When I made the pumpkin cinnamon rolls that I shared recently, it made me realize something. Not just that they were really good, but that I’d not used yeast in ages. Not since the beet and bacon pizza, I suspect. I think I might have had a slight mental block that anything using yeast takes forever to make. In reality, while you need to allow time for rising, the hands on part is relatively short and easy. Plus kneading is pretty therapeutic. Of course I say all this before sharing this twisted bread with peppers, spinach and parmesan which is a bit more involved. However it’s still really not difficult and the result is delicious. And to me at least, adorable-looking too.
The inspiration for this twisted bread
I have recently seen a couple of recipes that I thought were almost too pretty to eat – a pumpkin pie with a pastry turkey on top and a sweet star bread. They both had me a little inspired, then one night as I was trying to go to sleep the idea came to me. I had the idea of bread shaped like a turkey. Of course, sleep was even more elusive as I thought about it, thinking through the details and getting excited. I thought a savory twisted bread might be a great thing to share on your Thanksgiving table and naturally a turkey design would be all the more fitting.
While I’ve made this twisted bread into a turkey design for Thanksgiving, it doesn’t have to have a limited season. You could also easily make this a star by moving the uncut part to the middle rather than towards one side. Alternatively, change the ‘face’ to make it more like a peacock. The point is, this twisted bread with peppers, spinach and parmesan is adaptable in design. And it’s certainly too good for you to only make it once a year.
How it’s made
As I said, this bread is naturally a little more involved than a simple loaf, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. The dough is very similar to a basic bread or pizza dough, apart from he fact that I’ve added an egg in. I felt it would probably help as you were twisting and I think that is true. Once the dough has risen, you roll half in three circles. Top one with the peppers, lay a dough circle over the top, spread over the spinach-parmesan mixture then the last dough circle on top. Make cuts around the circle as in the picture above, starting with wide cuts then adding additional ones in between. Then twist each section, alternating the direction you twist. Make a little notch to make ‘feet’ then use the piece of dough to make little eyes and a beak. Allow to rise a bit more then bake and serve.
This twisted bread with peppers, spinach and parmesan is eye-catching, flavorful and perfect for sharing. It tastes a little bit like pizza, but without getting sauce all over you. It’s a treat that will impress, and only you need to know it’s really not that hard. Which is just as well, as you’ll want to make it again.
- ¼oz/7g fast-acting dried yeast (1 sachet)
- ½cup/120ml warm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 cups/390g all purpose (plain) flour
- 1 cup/135g wholewheat flour
- 1tsp salt
- 1 egg
- ½cup/120ml warm milk
- 2¾oz/80g spinach
- ½cup/12g finely grated parmesan
- 2tbsp roasted piquillo peppers (jarred; 2 peppers)
- Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, add the sugar then stir until both are dissolved. Leave to bubble up in a warm place for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together the flours and salt in a large bowl and warm the milk. When the yeast mixture has bubbled slightly, add it along with the milk and egg to the flours. Mix well, finishing off by hand.
- Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes until it feels less sticky. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough in the bowl, cover and leave to rise in a draft-free place for around 1½ hours, a little longer if possible.
- While the dough is rising, mince up the peppers and remove any excess liquid. Wilt the spinach by pouring boiling water over it then draining. Finely chop it and then add the parmesan and chop both together to mix them.
- After the dough has risen and roughly doubled, divide the dough in half. You need half for this twisted bread. You can either make another of with the rest or use for pizzas, breadsticks or a regular loaf, as you prefer.
- Divide the half for this twisted bread into three and roll each into a circle. Lay one circle on a cookie sheet or parchment. Top it with the chopped peppers. If you are a bit short, spread more to the side and top and leave the middle bottom without (where the body will be). Lay another piece of dough on top, by laying from one side. Try to avoid getting air in between. Top this layer with the spinach mixture then put the final dough circle on top.
- Make cuts around the circle as in the picture above, starting with wide cuts at the top and in a couple places to the side, then adding additional cuts in between. Turn the cookie sheet/parchment as needed to make it easier to cut.
- Carefully twist each section, alternating the direction you twist. Twist each one about three times. Make a little notch to make 'feet' at the bottom then use the piece of dough you have cut out to make little eyes and a beak.
- Allow the bread to rise for another 20 minutes or so before preheating the oven to 400F/200C.
- Once it has had at least 30 minutes to rise, carefully transfer the cookie sheet/parchment to a baking sheet/tray then bake the loaf for approx 15-18 minutes until gently browned. Be careful as you move to a serving board/plate. Best enjoyed warm.