Garlic bread, a twice baked bread typically made with store-bought baguettes, is an ever popular side dish at mealtime, but then so too is home baked bread, straight from the oven. As both a committed bread baker and garlic bread devotee, I often find myself puzzling out how to incorporate the bold taste we associate with garlic bread into my homemade bread so that it becomes more of a key player on the dinner table stage. Filled breads — flavored with various combinations of cheeses, herbs, and garlic — are one way I get more oomph in the dinner-time bread I make.
This recipe features the Mediterranean flavors of feta cheese, fresh dill weed from the garden, garlic, and optional black olives as a filling for an attractive bread braid that works well as a companion for a simple soup and/or salad dinner. Instructions for homemade brown bread dough, which I use here, are provided in this recipe; however, frozen prepared bread dough may also be conveniently substituted by time-pressed readers. Simply bring the prepared dough to room temperature according to the package instructions and begin with Step 2 below.
For the bread:
1 1/2 cups warm (100-110 degrees F.) water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the filling:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill weed
2 tablespoon melted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
(Optional) 1/4 cup pitted and drained black olives
1 tablespoon poppy, sesame, or flax seeds
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the water and yeast and set aside for approximately 2 minutes until the yeast is fully dissolved. Add the sugar, salt, oil, and 2 cups flour. Beat for 2 minutes until smooth. Add the remaining flour and, using a bread hook attachment, mix for approximately 3 additional minutes until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball. Turn the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in bulk.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the feta cheese, ricotta (or cottage) cheese, fresh dill weed, melted butter, garlic, optional olives (if used), and egg until well blended. Set aside.
- Punch down the bread dough. Sprinkle flour on a smooth work surface and roll the bread dough to an approximately 10″ by 24″ rectangle, sprinkling additional flour on the dough as needed to avoid stickiness. Cut the dough into two 10″ by 12″ rectangles, as shown in the photo above.
- For each dough rectangle and with a narrow side toward you, spoon the prepared filling in a narrow vertical strip down the center of the dough, as shown in the photo above. Using a knife, cut the dough into a 3″ “fringe” on both sides of the filling, as shown in the photo above. Starting from the top, alternately cross the opposing left and right fringes over each other until the bread is fully braided. Tuck in the ends. Sprinkle the poppy, sesame, or flax seeds over the top of each braid. Place both on a large oiled baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place until nearly doubled in bulk, which, depending on the temperature and your altitude, may be from 30-60 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 380 degrees F. Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned. If you prefer your bread to be very crusty, as I do, place a heatproof pan of boiling water in the oven during the baking period. Makes two bread braids.