You guys ever take a look at where your life is at and think back to what it was like a year ago? I can’t be the only person who does that, right?
It’s nearing the end of August and more than once I’ve stopped and thought about what was going on in my life a year or so ago. This time last year, life was somewhat hectic as we were just on the cusp of my twin sister’s wedding. She was hella stressed out and me and my older sister (as joint maids of honor) were doing everything that we could to keep her as calm and ‘together’ as possible….which at times seemed like Mission Impossible.
(Sorry Jas. But you know I’m speaking truth.)
Fortunately, everything with the wedding turned out just fine. It was a great day and honestly all of us are kinda amazed that one full year has already went by since it happened. Hectic, stressful situations can seem like a handful when you’re in them and a trick I always try to do for myself to make things easier is to just imagine myself on the other side of them a year in advance, looking back on it and thinking, “Yeah. I guess that wasn’t so bad. It all turned out fine. (and hopefully, even great).”
This is relevant to the here and now because I’ve actually been running around like a chicken without a head for the past few weeks, which is a huge reason why I didn’t get the time to put up a post last week. Last year’s hectic/stressful/big to-do was my twin’s wedding. And this year, it’s the hectic/stressful/big process of a move. A rather big move.
2.361 miles, to be exact.
I’m moving to California, y’all.
I’m moving to California. I’m moving to California. I’m moving to–
Sorry. I keep having to say it to myself more than once because (despite the fact that my flight leaves in less than ten days) it still just does not feel real to me. Excepting the first eight months of my life (when I lived on an Army base in Montana and I really don’t think that counts) I’ve never lived *anywhere* else but the Mitten State. And now, in typical Jess-fashion of extremes, the second place I’m going to live in in my entire life is clear across the country and a polar opposite place/climate/vibe. It’s pretty typical of my life.
Newsflash you guys: moving across the country is a very trying and at times, exhausting undertaking. There’s a LOT of t’s to cross, even more i’s to dot and still more loose ends to tie up. Packing. Shipping boxes of stuff through the US postal service. Packing. Transporting a car. Packing. Pinning down just the right flight to take for traveling with a toddler (which is more complicated than it sounds.)
Oh yeah, and still more packing.
Needless to say in the midst of all the bustle and running around, I’ve needed to find effective means of staying calm, chilling out and avoiding the much less practical alternative of ripping all my hair out. Baking is a practical and effective alternative, I’ve found.
I’m subscribed to King Arthur Flour’s email mailing list and towards the beginning of the month, they announced a series of Baking Challenges that they would do every month and share through a blog post. I knew from the time that I got the email and gave the recipe a look over that I would try it out for myself and I’ve already seen lots of you take up the challenge with outstanding results. Plus, baking is wildly therapeutic to me. It was good to take a time out in between cleaning out an apartment, and packing and shipping boxes to get in the kitchen for a few hours and do some DIY therapy.
Especially if said therapy involves carbs. That, I’m always down for.
I’ll be honest: this isn’t the kind of recipe that I would’ve chosen to make by myself right off rip. I think it’s the first cheese bread I’ve *ever* made before, and the first time I’ve baked with sundried tomatoes, ever for sure.
I made very little modifications to this recipe. It really is just about perfect and easy to follow all on its own. My only change was to add one tablespoon of Italian seasoning to the dough to give it that extra ‘oomf’ of flavor, and the aroma that it creates while baking and even proofing is very reminiscent of an Italian restaurant or pizzeria. The flavors here are outstanding, even better than I’d expected. The basil perfumes throughout the entire loaf, giving it a mild kind of sweetness even though there’s no sugar, while the cheese that pokes through the top of the swirls forms a lovely brown crust on the top of the bread while the cheese tucked on the inside forms these lovely, meltey, ooey gooey pockets of yum. (And this is coming from someone that doesn’t even like cheese that much usually. That’s how good this is.)
So, am I glad that I took the KAF August Baking challenge? You betcha I am.
Happy Fiesta Friday #134. Now let’s all break Pane Biano together and have a great weekend.
For the Dough
- 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour*
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 1/3 cup lukewarm water’
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning blend
For the Filling
- 3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
- 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own oven-roasted tomatoes
- 3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water, then sprinkle the white sugar on top of that. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast is proofed and frothy.
In the meanwhile, combine the milk, egg, and olive oil together in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the yeast mixture, then the flour, Italian seasoning and the salt. Knead using the dough hook attachment until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size.
Meanwhile, thoroughly drain the tomatoes, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits.
Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into a 22″ x 8 1/2″ rectangle. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Using kitchen shears, start 1/2″ from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1″ deep, to within 1/2″ of the other end.
Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.
While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.