This unusual bread needs lots of fresh basil. And that’s a good thing if you’re growing basil, because you’re probably looking for recipes to use it up. Even one plant in a container gives plenty of leaves for pesto (see our recipe for pesto here), to snip into salads and to cook with your favorite tomato sauce. But at some point, you wonder what else you can do with all that basil.
My basil plant now wants to reproduce, flowering almost from one day to the next. To keep it from going leggy, I pinch off the flowering tops and harvest yet more leaves. My answer to the basil overflow problem is to bake green bread.
It makes wonderful sandwiches. You need only a couple of basil bread slices, a flavorful tomato, lettuce and a film of good mayonnaise to make a summer snack that you’ll remember long after the weather turns cool and your basil plant goes sleepy.
For a light meal, spread mashed avocado over two basil bread slices, set sautéed greens over them, and top the whole thing with a poached egg. Or two.
Another delicious thing to do with the dough is roll it out thin and make pizza.
Leftovers? Make croutons and float them in your next bowl of soup. You’ll never have croutons like those made from basil bread.
Basil Bread Recipe
Makes 1 large round loaf
2 oz. (50 grams) fresh yeast or 2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons warm water
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Rinse and carefully dry the basil leaves. Chop them into fine ribbons.
In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in all the water.
Add sugar; stir to dissolve. Add oil, salt, and chopped basil leaves. Mix well.
Add half-cups of flour, stirring well each time, until you have a loose dough. This should take about 4 cups.
If using dry yeast, add it to 4 cups of flour in a large bowl. Mix the water, salt and sugar in a medium bowl; stir this into the yeasted flour. Mix the chopped basil in.
Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel or a recycled plastic bag. Allow to rise till the dough is spongy, about 1 hour, at room temperature.
Deflate the dough by stirring it. Sprinkle more flour in, first stirring, then kneading lightly until the dough is supple. Add the flour cautiously – you don’t want dough too stiff to knead.
Let dough rest for 15 minutes.
Knead again, lightly, and form a ball. Drizzle a little olive oil over it. Turn it around in the bowl a few times. Cover the bowl again. Leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes .
Heat the oven to 350°F (175° C) about 20 minutes before you plan to bake.
At the same time, shape your loaf and put it to rise once again, in a 1-1/2 lb. loaf pan (for square slices) or on a baking sheet as a rounded loaf. It will be very light and bubbly when it’s ready to bake.
Bake 30 minutes. When the crust is golden and sturdy, turn the loaf upside down to finish baking, 10-15 minutes more.
Note: Use only fresh, leafy basil for this bread. Dried basil won’t do it.