Bread making definitely takes a little practice, following the recipe word for word will NOT always work when working with yeast. If it's raining, or if the humidity is high, the yeast will react differently then on a dry day, cold days with a cold kitchen will take longer to rise bread than hot days in a warm kitchen. You may have a dough hook for your mixer, but unless you physically touch the dough, you can't tell how sticky it is (a sign you need more flour), or if it has been kneaded the right amount.
There are several different types of breads, today, we'll be walking through a pesto yeast bread. While any bread making has a certain level of difficulty associated with it, yeast breads are a safe place to start as the yeast does most of the work.
For today's recipe you'll need
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup Parmesan
One jar of pesto typically makes two loaves of bread, so if you're making your second loaf and your pesto has been in the fridge, go ahead and set it out not, bringing it to room temperature will make it easier to spread in a few hours.
Bring your milk to room temperature, add the sugar, stir, then sprinkle the yeast on top evenly dispersing. Let the yeast sit for about 10 minutes and it should proof some, you'll notice it getting foamy on top. If you make the milk too hot, it will kill the yeast, and it will sink to the bottom of the measuring cup. Disregard now! Once you kill the yeast, there is no coming back, before you waste hours trying to make this recipe work, just start over with a new milk, sugar mixture and new yeast.
If your yeast is too cold, it won't proof much in just 10 minutes, for this recipe that is OK, since this recipe rises twice, the yeast will be warmed through the kneading process and it should react fine.
Notice how the edges are starting to get foamy, that's the start of the proofing, and proof that the yeast will work. If you don't have any foaminess after 10 minutes, your yeast may be too old.
While you're yeast is getting to work, pour 2 cups of flour and salt into a large bowl. I like to contain my mess when possible. A lot of recipes call for kneading bread on a floured surface, but kneading within a bowl works just fine.
I have made this recipe with AP flour, and part AP/part WW flour. It cooks best with bread flour, but bread flour has the most amount of gluten, so if you are limiting gluten, I would suggest using AP instead.
Pour your milk mixture into the flour mixture and use a spatula to slowly combine, it should still be sticky, but it is easier to do this first part with some help, your hands will get plenty messy in a minutes.
Before we proceed, there are couple steps we need to do to prepare. If you have a friend around that can assist for a few minutes, call them into the kitchen, if your sous chefs are napping, then here's what you need to do to minimize a flour explosion in your kitchen.
First, remove all rings or bracelets and make sure your sleeves are pushed up as far as they will go.
Second, remove the lid to your olive oil.
Next, prep your flour, you will need at least one more cup, but depending on how sticky the dough is, you may need more, so have a scooping utensil ready.
Start kneading the dough, add flour slowly until it is all absorbed and has a smooth consistency. You don't want to over knead it.
Now, knock any extra flour our into the trash, coat the dough with olive oil and cover with a towel.
It's just a little ball at this point, in a big bowl. As you can see, there's some flour stuck to the sides still, but there's not reason to dirty another bowl at this point.
Wait around for an hour to 90 minutes, and your dough should be doubled in size.
Dump the dough out onto a large cutting board and begin to spread. . .
It should be spread out evenly with no holes.
Now for some fun. . .spread the pesto edge to edge
Then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Notice, my chef food critic came to help by taking pictures.
Begin my rolling the dough like a jelly roll.
Pinch the dough edge together.
Cut the roll in half
Now, start to braid the bread together, spreading the pesto out at much as possible so its distributed evenly.
Now would be a good time to sit and rest for a bit, the hard part is done. . .
Ok, the bread should rise enough now, it can go into the oven, heated to 375 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes.
You can tell the bread is done when it sounds hollow when you knock on it.
Once fully cooked, let it rest for a few minutes, but be prepared to slice it open, as it's amazing warm.
See how beautiful that is?