Dear King Arthur Flour, I've unintentionally accomplished two of your BakeAlong challenges in one go.
The first time I made a star-shaped bread was with a few Hapkido friends about a year and a half ago. It was at the beginning of summer when the weather was quickly turning too warm to make bread but we were determined. Straight out of the oven, it was gushing Nutella, pillowy, chocolatey and mmm, mmm, mmm. It is definitely on my list of things to remake (as soon as I clear out more sweets). But who knows, I keep telling myself that almost every week before I make something new.
Since the holidays were only a few weeks prior to when I made this at the beginning of January, I decided to go for a more savory option. As is usual in the KBC kitchen, I was of course, trying to use up something. This time it was sun-dried tomatoes which I have been meaning to incorporate into bread for a while now. As is also usual, I was running about a hundred different scenarios of how this bread could be. Would it be a pizza? Something kind of like a savory babka or other loaf-type bread? And what other accompaniments? Meat? Cheese? Herbs? etc etc... Sometimes this goes on too long so I just have to decide on something. Other times, I finally decide on something only to change my mind and go in a completely different direction.
On my great search across the Internet, I came across King Arthur Flour's recipe for Pane Bianco which I have neither tried nor made but the filling ingredients were exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. So I combined that with their basic bread dough from this Star Bread recipe and this Pane Bianco Star Bread was born.
The trickiest part about making Star Breads is rolling out each layer of dough into a 10" circle. I have the hardest time rolling things in circles. Whether it's cookie dough, bread dough or pie crust dough, it always ends up in a non-circular shape. So, be patient, if it rolls out like a square with rounded edges (see above photos), that's okay because you will cut it up and twist it in the end.
The best part about making Star Breads is twisting the strips together to create the effect of a fishtail braid with only two simple twists. It's truly one of the most exciting things when you get to see the bread coming together.
This bread is gorgeous unbaked and even more gorgeous when it comes out of the oven. Like most breads, is best eaten warm from the oven when the cheese is all melty. It would make a great snack while you create a main dish like Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage!
And of course following that meal up with a Nutella Star Bread for dessert would be amazing. So many delicious carbs.
Pane Bianco Star Bread
Yields: 10-12 servings
- ½ cup lukewarm milk
- ¼ cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
- ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own oven-roasted tomatoes, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil, green or purple
To make the dough, place the milk, water, yeast, and 1 cup all-purpose flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Add the egg, olive oil, salt, and the rest of the all-purpose flour. Mix to make a soft dough, then knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until smooth and supple. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled.
In the meantime, mix together minced sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and salt. Prepare cheese and basil. Set aside.
To assemble, divide the dough into four pieces and shape into balls. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Place one piece of dough on a piece of parchment. Roll it into a 10" circle. Spread ⅓ of the sun-dried tomato and garlic mixture on the first layer of dough in an even layer. Sprinkle ⅓ of the cheese and ⅓ of the basil, leaving ½" around the outside edge uncovered.
Roll out the second ball of dough to the same size as the first. Place it on top of the first circle and repeat the three layers of filling. Again, repeat with the third ball of dough and the last ⅓ of filling. Roll out the last ball of dough and place it on top.
Place a 2" round biscuit cutter or drinking glass in the center of the dough to serve as a guide. Using a sharp knife, cut the larger circle into 16 equal strips, from the outside edge to the cutter/glass in the center, through all the layers. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips of dough and twist them away from each other twice, so the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough all the way around the circle. Remove the cutter/glass.
Pinch the ends of adjacent strips together all the way around the bread to create eight star-like points. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes.
While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F. When risen, remove the plastic wrap and brush the star with a thin coat of the egg wash. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until nicely golden.
Remove the bread from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving warm.
Store any leftovers, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for a day or so. Freeze for longer storage.