1 teaspoon sugar
3 ounces warm water (100°-110°F)
2 packets active dry yeast (¼ ounce each)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon butter or shortening, softened
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Choice of stuffing, such as cheese, spinach,
pepperoni, or anything else that suits your fancy!
Instructions for Plain Bread
Add the sugar to the warm water in a small bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine half of the flour and the remaining dry ingredients; mix well. Then add the yeast mixture and stir in the rest of the flour, butter, and water. Mix until a soft dough is formed.
Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead until sticky and pliable. Lightly oil the bowl and replace dough into it, turning it once to cover the entire surface with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit undisturbed for an hour (until the dough rises to approximately twice its size).
Punch the dough down (my favorite part) and turn onto a floured cutting board. Divide dough in half, shape each into a loaf, and place into two greased 9x5-inch loaf pans. Cover loaf pans and let rise again for 40 minutes, then place in a preheated 375°F oven and bake for 25 minutes until brown. At this point, before pulling the bread from oven, my grandmother would use a brush to paint each loaf with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper for a great taste. Cool for 15 minutes before cutting. (If you don’t have time to bake from scratch, you can a few pounds of frozen bread dough, thaw, and let rise. A pound of plain bread dough will make about three loaves of bread).
Instructions for Stuffing the Bread
You can use just about anything for stuffing your bread – whatever tickles your fancy – as long as it fits into the rolled dough and is not too moist. We created three simple savoury stuffing mixtures for the bake sale (rough proportions below) but feel free to get more creative if you wish, possibly even using fruit, nuts, or other sweet fillings to create a dessert bread.
After your dough has risen for the first time, been punched down, and divided into loaf portions, place it on a floured surface and stretch each loaf into a roundish shape about 12 inches in diameter. Then choose your stuffing.
● For spinach stuffing you can use a thawed 10-ounce package of cut spinach, well squeezed and drained. Mix with enough shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, and feta until stiff enough to be scooped as stuffing. Make sure mix is squeezed dry so it doesn’t ruin the dough with too much moisture. Place two scoops of mix on the flattened dough and sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper.
● The pepperoni and cheese stuffed breads are easily made using the same roll-up procedure, except we found that fresh pepperoni leaks grease when baked, so you should prebake the slices in paper towels for 15 minutes. Coat the flattened dough with ¼ cup of pepperoni and liberally cover it with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan.
● The four cheese mixture is the easiest. Using shredded cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, and drained crumbled feta, simply mix the cheeses well and place two good-size scoops onto the dough.
After you have placed your choice of stuffing mix from end to end in the middle of each loaf of dough, roll up and seal the dough ends together with a few drops of water. Place the loaves on a lightly greased and floured sheet pan about 5 inches apart. Cover loaves with a moist towel and let rise for 40 minutes (until about double in size). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned, and brush a thin layer of butter or olive oil onto the hot loaf and sprinkle with a dash of salt. If you can wait a half hour before eating, you have more will power than I do!
The only problem I have found is that when the loaves are served there are seldom any leftovers. But, that may be a good thing. Have fun with it! ~ Michael Romano, Great Barrington, MA
Read this article in the Holiday 2018 issue of Our BerkshireTimes Magazine.