Last week I made a fresh roasted tomato bread that had basil and feta in it. It was ok. I was following a recipe, almost: I kneaded in feta and chopped basil. The bread was kind of sweet (the recipe called for honey), not terribly tomatoey, and the basil and feta disappeared into the ether that is baked bread. Like I said, it was ok. Not worth making again. The texture was also a little dense, I probably over-worked the dough in-between proofings.
So I worked on creating a recipe that intensified the tomato flavor, and worked towards a more savory bread with more basil and feta flavor. It’s a little more work than a regular loaf of bread, but it’s also more delicious than a regular loaf of bread. Since it’s early Spring, the tomatoes are not incredibly flavorful, for my second attempt at the bread, I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes. Because I add banana peppers, it’s the same amount of work either way though.
- 1 14 oz Can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes, or about 4 Medium Plum Tomatoes
- 2 Medium Banana Peppers (This adds just the hint of “spiciness” and a depth of flavor, although can be optional)
- 6 Cloves of Garlic
- 1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Vegetable Broth (I use homemade), or water
- 1 Packet of Yeast
- 3 1/2 Cups Flour (Plus more as needed)
- 2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Bunch Fresh Basil, roughly chopped and divided
- 1/2 to 1 Cup Feta (The better the quality of feta, the better the bread.)
- 1/4 Cup Corn Meal
Broil the banana pepper, plum tomatoes (if using fresh) and garlic until blackened all over and soft, about 10 minutes. Once done, allow to cool. Peal the garlic and thinly slice. Remove the blistered skins, stem and seed pods from the banana peppers, and roughly chop.
Place the tomatoes (either the can with all juices, or roasted plum tomatoes, with all juices) into a blender, along with the banana pepper, half of the garlic and the tomato paste. Blend until smooth. Heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the tomato mixture and cook until thickened slightly, about seven minutes. Add vegetable broth or water and cook until it resumes to a nice sauce consistency, about ten to twelve minutes. Pour into a measuring cup, you should have about 1 1/2 cup liquid. Allow to cool to around 90 degrees. I pour the sauce into a wide based casserole dish to aid this process.
Once cool, but still warm, sprinkle in the yeast. Mix just enough to coat the yeast in liquid. Allow to sit for two minutes. Then mix to dissolve the yeast into the tomato sauce, and allow to sit for five minutes.
Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, and create a well in the center. Add the tomato/yeast sauce, the rest of the garlic, and half of the basil. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined, and then use the bread hook on low setting for eight minutes. The dough should be quite sticky, but if too wet, add a little more flour.
Lightly oil a clean bowl. Coat your hands in flour, and sprinkle a little flour on the surface of the dough. Carefully turn out on a floured surface and form into a ball, and place in lightly oiled bowl. Rotate dough to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Place in an off oven and allow to proof for an hour to an hour and a half, until about double in size. A little something I picked up from the Great Brittish Baking show (that may or may not be true), if you poke the dough and it holds your finger print, it’s proofed. If it bounces back, it’s not ready yet.
Carefully pour out dough onto a slightly floured surface, using a floured spatula if necessary. Roughly (but gently) shape into a 8″ x 12″ ish rectangle, about an inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining basil and feta cheese. Tightly roll the dough around the cheese and feta filling, and pinch the dough closed. Pinch and fold the two ends towards the center, and place on a baking sheet lined with corn meal. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and use dry hands to rub the flour to evenly coat the loaf. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and place on top of the oven to proof until about doubled in size, about half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle lightly with flour, lightly rub to coat evenly and cut a few slashes in the breads top. Fill a casserole dish with ice water, and place on the lower shelf of an oven. Place loaf on shelf over water filled casserole. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tray of water and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The loaf is done when tapping the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow.
Allow to cool on a wire rack until room temperature before slicing.