a ball and allow it to rise until doubled in size.
After the second rise, roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 6×12 inches in size. Brush the dough with the melted butter and then evenly sprinkle the sea salt onto the butter followed by the chopped basil. Gently press the basil into the butter to help it stick in place and then starting on the short end, roll the dough into a spiral. Pinch the seam together and then place the dough, seam side down, into a greased 9 inch bread pan. Let the dough rise in the pan one last time until doubled in size.
Plan for each of the three rises to take approximately 45 minute to an hour. The temperature in your work environment will play a role in how long it takes for each rise to complete. A warmer room will result in a faster rise than a cooler room.
Bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom of the loaf.
After allowing the bread to cool for about 15 minutes, we were ready to eat it. We served it for dinner along with a turkey soup that I had also made that day. The bread was very light and the spiral method made the flavor of the basil much more pronounced than in other regular loaves I have made with basil in the past.
I think the other thing that really brought out the basil flavor was the use of the sea salt on top of the melted butter. I hadn’t originally planned to add the sea salt, but as the dough was rising, the inspiration to do so hit me. I know that salt can enhance the flavor of other ingredients and I knew once the idea was in my head, I had to try it.
Overall I would say this was a pretty successful experiment. I would definitely make breads with extra add in ingredients this way again and I can picture all different sorts of flavors and combinations. I would say one lesson I learned was to be sure and do a better job of pinching the seam together. The bread held together fairly well, but it would have been a bit easier to slice had the seam been better connected. Either way though, with this method there will still be a bit of separation in the spirals, but that added a touch of fun to eating it also. You could easily hold it together as a slice, or having fun eating it as you unravel it as my son did!
Until next time, have a great weekend!