Tomato Basil Bread (and Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches)

I think I’ve made pretty clear on this blog that I loooooove carbs. Carbs on carbs on carbs. I’m a carb monster. Us carb-monsters can usually be subdivided into smaller, carb-loving groups — some are pasta people; some are potato lovers. My mom, for example, is a pasta and potato lover, attacking mac-and-cheese, spaghetti, wavy Lays potato chips, and mashed potatoes with equal relish (but she doesn’t like gnocchi! Crazy!). Other people have a sweet tooth for cookies, etc., but for me, it’s all about the bread.

Despite my bread love, I haven’t actually made it on my own very many times. But for some reason, I got it in my head last week that I desperately needed to make some approximation of that delicious tomato-basil bread Panera serves is Mediterranean veggie sandwiches on. This isn’t exactly like Panera’s–no brown-sugar topping–but it was very, very tasty. Look at that gorgeous color!

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TOMATO BASIL BREAD (recipe from Food.com)

1 (2 1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2-2 3/4 cups bread flour

1. In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in basil, cheese, tomato paste, sugar, oil, salt, pepper flakes and 2 cups flour. Stir in enough remaining flour to form stiff dough.
2. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Place in bowl coated in olive oil, turning once to oil top. Cover and let rise in until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down, kneading for 1 minute. Shape into round loaf and place on baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray or coated with olive oil. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Using sharp knife, cut a large X in top of loaf. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Very yummy! I used this bread to make pesto chicken salad sandwiches — mixing equal parts prepared or homemade pesto and nonfat Greek yogurt and adding shredded poached chicken. Delicious!

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