Baking Week: Simple Sausage Bread recipe

The world seems mighty small these days. We can get to almost any corner of the globe in a matter of hours. That's pretty amazing really, considering how much time and effort it took to get anywhere as recently as the early part of the last century. And as different cultures introduced themselves to each other (or killed each other), we humans began enjoying the diverse foods and cuisines that we encountered. Today we can experience such an array of flavors -spices, meats, vegetables, fruit, seafood -that it is difficult to think of a time when whole wars were fought over pepper. I've had great sushi in Oklahoma and gulped down a cheeseburger in Asia. Even as diverse as our cultural food evolution has been though, there are a few staples. While eastern Asia harvested their vast abundance of rice, the entire rest of the world found that with some flour, liquid and heat we could make bread.

Bread can only be traced back so far since it's been around before we could write. The earliest versions were probably as simple as the aforementioned ingredients mixed into a paste and cooked over fire. And we know from ancient Aztec to Egypt that breads were made in some form or another. Their role was beyond just food. Homage was paid to bread specifically. Its relevance in religious ceremonies carries over to this day and while Catholics are the most noted with their whole "body of Christ" thing, both central American and Egyptian hieroglyphics depict bread in their own versions of piety. The earliest renditions of breads were believed to be simple flat breads with no leavening. At some point, yeast came into the picture. Since yeast can be naturally occurring on some grains, one might guess that someone mixed up a batch of dough, left it sit too long while stoking the fire (perhaps it rained), came back and found it had grown to twice its size. Given time and the right temperature, yeast eat and belch and fart their way through your dough injecting their gaseous waste product so you can have pockets of risen air. That is leavening. After a great meal, I tend to leaven as well but Lisa finds it far less pleasant than bread.

Since those early days, we've come a long way, baby. We've incorporated milk, eggs, cream, fruits, nuts, sugar, spices and herbs and blended them with too many varieties of grain to name. A simple visit to a bakery reveals cakes, pies, tarts, and loaf after loaf of fresh nose stimulating bread; an overwhelming and pleasant olfactory cacophony. No one leaves a bakery in a bad mood. And if you think it smells good, one bite of warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread with steam releasing from its soft center as you break it apart and you'll know why various world religions feel closer to god eating it.

I love making bread. I don't do it enough. Life tends to get in the way now. Far removed from those days of simply keeping the cave clean, we humans are far too busy. And while I will occasionally spend a day of bread making, I must admit, I cheat and create most of my dough in a bread maker. I then bake them off in the oven in whatever preparation I choose. Once a year, at Christmas, my bread maker goes into high gear and I make about 10 loaves of bread for family and friends. I then wrap and deliver it warm as they come out of the oven. I'm not sure if I invented my little preparation or I got a recipe elsewhere, but I take a mix of Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, parmesan a few herbs and roll it up in fresh dough. Baked off and eaten warm, this savory little tradition of mine seems to be gobbled up pretty quickly (of course, I keep a loaf or two for myself). I know it doesn't sound very Christmas-y but all traditions are born somewhere. My neighbors have grown quite fond of it.

You want to begin this recipe by making dough (duh!). For the recipe below I used a 1.5 lb box preparation for bread makers. I then set my bread maker on "dough" setting and 2 ½ hours later I had what I needed. If you are a purist and the idea of bread maker mix appalls you, a basic white bread recipe is here. Sourdough would be really good too. I do usually make my own dough and I admit they are better (not sure why), but the box has all of the dry ingredients combined. Just add the water and yeast and you're done. I add the step of sifting the dry ingredients because clumps are the enemy of good bread. Though dough itself is your call.

Sausage Bread

1.5 lb Basic white bread dough

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5 links Italian sausage, casing removed

2 cloves garlic

2 cups water

10 slices fresh mozzarella

¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

In a sauté pan over medium high heat add the olive oil and sausage. Break the sausage up into the smallest bits possible. Once browned mostly through reduce heat to medium, add the garlic and 1 cup of water. Continue to work the sausage to break up. Once the water is mostly evaporated (8-10 minutes), add the next cup of water and continue to break up. Once water is completely evaporated (another 10 minutes or so), transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate and let cool. To make the sausage pieces really small, you can pulse them a few times in a food processor or simply place on a cutting board and chop until fine.

Roll the bread dough out to ¼ inch thickness (much like a pizza). If you have the talent to get the dough squared, that'd be great but not necessary. Cover the surface of the dough with the sausage mix leaving about 1 inch of the edge uncovered. Lay the mozzarella slices out evenly and sprinkle with the parmesan and parsley.

Begin rolling the dough from the 6 o' clock position towards 12 0' clock. Once about a third of the way up, fold in the 3 o' clock and 9 o'clock sides (think of a burrito). This fits nicely into a standard 8.5x4.5x2.5 bread pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1hr 15 minutes.

Cool at least 15 minutes, slice and enjoy.

As always, feel free to visit my blog or email me directly at [email protected]

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