I gave up on my basil plant long ago (along with my other herbs, it was a victim of my unintentional but deadly neglect), but luckily for most of the year it's readily available at any of LA's many farmer's markets. A few weeks ago I bought the most enormous bunch of basil- really, it was like a small tree's worth- and after making two batches of pesto, I still had plenty left.
This bread was a good vehicle for the remaining basil, its pungent aroma a nice complement to the warm nuttiness of whole wheat. The basil flavor was most prominent the first day, and faded a bit after that. Like most bread, it freezes well, but again you lose some of the basil flavor with freezing. So really, you have no excuse not to eat it all straight out of the oven.
This is my entry for World Bread Day 2008, kindly hosted once again by Zorra.
Whole Wheat Basil Bread
adapted from The Bread Bible, by Beth Hensperger
Makes 2 loaves
2 tsp instant yeast (or 1 tbsp dry active, proofed in some of the liquid)
pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 cup warm buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup minced basil
2 1/2 tsp salt
melted butter and Parmesan cheese for topping the loaves
-Sponge: mix yeast, pinch of sugar, warm water, and 2 cups whole wheat flour in a large bowl (If using dry active yeast, first proof the yeast in 1/4 cup of the water, then mix with other ingredients). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
-Dough: Add honey, buttermilk, basil, and butter to the sponge. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes while you prepare your kneading space. This will give the dough time to fully absorb the flour and make it easier to knead.
-Kneading: Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and sprinkle salt on top. Knead dough for about 6 minutes, until salt is evenly distributed and dough is smooth and springy. Add more flour as need to prevent sticking (but not too much, you want a soft but not too sticky dough).
-1st Rising: Put dough in large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place dough in warm spot to rise until doubled in size (this typically takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, but keep an eye on it if your kitchen is very warm).
-2nd riding: Gently deflate dough and let rise a second time, which will take about half as long as the first rise.
-2nd rising: When dough has doubled in size again, turn it onto floured surface, gently deflate it, and divide dough into 2 portions. Shape into loaves and place into 2 buttered loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
-Baking: After you have shaped the loaves, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When loaves have risen, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Place loaf pans in center of oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until bread is golden brown. Remove from pans and cool completely on rack before slicing.