Every once in a while, okay, actually it's very often, I get excited about a new recipe I would like to try. I think it's about time I should admit I'm a foodie, although it's not so much a title I want to take on when I am also a person who is constantly trying to lose weight. It's a vicious tug of war. Every time I really start gaining victory against the scale I will see a cookbook or a cooking show with recipes I absolutely feel I need to try. Sometimes it's to master a technique I've seen or simply because the finished product looks way too good to pass up but it seems if there is one thing I feel I am really good at, it's cooking. So, I guess I'm not a foodie so much as in wanting to go to the best restaurants to try the newest fads in food but I'm more of a foodie in I want to learn how to make the newest fads. Because why just taste them after spending loads of money in a restaurant when you can learn the recipe and create it in your own kitchen any time you want? I guess if you don't like to cook or have a really difficult time cooking then the question has been answered for you, but for me? I cook.
My newest recipe that I absolutely had to try is an italian stuffed bread. And if you like antipasto then this is right up your alley! Luckily for our family, we are fans of olives, pesto, peppers, good cheese and anything italian, which is a good thing since Rob was raised by an Italian mother who loves to cook and is really, really good at it. I'm sure you can imagine the pressure of living up to an italian mother in law... thank goodness we get along fabulously! I really wanted to try this recipe because every spring Rob's parents come out for a visit and I always like to have an arsenal of new recipes to serve his parents. It spares food boredom and Rob's mom, Francine, loves new recipes to take home with her, I am very happy to oblige.
I'm happy to report this bread is not only gorgeous to see on your table but also absolutely amazing to eat! Rob said it was one of the best things I've ever made... and that's a BIG compliment! Since the bread seemed to be a meal in itself I made small chicken caesar salads to accompany it and a perfect meal was made! I was very excited to cut into this because the ingredients put into it make for a beautiful presentation once it is sliced. Try this one... you will not be disappointed! And hopefully, my mother-in-law won't be either.
As a side note, I'm a big believer in making a recipe your own. I usually always alter the ingredients to what our family likes and sometimes increase or decrease amounts due to the same reasons. I used to be very strict on following a recipe but now I've found I have much more fun and sometimes even make recipes better by throwing all caution to the wind and just play around, not following the recipe at all. I think this is one of those kinds of recipes - you could easily add meats or cheeses along with different veggies and make it your own. I'll definitely be playing around with this one!
White, Red, and Green Italian Braid
Adapted from a recipe by Marlene Sorosky in Entertaining on the Run
Makes 1 loaf.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg, at room temperature
2/3 cup very warm water (125 to 130 degrees F)
1/4 cup basil pesto sauce, store-bought or homemade
1/4 cup sliced pitted Mediterranean olives, such as kalamata
1 1/2 cup shredded italian cheese blend or shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers, blotted dry
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and rinsed of oil
1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for glaze
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
Fill a large shallow pan or roaster half full of water and bring to a boil (or pour boiling water in the pan). This will be used for rising. Set aside.
To Make Dough:
Place flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse to combine.
Add oil and egg and process until incorporated.
With the motor running, drizzle the water slowly into the dry ingredients, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons.
The batter should leave the sides of the bowl and form a ball.
If it doesn't, gradually add the remaining liquid until a ball is formed.
Process 60 seconds to knead.
Cover with a towel and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare filling ingredients.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 14 X 10-inch rectangle.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Spread pesto lengthwise down center third of dough.
Sprinkle with olives, red peppers, sun dried tomatoes and cheese.
Make cuts at 1-inch intervals from filling to edges of dough.
Alternating the sides, fold strips at an angle across filling.
Cover with a towel.
Remove pan of boiling water from heat.
Place baking sheet with bread over pan.
Let rise 15 minutes.
It will begin to swell like a pizza crust.
Place rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush the egg glaze over loaf and sprinkle with seeds, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature. You can make this the day before and keep the loaf in the fridge overnight. Just reheat at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes before serving.
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