That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.
– J.D Salinger
Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. You know what I mean? I am the kind of person who is often discombobulated, missing dates and deadlines, forgetting those teeny tiny obligations I have committed myself to. I am often flustered and flummoxed, running out of time, down to the last second as I attempt to reorganize my day and jump into something that I should have attacked and taken care of ages ago. My life, albeit like so many others’, is cluttered, confusing and complicated, a life spread out between two apartments as it is squashed between demands of family, career and renovation, leaving me unorganized at best, distracted at worst. * sigh *
I used to bake bread once a week, several times a month, bringing pleasure to my family while faithfully keeping up with the various bread baking events in the food blogosphere: Bread Baking Day, Yeastspotting, Bread Baking Babes and Buddies. And then life got in the way. (which I find a truly inexplicable aphorism.) And I allowed myself to be distracted. And I bake bread less often. How easy it is for me, living in France with a boulangerie on every corner filled to the gills with gorgeous bread, baguettes and boules, brioche and miches, seeded and plain, studded with lardons and dusted with cheese, straight, square, twisted or braided, to have a constant flow of bread at my fingertips with no more effort than it takes to slip on a coat and skip around the corner. I simply do not need to bake bread, whether savory or sweet. And how my French family is hooked on bread! A meal just isn’t a meal without that loaf, long and thin or round and plump. Bread and cheese rounds off every meal, often simply taking the place of dessert. Bread and cheese accompanied by a piece of fruit or two is, for every Frenchman, the perfect ending to any meal. Or a meal in itself. So each morning, we dash to our favorite bakery, breathe in the heavenly odor of just-baked bread, the tang of yeast biting into the soft, sweet air. And we make our choice, whichever strikes us, tempts us that particular day. And we break off the end, the bit of rounded crust, as we run home again, popping it into our mouth, fresh and warm, satisfied with a job well done, this ritual of French life.
Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods;
and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.
– James Beard
But Monday, I popped into the Bread Baking Babes & Buddies Facebook group page to see what the girls were up to, to admire their work, and lo and behold, horror of horrors, I realized that it was World Bread Day. Bread, as I have before stated, is manna from heaven, a daily need, a necessary part of our life. Basic, simple, flour, yeast and water, maybe salt and sugar, and the most wonderful of textures, tastes, smells wraps around us and fills us with joy. From there, create a masterpiece on the tabula rasa that is dough: savory or sweet, filled, rolled or topped; sliced and spread, smeared, piled high with mountains of creamy, gooey, spicy, salty, fruity, smoky whatever you love; sandwich it, bagel or rye, Challah or biscuit, bread as plate, fork, spoon or knife to be enjoyed, marveled at, savored inside or out. Schoolyard treat, picnic mainstay, center of a meal, bread is the be all and end all, the nec plus ultra, both the anchor and the backbone of any meal, any cuisine.
So I brushed off my desk, folded up the laptop, pushed my work to one side and walked right into that kitchen to bake. How could I not pay homage to bread, to share the love and vaunt the importance of this necessary part of our daily lives?
For this special day, for World Bread Day, the BBB Kitchen of the Month, our hostess Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups has chosen the stunning Russian Rose bread, adapted from a recipe found on The Fresh Loaf. The dough is so quick and easy to put together, a one-bowl recipe with only a quick knead necessary. Allow to rise, roll very thin into a large rectangle, fill with almost any filling, savory or sweet, roll jellyroll style, slice into to pieces lengthwise and, with the two cut sides up, twist, roll and voilà a Russian Rose. It is as easy as that.
I chose to fill mine with pesto. I then grated on extra Parmesan cheese and sprinkled on a couple of handfuls of pine nuts before rolling, slicing, twisting and allowing a second rise. Glazed and topped with a bit more grated cheese and pine nuts, the baked bread was not only gorgeous but dense and flavorful with pesto and the light crunch of pine nuts. And the family loved it! A perfect bread to serve with a salad or a bowl of soup and then to nibble on throughout the day. Thank you, Tanna, for a marvelously easy, fast and stunningly delicious bread.
Happy World Bread Day. Enjoy!
Thanks to Zorra of Kochtopf for allowing the Babes and Buddies to participate in World Bread Day as a group.
I would like to share this bread with Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting.
With the ground flaxseeds and pine nuts, this bread is perfect for October’s Twelve Loaves challenge Sometimes I feel like a nut… a seed or a grain! Twelve Loaves is a monthly baking challenge I run with Barb of Creative Culinary and Lora of Cake Duchess.
PESTO PARMESAN PINE NUT RUSSIAN ROSE LOAF
A magnificent bread under 4 hours!
For recipe details and extra tips, please visit Tanna’s post here. All changes and additions are my own.
For the dough:
600 g (21 oz) flour (I used 200 g/7 oz bread flour + 400 g/14 oz French all-purpose flour)
2-3 tablespoons ground flax seeds or wheat germ or a combo (I used 3 Tbs Linwood’s finely ground Flaxseed + Gogi Berries)
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast (Fresh Yeast 28g/1oz)
10 g (0.35oz) sugar
10g (0.35oz) salt
50 ml (1.7 fl oz/ ¼ cup) olive oil or vegetable oil considering replacing canola with olive oil & part butter
1 tablespoon white vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
300 ml (10 fl oz/1 ¼ cups) warm water + more as needed
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp cold water)
For the filling:
190 g (6.7 oz) pesto, homemade or good quality jarred
Smoked paprika, optional
Place a 26cm (10-inch) springform (ring only, no bottom) onto a piece of parchment paper and place on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.
Place all of the dough ingredients except the water in a large mixing bowl. Add the tepid water gradually as you start mixing (I used a wooden spoon). Add as much water as needed until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and pull together into a dough. If in doubt, add a little too much water for a slightly wet dough; a dough too dry is much more difficult to correct once you begin kneading. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 or 6 minutes until the dough is supple and not sticky to the touch, kneading in more flour as necessary. When the dough is ready, spray or rub a bowl with oil and gently put the dough in the bowl, turning to coat the dough all over with oil; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for about 80%, for about 40 minutes to an hour.
Lightly flour your work surface. Flatten the dough gently with your hands and turn out onto the work surface. Roll the dough into a large triangle as thin as you can using a floured rolling pin. When rolling out the dough, try not to lift and move it too much. You can try and gently pull the dough to stretch it thin like a Strudel dough.
Apply a thin layer of the filling – here, pesto - evenly all over the dough but leaving a clean filling-free ¼-inch edge all around. Dust lightly with extra Parmesan if desired then sprinkle a handful or two of pine nuts evenly over the filling.
Brush a light coating of egg wash on the bottom edge closest to you for sealing. Slowly, tightly and very gently roll the dough from the top towards you into a roulade as for a jellyroll (watch the video for this). Once rolled, carefully press the seam to seal. You will now have a very long roulade or log. Roll the log back and forth to even out the thickness. Once you have your very long roulade even and well sealed, carefully roll the turn the roulade seam down.
Take a sharp chef's knife (not a serrated knife) and cut (not saw) off the two ends to even and then slice the roulade lengthwise from one end to the other, trying to keep the knife in the middle so you end up with two equal parts.
Turn the cut sides of the two halves face upwards then cross one length over the other in the center, forming an X. Starting from the center where the two lengths cross, gently but tightly twist the two pieces together. Going back to the center and working center out, twist the two loose ends together. You will now have one long twisted two-strand rope. Gently pinch the ends to seal.
Slowly and very gently, roll the braid into a snail, as tight as possible without squeezing or deforming the layers; the open roulade layers should remain facing up. Pinch the end delicately and tuck under. The end result should look like a giant snail shell or a very large cinnamon bun. Very carefully, lift the loaf and place in the center of the springform ring on the parchment paper.
Cover with plastic wrap and the clean kitchen towel. Let the loaf rise until the braid is not quite doubles, about 40 minutes to an hour.
Brush any dough not covered with pesto or filling lightly with egg wash. Dust the top of the loaf lightly with more Parmesan and more pine nuts and then dust lightly with the smoke paprika.
Preheat the oven to 410°F (210°C).
Once risen, bake in the preheated oven at 410°F (210°C) for 10 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 355°F (180°C) and bake for another 25 – 35 minutes. The dough should be slightly risen and golden brown. The crust should sound hollow when tapped and there should be some spring when pressed.
Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack and lift off the ring around the loaf. Allow to cool before slicing and eating.