This Pane Bianco Bread Recipe makes a tasty loaf filled with fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic, and shredded cheese; the bread has wonderful soft texture, and is packed with flavor. The unique shape is simple to achieve, and makes an impressive presentation.
Dianna Wara of Washington, Illinois, took first place in the first-ever National Festival of Breads with this recipe — which we’ve since simplified a bit, while retaining its award-winning characteristics. Thanks, Dianna!
¾ cup shredded Italian-blend cheese or the cheese of your choice
½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own oven-roasted tomatoes
3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
⅓ cup chopped fresh basil, green or purple
To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of your bread machine), and mix and knead — by hand, using a mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth, very soft dough.
The dough should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl if you're using a stand mixer.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it's doubled in size.
Meanwhile, thoroughly drain the tomatoes, patting them dry.
Use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller bits.
Gently deflate the dough.
Flatten and pat it into a 22" x 8½" rectangle.
Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way.
Pinch the edges to seal.
Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Using kitchen shears, start ½" from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1" deep, to within ½" of the other end.
Keeping the cut side up, form an "S" shape.
Tuck both ends under the center of the "S" to form a "figure 8;" pinch the ends together to seal.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.
While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool.
Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.