I love fresh basil! So much so that I bought a plant at the store for a couple dollars and have been trying to keep it alive since summer. But alas, basil likes a lot of sun and hot temperatures, which is just not in the cards this fall. This is why I find myself trying to consume an entire basil plant, which isn't as easy as it sounds (just kidding, sort of). This bread is very flavorful thanks to the herbs, sun dried tomatoes, and cheese. And it's really not that hard to make but looks very fancy!
For the bread
3/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees )
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2-1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs
2-1/2 cups bread flour (I substituted about ½ cup with white whole wheat)
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the filling
3.5 ounce package sun dried tomatoes, chopped
¾ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 to ½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
In a 2 cup measuring glass, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let proof in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it becomes bubbly and starts rising.
In a large bowl, combine about 2 cups of the flour with the salt and herbs. Add in the egg, olive oil, and yeast mixture. Mix to combine. Add in the remaining ½ cup flour (more or less) until a dough forms that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. A smooth dough ball will form.
Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until about doubled in volume.
For the filling, combine the sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine the fresh basil and minced garlic.
Punch the dough down and knead out the air bubbles. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into roughly a 10 by 24 inch rectangle (you may need to pause while rolling it out to allow the dough to relax out into shape). Sprinkle the dough evenly with the tomato and cheese mixture, followed by the basil garlic mixture.
Starting with the long end, roll up the dough up tightly into a log. Pinch along the long seam and at both ends. Place the log seam side down onto a baking sheet covered in parchment (this is REALLY great for making sure the bread doesn’t stick at all). Using a serrated knife, cut along the top of the log (I cut through the top and second layer of dough…definitely do NOT go all the way through!). Curve the log into an S shape (this helps the filling stay where it’s supposed to).
Allow the log to start rising about 30 minutes. While doing this preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 20 minutes. At this point, you might want to cover the loaf with tin foil (the sun dried tomatoes get toasty quickly). Return to the oven and cook about 15 minutes longer. The loaf will be golden brown on the top and bottom and sound hollow when tapped with you finger.
Allow to cool before cutting.