Linda Hutchinson - Basil Tile
Basil Tile
Linda Hutchinson
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La Belle Cuisine - More Bread Recipes

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Fine Cuisine with Art Infusion

"To cook is to create. And to create an act of integrity, and faith,"


Pane al Pesto (Pesto Bread)




"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water,
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..."

- M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

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  Johan Theodore de Bry - Basil
Johan Theodore de Bry
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Friday, November 10, 2006

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Pane al Pesto (Pesto Bread)

The Italian Baker
The Italian Baker

by Carol Field, 1985, Harper & Row

“Let’s sing the praises of the unknown baker who first stirred fresh pesto into bread dough. When I was living with my family on the coast of Liguria in a tiny town above Lerci, the lady who helped us keep house was a wonderful cook who often arrived with bouquets of basil who recently picker that the leaves were still warm from the sun. She ground pine nuts and garlic with the basil leaves, then stirred in Parmesan cheese and beat in olive oil by drops, as if she were making mayonnaise. We ate it on fat ribbons of trenette pasta (our friends just over the border in Tuscany, not more than 30 kilometers away, served it on fusilli, which caught the sauce in its twists and turns), on potatoes, on grilled fresh fish, and sometimes just on our fingers, which we dipped surreptitiously into the bowl.
This recipe for pesto is stronger and more concentrated than most because it must retain its fragrance and taste even through the process of being baked into bread. And it does!
You must use fresh basil for the pesto; neither dried basil, which bears almost no relationship to the fresh, parsley, nor spinach will do. You may, however, substitute walnuts for the pine nuts. [But please don’t!]

Makes 2 round loaves

1 cup (75 grams) fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup (75 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Purée all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a blender [food processor does a much better job of this]. Measure  cup (100 grams) for this recipe.

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
or 1 small cake (18 grams) fresh yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
Scant 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 3/4 cups (500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) salt

By hand:  Stir the yeast into the water in a mixing bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the oil and 1/2 cup pesto thoroughly. Mix the flour and salt and add to the yeast mixture. Stir until the dough comes together. Knead on a floured surface until soft, velvety, and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
By mixer:
  Stir the yeast into the water in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the oil and 1/2 cup pesto thoroughly with the paddle. Mix the flour and salt and add to the yeast mixture. Mix until well moistened. Change to the dough hook and knead until the dough is velvety and medium soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Finish kneading briefly by hand on a lightly floured surface.
By processor:
  Stir the yeast into 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the dough blade and process 10 seconds to sift. With the machine running, pour 1/2 cup pesto, the dissolved yeast, and 1 cup cold water through the feed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it. Process 45 seconds longer to knead. Finish kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface for 1 minute.
First rise.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.
Shaping and second rise.
Cut the dough in half on a lightly floured surface. Punch each piece down and knead briefly to expel the air. Shape each piece into a round loaf. Place each loaf, seam side down, on an oiled baking sheet or a peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The dough must be very relaxed and fully risen before it should be baked, so don’t rush it.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you are using baking stones, turn the oven on 30 minutes before baking and sprinkle the stones with cornmeal just before sliding the loaves onto them. Place the loaves in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 400°F. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, spraying 3 times with water in the first 10 minutes, if you want. Cool completely
on racks.

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Basil, Rosemary and Tomato Focaccia

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