I was a little cheese-happy and next time would probably reduce the amount of goat cheese I used for the recipe. It tends to saturate the dough inside the bread and make it rather heavy, and the braid doesn't hold its shape that well. On the other hand, it might not be a beauty but goshdangit, the smell and the taste make more than up for the looks! And that is with wintery tomatoes and hothouse basil, just imagine what this will be like with sunkissed tomatoes from the garden and freshly picked herbs......I am SO ready for summer!!
Purists will say that this is neither a bruschetta nor a braid......oh well. Just humor me :-)
1/2 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 Roma tomatoes
8 ounces of goat cheese, room temperature
10 leaves of basil
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Put the flour in a mixing bowl, pour the warm water in and spinkle the yeast on top. Stir several times until blended, then add the olive oil and the salt. Knead until supple and soft, for about 5 minutes on a lightly floured counter top. Set aside in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 45 minutes or until 3/4 of its original size.
In the meantime, cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place the tomato halves cut side down on a paper towel to drain. Mash the goat cheese with a fork until smooth and creamy. Wash the basil leaves, dry them, roll them up and cut them in tiny, narrow strips, chiffonade-style. Cut the tomatoes in thin strips and dice them.
When the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and place it on the counter. Make sure you have a light dusting of flour underneath. Carefully pat the dough into a rectangle, cover and let it rest for about ten minutes. Then roll it out into a rectangle, taking care to not roll it too thin or to push out too much of the gas. It's worked hard to get this airy!
Spread the cheese on the dough surface, being careful to leave about an inch of margin on all sides. Distribute the tomato dice over the cheese and decorate with the basil strips. Carefully roll the dough, starting from the top, towards you making sure you roll it tight but not too tight. Pinch the seam when you get to the bottom and place the roll, seam side down in front of you. Now cut the dough roll in half, lengthwise.
Place each roll next to each other, cut sides up, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Starting from the center, "braid" each half over the other until you reach the end. Pinch ends and tuck under. Make sure that you keep the cut sides facing upward as much as you can. Repeat with the other side. Push back any pieces of tomato that may have fallen out. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes or until it has increased about 1/2 of its original size.
Set the baking sheet in a preheated oven (350F) and bake for about 45 minutes. Drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil, let cool on a rack, slice and enjoy!