Roasted Red Pepper Bread #BreadBakers

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Hello, Gorgeous! This roasted red pepper bread ranks right up there as one of the prettiest breads I’ve ever made. I mean, that color alone is to die for. I’ve definitely got a thing for oddly colored breads—black, purple(ish) and so on—but this one takes the cake. Or more accurately, the loaf. The orangey-red is so bright it practically glows.

But beauty, in this case, is not only skin (or crust) deep. It's true that we eat with our eyes first, but the Big Question is always, “How does it taste?” And the answer is, “Damned fine. Damned fine, indeed.” Both color and flavor come from a roasted red pepper puree that makes up the majority of the liquid in this bread. With an added boost from grated parmesan (go for the good stuff—parmigiano reggiano—if you can) and spicy nuggets of coarsely ground black pepper, this is rich, complex, soft, velvety textured bread that can stand on its own, no extras required. That being said, it does make a killer grilled cheese sandwich. And fantastic croutons. And it’s great with hummus, cheeses, butter, red pepper jelly… And it makes killer grilled cheese sandwiches. Did I mention grilled cheese sandwiches?

It’s a fairly fast and easy bread to make, especially if you use jarred peppers rather than roasting your own. The original recipe calls for shaping two 3-strand braided loaves, but you could easily shape it any way you like (rolls!) or bake in a loaf pan. I decided to make one large braided loaf and for inspiration, turned to one of my favorite e-books, The Art of Braiding Bread by Roberto von Krammer, and chose the 6-strand Alpha braid. (If you have any interest at all in moving beyond simple braids, this is THE go-to book, with dozens of variations and clearly illustrated instructions.) 

Everything about this bread is a showstopper. The color, the aroma, the taste… It was definitely a hit with the Official Shaggy Dough Taste Testing Team. I brought it in three times and there were no "What? Again?" complaints and it always disappeared in record time. If you're a fan of red peppers, this is definitely for you. And if you're not a fan of red peppers, well… It just may win you over. Especially if you go for a red pepper grilled cheese sandwich. Did I mention it makes a killer grilled cheese?

Roasted Red Pepper Bread is my contribution to this month's #BreadBakers theme: Breads with Peppers, hosted by Sue at Palatable Pastime.  Thanks, Sue. Love this theme! Be sure to check out the links below to see more great breads from this talented group.

Roasted Red Pepper Bread

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups roasted sweet red peppers (drain if using jarred peppers)*
  • 2-1/4 tsp. (1/4 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the good stuff)
  • 1/3 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Puree the roasted peppers in a blender until smooth. 
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the red peppers, 1 cup cheese, milk, butter, salt, yeast and 1-1/2 cups flour. With the paddle attachment, beat until combined. Add in more flour until you have a somewhat cohesive dough.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently de-gas. Divide dough into six pieces, pre-shape into balls, cover and let rest for about 5 minutes. Shape each ball into a rope about 16-18" long. Braid as desired, pinching ends to seal and tucking them under braided loaf. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Towards the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
  6. Combine the egg and water in a small bowl and blend thoroughly. Brush the egg wash over the braid, then sprinkle with pepper and the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.
  7. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until brown on top.

Adapted from Taste of Home

Notes

The first time I made this, I used jarred roasted peppers. The second and third time, I roasted my own. The consensus was that the freshly roasted peppers did have a richer, more "peppery" taste so I'd suggest giving it a try. Making your own is very easy to do. Place your oven rack about 8" below the broiler and turn the broiler to high. Put the whole peppers onto a foil covered baking pan and broil for about 15 minutes, turning the peppers a quarter turn every five minutes. The peppers should be blackened and blistered on all sides, so adjust the timing as needed. Once the peppers are done, place them in a bowl, cover immediately and let them steam until they're cool enough to handle. You should be able to easily remove stems, seeds and blackened skin. Gently scrape off any stubborn bits but don't run the peppers under water or you'll lose a lot of flavor. And if there's any leftover liquid—it's usually not much—add it in to the mix. I started with 3 medium-size peppers and after processing the 1-1/2 cups of roasted pepper, I ended up with about 1-1/4 cups of puree.

The original recipe states that you should have a firm dough at the end of the kneading, but each time I made this, I would have had to add a lot more flour in order to achieve that firmness. As it was, I added about 1/4 cup more flour than called for but I still had a somewhat soft dough and it worked out just fine. 

Rather than starting off with the dough hook, I like to use the paddle to incorporate the ingredients. Once there's very little flour left at the bottom of the bowl and the dough is starting to come together, I switch to the dough hook.

I find it helpful to LIGHTLY dust the strands with flour before I start to braid, just enough so that the strands don't stick to each other, making the braiding process easier. I used a pastry brush to brush away any remaining flour, although there wasn't much.

#BreadBakers for August: Breads with Peppers

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

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