The brief for this showstopper challenge was to make a filled loaf. It could be stuffed, rolled, twisted, braided—you name it. But it had to look good as a centerpiece, too. After drooling over the creations of the bakers in the Great White Tent, like Luis’ roscón de Reyes and Kate’s prosciutto, olive and coriander braid, I settled on a tear-and-share featuring the Mediterranean flavors of my favorite pizza — pesto, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers — with a side of roasted tomatoes, feta cheese and balsamic reduction.
Tear-and-share is one of those terms I hadn’t heard before watching The Great British Baking Show. I soon came to realize it was a type of bread, usually filled with something sweet or savory, that was meant to be shared, usually by tearing off individual portions. These loaves may come in the form of star bread, pinwheels, bread wreaths or simply pieces of dough baked close together. I guess we in America would call it pull-apart bread, but I like the term tear-and-share. It conjures up images of good friends gathered around a table, sharing good food and conversation — something we’ve all been missing during this year of the covid pandemic.
My tear-and-share creation started with this recipe, but I mixed up the fillings as well as the form. This dough is super easy to make and fun to work with. After mixing it up with my KitchenAid, it just took a quick kneading to get it super smooth and springy. I let it prove for about an hour and 15 minutes to double in bulk before knocking out the air and then rolling it into a rectangle. Then I spread it with pesto, sprinkled on the artichoke hearts and roasted peppers, and rolled it up like a big cigar. Transferring it to a parchment-lined baking sheet, I then formed it into a ring around a ramekin (which I had oiled on the outside) and cut slits through the outside of the ring, spaced about an inch apart.
After letting it rise for another 30 minutes or so, I brushed the ring with a beaten egg and sprinkled pine nuts over the top. I let it bake for 35-40 minutes until it was golden brown and reached an internal temperature of 190°F. About 5 minutes before it was done, I sprinkled parmesan cheese on top, so it would turn brown and crispy but not burnt.
While the bread was baking, I roasted a pint of cherry tomatoes with garlic and olive oil. When they were soft and caramelized, I smashed them with a fork and put them in a different ramekin (the same size as the one that I wrapped the ring of dough around). Once the bread was out of the oven, I sprinkled feta cheese on top of the tomatoes and put that under the broiler for a few minutes so the cheese would get melty and browned on top. I also put some balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over low heat until it reduced by about half. That I drizzled over the tomatoes and feta. Mmmm!
When the bread had cooled, I removed the empty ramekin from the center and placed the circular loaf on a large platter. I then put the ramekin with the roasted tomatoes and feta into the center of the ring. This can be used as a spread or to dip the bread in.
I love all these flavors blended together. The caramelized tomatoes and balsamic reduction add a note of sweetness to the pesto-filled bread. The artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers add their own Mediterranean flair, giving your tastebuds a party in your mouth!
Pesto recipe adapted from The Surreal Gourmet © 1992 by Bob Blumer
For the bread dough:
- 3 1/3 c. bread flour
- 2¼ t. fast-action yeast (1 packet)
- 1 t. sugar
- 1½ t. fine salt
- 1¼ c. warm water (110-115°F)
- 2 T. olive oil, plus more to line the bowl
For the pesto (can substitute 1/2 c. prepared pesto):
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves (lightly compressed)
- 2 T. grated parmesan cheese
- 4 t. pine nuts
- ¼ t. minced garlic (about ½ of a clove)
- 1/8 t. black pepper
- 1/8 T. salt
- 2 t. lemon juice
- ¼ c. olive oil
For the filling:
- 1 red pepper, roasted* and diced
- 1 c. baby artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
For the topping:
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¼ c. pine nuts
- 2 T. parmesan cheese
For the dip::
- ¼ c. balsamic vinegar
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 T. olive oil
- ¼ c. crumbled feta cheese
- To make the dough, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixer bowl. Add about 1 cup of the warm water, along with the olive oil, and start the mixer on low, mixing until the ingredients begin to clump together as a dough. Add more water, a little at a time, until all the flour is incorporated. (You may not need all the water.) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Drizzle a little oil into the bowl that was used to mix the dough, then put the dough back in, turning it over to coat it in oil. Cover with a tea towel and set it in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, 1-3 hours.
- While the dough is rising, make the pesto: In the order listed, put all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Set aside.
- When the dough has doubled in bulk, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Coat the outside of an oven-proof ramekin with oil and place it in the center of the parchment. Uncover the dough and punch It down a couple times with your fist, knocking out most of the air. Tip it out onto a floured surface and dust the top with a little flour, too, if it’s sticky. Roll the dough out to a rectangle, about 16 x 12 inches. Spread the pesto over the dough, then scatter the roasted* red pepper and artichoke hearts evenly over the pesto. Roll the dough up from one of the longer sides into a long sausage shape.
- Transfer the filled dough to the prepared baking sheet and form it into a ring around the ramekin, using a dab of water to help seal the two ends together, if necessary. Use scissors to cut slits about half-way through the dough every inch or so, all the way around the ring. Loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave to prove for 30 minutes to an hour until almost doubled in size again.
- While it’s rising, start to prepare the dip: Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until reduced by half. Then remove it from the heat and set aside to cool. Place the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
- When the dough ring has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the ring, brush it with the beaten egg and sprinkle the pine nuts over the top. Place it on the middle rack in the oven and place the tomatoes and garlic on a lower rack. Roast the tomatoes until they are soft and the juices have turned brown (about 30 minutes). Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and the center looks dry and not doughy. (The internal temperature should reach 190°F.) If the top is getting brown too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. About 5-10 minutes before it’s done, sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top. When the bread is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekin from the center and transfer the bread ring to a large serving platter.
- After the tomatoes are soft and caramelized, take them out of the oven and smash them with a fork. Smash the garlic cloves, too, and mix them into the tomatoes. Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof ramekin. Sprinkle feta over the tomatoes and place ramekin under the broiler for a few minutes until the feta is softened and toasty brown. Remove the ramekin from the broiler and carefully place it in the center of the bread ring. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the tomato-feta dip. Serve immediately.
*To roast a whole bell pepper, wash and dry the pepper, then rub olive oil all over it. Preheat your oven’s broiler. Place the pepper on a baking sheet about 6-8 inches from the heating element of the broiler. Every few minutes, check the pepper. When the skin starts to blister and dark blotches appear, use tongs to carefully turn the pepper one quarter turn. Repeat until all sides are blistered and the pepper is soft. Remove from oven and place the pepper in a heatproof bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and wait 15 minutes. This produces steam, which will loosen the skin of the pepper, making it easier to remove. Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, pull the stem off and make a vertical cut from stem end to the bottom of the pepper. Open the pepper and lay it flat on a cutting board. Use a paper towel or knife to gently scrape out any seeds that didn’t cling to the stem. Then turn the pepper over, skin side up, and gently pull the loosened skin off. If there are a few stubborn spots, use a sharp knife to lift up the edge of the skin and pull. Once the skin is off, cut the pepper into thin slices and then dice.