I have always been one of those people who thought that baking a yeast bread was very difficult–yeast was some sort of mysterious creature and that terrible things would happen if I didn’t do everything just exactly right.
Well, that really isn’t true and the only way to figure that out is to just start making bread. So I did. Last Winter I made endless loaves of olive bread, lots of pizza crust (yes, that counts) and a few others and had fun in the process–and lots of nice bread to go with dinner and toasted for breakfast the next day. There really is nothing better for dinner than a big salad, nice bread and a piece of grilled fish or some lobster and steamers in my opinion.
But as usual, I am getting off track. Last week at the Topsfield Fair I entered the Fleishmann’s Yeast Bread contest. When I say that the competition was fierce, I am not kidding. There is so much talent there–some of these ladies have been baking bread their whole lives. I knew that I probably wouldn’t have a chance if I chose something too complicated since I am still a novice but I was inspired by an idea I saw on the King Arthur Flour website for a twisted stuffed bread. I also had to be realistic–I could not spend all day waiting for dough to rise, punching it for a second rise and then bake it—a girl has to work–so my friend Caroline Craig suggested that I tinker with her overnight dinner roll recipe so I did. My final bread dough and filling recipe is completely different than the original that I found in the King Arthur email but I followed the procedure for making the figure 8 shape with good results. So, gathered up my courage and just went for it–and I am so happy I did!
This recipe makes two loaves. I submitted one to the Fair and made one for home that we enjoyed with soup and salad for dinner. I added some finely chopped preserved lemon–preserved by yet another talented friend Beth–to the loaf I kept for myself and that little bit of salty citrus really added something to the mix. Try it–feel free to use whatever filling ingredients you like–and let me know how you made out. You don’t have to do this one overnight.. You can do this early in the day and then bake it for dinner but I actually refrigerated it and baked it off in the morning before I went to work. YUM!
Overnight Fennel & Cheese Brunch Twist
For the dough:
2 cups milk, warmed
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon olive oil, divided, plus additional for oiling the bowl
4 1/2 teaspoons Fleishmann’s Yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
6 1/2 to 7 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
For the filling:
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel
1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives
3/4 cup drained oil packed sun dried tomatoes
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine warm milk, olive oil, Fleishmann’s Yeast, warm water and sugar. Beat once to combine and allow to rest until foamy.
Beat in the eggs and then slowly incorporate 6 cups of the flour on medium speed until dough forms, adding as much of the remaining one cup flour as necessary to form a cohesive dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes until dough is smooth.
Oil the mixing bowl and let dough rise overnight covered with plastic wrap.
In the meantime, saute sliced fennel with one tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
When ready assemble twist, punch down dough and divide in half and roll out to about 8” x 22” on a well floured surface. Sprinkle on granulated garlic, half of the herbs, half of the fennel, olives, sun dried tomatoes and cheese. Roll the dough the long way to form a log, pinch the seam closed and place on a parchment covered baking sheet.
With kitchen scissors, lengthwise down the center of the log about 1” deep most of the way down the log, leaving about 1” on each end uncut. Twist one end to the right and one end to the left, tucking the ends underneath the log to form and “S” shape. Cover the bread with buttered plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour. In the meantime, repeat process with remaining dough and filling and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake twists, one at a time, in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting with foil after 20+ minutes to prevent over browning. Allow to cool before cutting and enjoy!
And how did I do in the competition you ask? Well, even if you didn’t I am going to tell you–I came in third! I was thrilled with the win and for me, placing in a bread competition is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to learning the art of bread baking.
And my friend Deb Stewart came in second with an amazing pizza—she is quite an accomplished cook and another one of my “Fair Weather Friends” who has enough ribbons to make a quilt, and perhaps wall paper her living room with them. I was in very very good company.