Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bloomin' Sourdough

OMG. This bread. Oh, this bread. It is so out of this world, I can't believe it. While we were visiting with our friends Karen & Phil, where they now live in a town west of Allentown (Bethlehem) Pennsylvania, she showed me her 3-ring binder that has become her "favorite recipes" file. I always enjoy leafing through other people's recipe collections. So, I ran across this recipe for bread, mentioned something about it to Karen and she said, let's have that for dinner.

This picture shows you what it looked like, slathered each direction and ready to be sealed up in foil. You can visualize the concept from the title - like the bloomin' onions from Outback Steakhouse. But this bread, of course, isn't deep fried, but it blooms something like it. It's such a clever idea, why didn't I think of it? You make a batch of fresh pesto, mix it with cream cheese and goat cheese, spread it on the bloomin' style cut of the bread, bake and serve. The cutting of the bread is not difficult, but does require a good bread or serrated knife. You cut the bread almost through, turn the bread 90 degrees and cut again almost through, thus creating these little tall towers or cubes of bread about 3/4 inch or up to 1 inch square and about 2 inches high. Higher if you use a taller loaf, of course. Then you slather the pesto mixture on all 4 sides of the bread. Use a big plastic spatula and spread the cheese mixture down into the bread. Try to cover all sides of each little tower. It does this without working too hard at it if you just do it like you would sliced bread.

Once baked, you grab the very top of each tower and pull. Usually it breaks off right at the base and you have this warm, soft, garlicky mushy bite of unbelievable bread. What was left on the bottom (see picture at top) was cut up into pieces, baked in a hot oven very briefly and became croutons for the Caesar salad we had with dinner.

Get thyself to the grocery store and try this. My only suggestion: Karen decided to use ready-made pesto this time since we were tight on time. But the garlic flavor is much less pronounced, so I'd add more fresh garlic to the cheese mixture in the food processor, then add pesto to your liking.

Pesto-Cheese Bloomin' Sourdough Bread
Recipe: My friend, Karen B, via her friend Erin
1 medium whole sourdough bread
All-purpose pesto:
2 T pine nuts
2-3 cloves garlic,
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups fresh basil
approx. 1/4 cup olive oil
Cheese mixture:
8 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1. Combine in food processor: nuts, garlic and salt, then add basil. Process until mixed. Slowly add olive oil. You can use less olive oil if you want to - it's just for a binder. If you choose to use ready-made pesto, add additional fresh garlic to the cheese mixture.
2. Cream together, then add pesto mixture and mix thoroughly.
3. Slice bread about one inch apart, not cutting all the way through the bottom crust. Turn loaf 90 degrees and slice bread again, also about 1 inch apart. You'll end up with a cubed effect, but the loaf is still intact.
4. Spread pesto cheese mixture on the bread - going one direction, then turn 90 degrees and spreading again so all the cubes are covered in the pesto cheese mixture. This part can get messy. Wrap bread in foil and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350. Or, on the barbecue, top rack, for about 15 minutes. Serve on a platter and let guests pull each cube.
To print a PDF recipe, click on title at top.

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