I’ve seen braided bread recipes bouncing all over the internet lately, and I was itching to try my hand at it. I used my go-to recipe for white bread and since it’s spring – asparagus pesto, resulting in what I’ll call a “rustic” loaf of bread. The smell of this bread baking was amazing – it made me want to stay in the kitchen and never leave. Ever. Plus, it made the best toast I have ever eaten!
For the bread:
- 1 package dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 cups of white flour
- 4 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 1/3 cups of ice water
1. Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water in a 2 cup measure. Let stand for 5 to 7 minutes, until foamy. Use the plastic blade in the Cuisinart to process the flour, butter, and salt for 25 seconds. Add ice water to yeast mixture.
2. With the machine running, slowly pour the liquid through the feed tube. Run the machine until the dough forms a ball. Then run the machine for an additional minute to knead the dough.
3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a plastic bag that’s been lightly floured. Squeeze out the air and tie with a twist tie at the top, allowing room for the dough to rise. Let it rise in a warm place for an hour and a half, it should double in size.
For the pesto:
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 1/2 cups basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 4 to 5 tablespoons cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly grated locatelli or parmesan
1. While the dough is rising, cook the asparagus in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer into an ice bath.
2. Add asparagus, basil, garlic, kosher salt, walnuts, cheese and olive oil in the food processor and pulse until blended. Makes about one cup.
Punch down the dough, and divide it in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 10″ x 18″ rectangle. Spread half of the pesto, leaving a 1/2″ border. Roll up tightly, pinching the ends and the seam. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
With a sharp knife, cut log in half.
Braid the pieces, turn ends under and carefully place in a greased loaf pan. Cover pans with oiled plastic wrap, return to a warm place for 45 minutes. Dough should rise above the top of the pans.
Remove plastic wrap and bake in a preheated 375º oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack. Makes 2 loaves.
It makes spectacular toast!