February 26, 2010

Bread making 101: Stromboli a good start

— If a person were to venture for the first time into bread making, this dough recipe would be a good place to start. It's how I started, and it's one my kids and husband can make when I'm not producing homemade bread fast enough for their tastes.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Or more likely, the bread I'm making has one too many grains in it and they are just wanting a great, plain white bread.

It's also a good, basic recipe for pizza crust, dinner rolls, a crusty Italian bread or versatile sandwich bread. Of course, each of these would tolerate flavor-enhancing adjustments and refinements.

I've written a good deal about bread making on my blog, if you are looking for more information (www.athomeatsea.com). Feel free to ask questions. It would be my pleasure to help your household enjoy freshly baked bread on a regular basis.

STROMBOLI DOUGH

Stromboli is similar to a pizza or a calzone. While a pizza is flat and a calzone is folded over itself once, stromboli is rolled into a loaf with the toppings inside.

This dough is easily doubled or tripled to make stromboli for a crowd or for any of the above-mentioned uses. You can always knead this dough by hand, but I'm assuming that only the purists among us will do so when a dough hook is readily available. If you don't own a dough hook, no worries -- our foremothers (and I all summer long) just kneaded the dough for 10 to 15 minutes by hand. It's a meditative and energetic exercise all at once.

3/4 tablespoons dry yeast

1/2 tablespoon salt

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water, reserve 1/4 cup and add as needed

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a little for the top of the dough

Cornmeal for dusting

Combine the yeast, salt and flour in a mixing bowl. With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed. Add 3/4 cup of water and olive oil. When the dough begins to form a ball, add more water a tablespoon at a time until the little bits of flour on the bottom of the bowl start to work into the dough.

Knead on medium-low speed for five to seven minutes, or until the surface of the dough begins to be very smooth and the dough is elastic.

Oil the top of the dough, cover with either a plate or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled, about one hour.

When the dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400.

Place a cast-iron skillet or other heavy oven-proof pan in the bottom of the oven. Dust a baking pan with cornmeal. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about the size of a laptop.

Lay out ingredients (see below) over the entire surface and roll up snugly into a loaf, tucking in the ends and pinching the seam closed. Place the loaf onto the pan dusted with cornmeal. Oil and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, about half an hour. When the loaf has nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on the top with a razor or very sharp knife.

Place the baking pan in the oven, throw 1 cup of water into the skillet on the bottom to generate steam, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 45 minutes, or until an internal thermometer reads 210.

Serves four to six.

FILLINGS

RICOTTA AND GENOA SALAMI:

1/2 pound sliced Genoa salami

1 cup ricotta cheese

3 oz. grated mozzarella cheese, about 1 cup

MOZZARELLA WITH PARSLEY AND ARUGULA PESTO:

1/2 cup pesto (recipe below)

6 oz. grated mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups

PARSLEY AND ARUGULA PESTO:

1/2 packed cup parsley leaves

1/4 packed cup basil leaves

1/4 packed cup arugula leaves

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the leaves are finely blended.

Makes 1 cup. The stromboli recipe calls for only 1/2 cup, but if you are going to have to clean the food processor anyway, why not make a little extra to go in a pasta dish or a dressing on salad?

NO-COOK TOMATO HERB SAUCE

The stromboli is nice on its own, but traditionally it has a sauce to go with it. I discovered last summer that even canned crushed tomatoes make a flavorful sauce that doesn't need cooking when the bright flavors of parsley and basil and the zip of fresh garlic are mixed with the tang of red wine vinegar.

1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes, about 2 cups

2 tablespoons minced parsley

2 tablespoons minced basil

1 teaspoon minced garlic, about 1 clove

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon balsamic

1/8 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and set aside until ready to serve. This sauce benefits from 20 to 30 minutes of just sitting to allow the herbs and garlic to soften and the flavors to meld.

Makes 2 cups. Again, you'll have extra, but why not? With the extra pesto you've made, you've got the beginnings of a great pasta dish.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of ''At Home, At Sea,'' a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family's windjammer. Contact her at:

chefannie@mainewindjammer.com

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