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Basil bread

Garlic bread, onion bread, rosemary bread – OK – but I’d never had basil bread. I had to make it.

I used a full cup of basil leaves and pureed them with the oil. I used a little yeast and let it ferment overnight. The bread tasted powerfully of basil and came out green. The Little One loved it. Husband tactfully said, “I’ll have to get used to it.” I thought it would be good as pizza dough.

The next time I made it, I brought the basil leaves down to half a cup and used an entire cube of yeast (50 grams, equivalent to 1 tablespoon instant dry). The bread was good, but tasted only faintly of basil. Also, I missed the deeper flavor that comes with an overnight fermentation.

Finally, I took the recipe and changed it to suit my taste. My readers know my preference for a prolonged first rise with little yeast.

So I made basil bread for the third time – with 3/4 cup of chopped, not pureed leaves – and it came out the way I like it. Well-risen, golden crust, moist crumbs with small holes scattered throughout. The color light, attractively flecked with dark green. Most of all, there was a delicious, sweet/pungent aroma and taste of basil, in just the right proportion.

Basil Bread Recipe

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Prep25 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Yield1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cube fresh yeast
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp of warm water
  • 3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  • Rinse and carefully dry the basil leaves. Chop them into fine ribbons.
  • In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in all the water.
  • Add the sugar; stir to dissolve. Add the oil, salt, and chopped basil leaves. Stir it all up.
  • Add half-cups of flour, stirring well each time, until you have a loose dough. This should take 4 to 4 1/2 cups. Mix well.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 6-8 hours. It will rise and be spongy by morning.
  • The next day, deflate the dough by stirring it. Sprinkle more flour in, first stirring, then kneading lightly, until the dough is stiff. Let it sit by itself for 15 minutes to absorb the flour.
  • Add the rest of the flour – up to 5 cups total. Knead again, lightly, and form a ball of the dough. Dribble a little olive oil over it, then turn it around in the bowl a few times. Drape a kitchen towel over the bowl, and leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C), about 20 minutes before you plan to bake. At the same time, shape your loaf and put it to rise once again on a sheet of baking paper for those 20 minutes. It will be very light and bubbly when it’s ready to bake.
  • Handle the loaf gently, so as not to deflate it. Bake it for 30 minutes. When the crust is golden and sturdy, turn the loaf upside down to finish baking, 10-15 minutes more.
  • I’ve served this bread with feta cheese, as a salami sandwich, and plain with fish soup. Very, very good!

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