Sunday, July 15, 2012

Soft Italian Bread and Walnut Pesto


Oh my good grief, this pesto is good.  I made it for the first time last year and this year I planted six basil plants to ensure that I would have enough basil to make this stuff by the bucketful.  It is great on pasta and really good slathered on some soft homemade bread.  Rumor has it that pesto can be frozen for use this winter and that is good news.

Walnut Pesto adapted from Brown Eyed Baker-makes about 2 cups

4 cups sweet basil
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups whole walnuts
1 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons minced garlic

Take the whole walnuts for a spin in the food processor.  When they are coarsely ground, add in the Parmesan cheese, garlic and the basil.  Pulse several times.  Turn the processor on low speed and drizzle olive oil in the mixture until the ingredients come together.

Store in an airtight container with a thin layer of olive oil and plastic wrap pressed against the pesto.  The basil will oxidize quickly so be sure to keep it well covered.

Italian Bread adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice

3 1/2 cups biga
1 1/2 bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup water

Take the biga out of the refrigerator about an hour before you are ready to mix the final dough.  Stir together the biga, flour, salt, sugar, yeast, olive oil, and 3/4 cup water.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough forms.  You may need to add more water to the dough to make it smooth.  If you are kneading with a dough hook, knead 8-10 minutes.  If kneading by hand, go for a bit longer.  Cover and allow to raise for about an hour.

After an hour, divide dough and shape into loaves.  I like round loaves because when cut, they make nice large pieces of bread.  Cover and allow to raise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake loaves for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Biga

2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup water

Stir ingredients together.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes.  Cover on the counter for 4-5 hours.  Refrigerate overnight or for a couple days.  You can wrap tightly and freeze.

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