As I mentioned, 2012 has already started out exactly as I’d wanted – baking bread.
My quest was simple: find the perfect bread base. My ultimate plan was to recreate a loaf of sausage bread we had in NJ over the holidays. I dig some digging through my favorite bread recipe books and found it in Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice book (my favorite of all my books). Any bread recipe that can turn into both cinnamon buns and this sausage bread? Winner.
Reinhart’s Biga recipe is simple (2.5 cups bread flour, 1/2 tsp. yeast, and 1/4-1 cup of water). I made a double batch and took about two thirds for this recipe. The recipe below is just for the sausage bread and does not make a double batch.
Domestocrat’s Sausage and Mozzarella Bread
For the dough:
3.5 cups flour (I use King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot)
2/3 tsp. yeast
1-2 cups water (add slowly, to ensure the dough is moist, a little sticky, but not soupy)
For the filling:
1 lb. sausage (I used Italian chicken sausage)
12 oz. mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. black pepper
Start with your dough. The instructions are simple: combine all ingredients, knead for 10 minutes by hand or in a stand mixer, let the dough rise in a plastic wrap covered greased bowl at room temperature for 2-4 hours, use right then or knead again for another 10 minutes and store in the fridge in a plastic wrap covered greased bowl until you’re ready to use.
In the meantime, cook the sausage. Heat the EVOO over medium heat. Remove the sausage from the casings and add to the warm oil. Break up the sausage as it cooks. Usually I break the pieces up into very small bits but for this recipe you want the sausage to remain in chunks. You’re aiming roughly for the size of a quarter instead of the usual ground meat size of a pea. When the sausage is cooked thoroughly and browned, remove from the heat and cool completely.
After the first rise of the bread I rolled it out on the counter and sprinkled on the kosher salt and black pepper.
I then put the dough in the bowl of my stand mixer and kneaded with the dough hook for 1-2 minutes. Next I added the cooled sausage and all of the cheese and kneaded for another 3-4 minutes.
After mixing, form your dough into a loaf shape on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and let it rise one last time for 45 minutes. Letting the loaf rise on the parchment paper lined baking sheet makes it super easy when it’s time to bake; you just throw the whole thing in the oven – no pesky pan transferring required.
After the final rise bake the loaf on 400 degrees for roughly 1 hour. Let it cool completely before cutting.
The end result is a pillowy bread studded with sausage and cheese in every bite. Next time I might add some sauteed veggies to the bread. The possibilities are endless!