The literal translation of Pane Bianco is white bread. But don’t let that simplistic definition fool you. This is no ordinary white bread. It is light and airy with a porous interior. Reminds me of focaccia, only softer. Packed with flavor. Especially when you’re talking about this version.
Don’t let the amazing end result intimidate you. Follow along and you’ll see that you really can make this at home.
We’ll begin by making the dough. For this presentation, I’ve done it all by hand. Just in case you don’t have a mixer or bread machine (or don’t feel like digging them out of storage) you’ll see that you really only need a bowl, a spoon & some arm power. But not a lot.
The dry ingredients are well-mixed. A wire whisk does the trick nicely. Then the wet ingredients are added.
The dough is placed in a lightly greased bowl, covered and left to rest for about an hour. While that’s happening, let’s work on the filling ingredients. The stars of the show.
I used Italian-blend shredded cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic & fresh basil. I happened to have some of my homemade sun-dried tomatoes on hand but really, any oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes will work. You could even use oven-roasted tomatoes, if you have some.
So guys – as usual, you can customize this. Try it with shredded asiago or gruyere. Instead of the sun-dried tomatoes, use roasted peppers. Or some of both. Replace that minced raw garlic with roasted garlic. You could add small bits of ham or some bacon crumbles. Anything goes.
Once the dough has just about doubled, it’s ready to be transformed. You’ll find that this is so easy to work with. Not like some pizza doughs that fight you as you try to shape them. You won’t even need a rolling pin here …it is easily formed using your fingertips to stretch it into shape. Don’t worry if the edges aren’t perfectly straight. This is a rustic bread, after all.
All of your filling ingredients are now sprinkled evenly over the entire surface of the prepared dough. You’ll now roll it up lengthwise, jelly-roll style. There is one tool that I would highly recommend for this part. That is a pastry bench scraper. It really does the trick to loosen any stubborn dough as you roll it.
This part can be a little tricky. The log is placed seam-side down on your prepared baking sheet. Considering the fact that the log is almost two-feet long, it’s a bit difficult to handle. You could always work on the dough from the start on a large piece of parchment paper. Then the whole thing can easily be transferred to your baking sheet. Once there, you’ll cut into the log from just about one end to the other about one-inch deep (but not all the way through to the bottom) with your kitchen shears. Be sure to leave about a half-inch on either end without cutting it.
Being careful to leave the cut-side facing up, form an “S” shape. You’ll then tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8.” Awesome, right? As I mentioned earlier, you really can do this at home.
When you slice up this amazing bread, there are so many ways to enjoy it . I know what you’re thinking …it’s too pretty to cut. Go for it, you can always make more. Especially now that you see how easy it is.
As you can probably tell, this is simply delicious just as it is. With a sampling of those yummy fillings in each and every bite. But just imagine using thin slices to make mini-panini’s. Or grilling each slice then adding your favorite artichoke or pesto topping. My mind is wandering now…
Based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour
Delicious and stunning loaf filled with fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic, and shredded cheese.
- 3 cups unbleached bread flour (about 361 grams)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (113 grams)
- 1/3 cup lukewarm water (74 grams)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (35 grams)
- 3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese (85 grams)
- 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (113 grams)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (14 grams)
To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of your bread machine), and mix and knead — by hand, using a mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth, very soft dough. The dough should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl if you're using a stand mixer.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it's doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. Note: When making anything with yeast, it's best to let the dough rise to the point the recipe says it should, e.g., "doubled in bulk," rather than watching the clock. Rising times are only a guide; there are so many variables in yeast baking that it's impossible to say that bread dough will ALWAYS double in bulk in a specific amount of time.
Meanwhile, thoroughly drain the tomatoes, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits. Shears are also useful for slicing/chopping the basil.
Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22" x 8 1/2" rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Using kitchen shears, start 1/2" from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1" deep, to within 1/2" of the other end. Use caution so that you don't cut all the way through to the bottom of the log.
Keeping the cut side up, form an "S" shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the "S" to form a "figure 8" and pinch the ends together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.
While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after the first 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.
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