Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Whole wheat pesto bread (and why sometimes it's ok to cheat)
I wish I were a person who made my own bread. I have toyed with the thought, certainly. When I moved to North Adams, a small town in the Northern Berkshires, the first thing I did after partially unpacking my kitchen was to bake up several loaves of beer & mustard bread (a recipe I will have to post here soon) to bring to my neighbors and new landlord. Luckily I had been gifted a used bread machine by my father as a sort of house warming gift (READ: he wanted an excuse to upgrade himself to a nicer bread machine, and I'd always loved the idea of having one myself. Everybody wins). So as I unpacked and started to settle in to my new home, bread was being kneaded, and allowed to rest and rise in the kitchen without my having to do much of anything.
For the first few weeks in North Adams I made my own bread. I felt a bit of shame having to admit how little work was actually involved due to the bread machine, but when I thought of how much time it saved I always decided it was worth it. I did make sure to only use the bread machine to prepare the dough, so later I could shape the bread and cook it in the oven, which gives a much more appealing final product than the odd boxlike shape of bread cooked in a machine.
Well, when I left North Adams, my bread machine came with me, and despite my good intentions, it sat at the back of my pantry gathering dust until only days ago. My neighbors here received no fresh baked bread, nor did my landlord, but I doubt he deserves it anyway (that is a story for another day!).
One bread I had made a few times was from a recipe I found in one of my father's slew of bread machine cook books. A basic white bread that is accented with a swirl of pesto inside. In a perfect world, I would make the bread completely from scratch, sans bread machine, and make the pesto from scratch as well. This time, I decided to take the easy way out.
I wanted to make a multi-grain variation of this recipe, and went out to the store on a rainy afternoon for supplies. Since I haven't baked much since moving to my new apartment in November, I needed quite a few supplies: whole wheat flour, wheat germ, perhaps i would need to go to Whole Foods in search other whole grains and interesting ingredients- flax maybe? But it was raining, and I don't have a car, so the thought of walking nearly 2 miles to Whole Foods, and then trudging back in the rain with my bags of flour and whatever else made me cringe.
So I took a risk, and I decided it was ok to cheat. There in the baking aisle at the stop and shop was a 9-grain and flax bread mix. Yes, my bread would come from a box. and yes it would be prepared in a machine. But as I haven't had the satisfaction of eating home made bread in so long, maybe this short cut would be worth it.
I followed the directions on the box, but I tossed in some dried basil as well. Turned on the machine. Set about cleaning the living room and taking a shower. In an hour the dough was ready. Here is the fun part.
EASY whole wheat- pesto bread
Makes one 1 -1/2 lb loaf
1 box 9-grain bread mix- prepared as directed in the bread machine, with a scant quarter cup of dried basil added
1 tub of pre-made pesto, preferably the kind that is in the refrigerator section at the super market, not the shelf stable stuff.
1 egg white
Coarse salt, dried basil and oregano to season
After the dough has been prepared in the bread machine, preheat the oven to 350. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to an oblong pancake, about an inch thick. Spread the top surface of the dough liberally with pesto. using both hands, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, so the pesto is hidden inside. Tuck the ends of the cylinder under, and place in a bread pan. Cut a slit at the top of the bread, paint the top with egg white, and sprinkle with the course salt and seasonings. 30 minutes in the oven, and you're done. Bread, that is GOOD by the way, and takes almost no work whatsoever.
Next time I will probably make this without the aid of the bread mix, but given the miserable rain and my lack of a car to bring home my groceries, I think it was a fine decision to cheat a bit.