Party Bread!

06bPartyBreadbfLOWe have a friend that brings these amazing little cucumber sammiches on cunningly shaped slices of home baked bread to gatherings, which got me to thinking about how I needed to get me some of those bread molds; so I asked Santa really nice, and he delivered.

I haven’t gotten around to trying to copy Ellen’s tasty cucumber spread (yet), but believe that I may, just, have the bread well and truly worked out – and it is a fine bread for a party.

01bBreadMoldsbfLOFirst, the bread pans (molds). Amazon has this pretty cool set of three; a star, heart, and clover shape, for under $15. The set also includes a handy (if limited) recipe sheet, which I used as the base of my bread recipe; but you could also use fresh or (thawed) frozen bread dough from the market – or – you could mebbe ask your local pizzeria to set you up with a bit of their dough.

02aCapicolabfLOStill, this dough is pretty simple to put together, and then you can customize it to your own tastes.

•1/3 cup warm (110º) water
•1 tsp sugar
•2-1/4 tsp dry yeast
•1 cup milk
•1 tsp salt
03aYeastFoamybfLO•2/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese
•2/3 cup chopped sliced hot capicola*
•3 to 4 cups flour

*From the deli counter. Don’t care for capicola? Try pepperoni… or ham, or any deli meat you prefer.

Stir the yeast together with the water and sugar in a measuring cup or bowl and set aside to rest for ten minutes, or until the mixture is foamy.

04aBreadDoughbfLOAdd the milk and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, then stir in the foamy yeast, the capicola, and the cheese.

With the mixer on low, add 2-1/2 cups of the flour until blended.

With the mixer still on low, add additional flour, by the tablespoonful, to form a soft dough.

05aBreadDoughRisebfLOIncrease the speed to medium and add enough of the remaining flour for the mixture to pull away from the sides of the bowl and come together into a ball. I used three cups plus two tablespoons in all for this batch, but the amount of flour needed for dough to come together can and will vary depending on a lot of different factors. If for some reason you find that you’ve added too much flour, simply add additional water, again by the tablespoonful, until the dough is the consistency you need.

05bBreadDoughRisenbfLOGather the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl – I usually just use the mixing bowl.

Turn the dough to coat all sides with oil, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot for 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough has risen to double its size.

Apply cooking spray to two bread molds and preheat the oven to 400º.

Punch the risen dough down, divide in half, and roll each half into a log about two inches shorter than the bread mold.

06aPartyBreadbfLOInsert into the molds, cap each end, and bake for one hour.

Cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve as you like – I offered ours with assorted anti pasti – artichoke salad, cauliflower caponata – along with olives, cheeses and cheese spreads.

Plain old butter would work, too – as would, no doubt, some of Ellen’s most excellent cucumber spread.

BreadBasilProcessorbfLOLeftovers (should you have any) can be toasted for croutons, or, try pulsing in a food processor with fresh basil leaves and then tossing with a bit of olive oil to make a pretty spiffy bread crumb topping for any number of tempting dishes.

But, more on that next week; for now, just sit back and enjoy your freshly baked party bread.

Don’t feel like you have to wait for a party to try it…

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