Bread-Making Day

Winter is a perfect time to embrace baking, particularly bread. It takes a while to make, although very little of it is hands-on time, and winter affords many snowed in opportunities to be home bodies. It makes a home warm and filled with that amazing aroma that stops people the world around when it floats by. And it's an easy thing to make that takes little, if any practice. Think specialty filled loaves are only something you can pick up at the market? Think again:

That beautiful loaf of bread is filled with an olive-red pepper filling that's nearly as easy to make as the bread. What's my trick? I let my bread machine do the tough work of mixing and kneading the bread! If you don't have a bread machine, watch second hand stores. They show up regularly (my theory is that people are easily intimidated by bread-making) and can be purchased for a song. Trust me, after you've had homemade pizza dough and slice upon slice of fresh homemade bread, you'll thank me.

I like to do my bread-making early in the day. Then I have an excuse to find a warm spot, some hot tea, and a good book while it's rising. Later, I get to enjoy the wonderful aroma that fills my nest as it bakes. And the timing ends up being perfect for lunchtime. I am usually able to just have a slice … you know, to make sure it turned out alright! Then I let the rest of it fully cool and I have an amazing loaf of bread to serve with dinner or slice and use for sandwiches the next day. Imagine your coworkers' eyes when they see you pull out a sandwich nestled between slices of what looks like artisanal bread!

The filling I used here is listed because it's so easy and is the perfect consistency for a bread filling. But feel free to get creative. Fresh herbs and grated cheese, sundried tomatoes and pesto, or even a sweet mix of chopped fruit, nuts, and spices will have your home smelling amazing. Better yet, choose a range of fillings and try a new one each week. You'll be finding that bread-making day quickly becomes your most delicious day of the week!

Olive-Red Pepper Bread

  • 1 1/3 c. water
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 T. plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c. sliced black olives
  • 1/3 c. chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil

In your bread machine, measure and add the liquid ingredients (water through yogurt) to the bread pan.

Then measure and add the dry ingredients (salt through sugar) to the bread pan. Carefully make a hole in the dry ingredients (making sure to not press through to the wet ingredients) and add the yeast there.

Select the "dough" setting on your machine and start the machine. Most machines will present you with a single-raised round of dough after about an hour and a half.

While the bread machine is making the dough, make the filling by combining the olives, red pepper, and olive oil. Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface and gently press it into a large (baking sheet-sized) rectangle. Spread the filling down the center of the rectangle and carefully fold the two edges over the filling, making sure they overlap. Carefully twist the dough 2-4 times to give it a bit of texture. Then bring the ends together and turn them under while placing the dough on a baking sheet. Allow the dough to rest in a warm, moist area for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the bread for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is golden. If desired, brush the top of the bread with oil. I used a lovely rosemary-infused oil I got over the holidays.

  • Yields: 1 large loaf
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours 45 minutes (about 10 minutes of hands-on time)