Savory Holiday Star Bread with Roasted Red Peppers, Basil Pesto, Asiago Cheese and Pistachios

 
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Festive bread to brighten the holiday table with red, white and green.

I’ve partnered with Life’s Simple Ingredients to bring you this delicious show stopping holiday bread. It is also baked with a mixture of wholesome whole wheat and all-purpose flour to keep some extra nutrition packed in.

What I love most about this recipe is that you can really be as adventurous as you want with the flavours. To make a sweet version, simply add an extra 1/2 cup of sugar to the dough mixture.

Savory Holiday Star Bread
with Roasted Red Peppers, Basil Pesto, Asiago Cheese and Pistachios

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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • 8g package of active dry yeast

  • ¾ cup milk, plus ¼ cup warm milk

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 1 egg at room temperature, plus 1 egg for brushing

  • ¼ cup butter, softened

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ¼ cup basil pesto (prepared or homemade)

  • ¼ cup chopped pistachios

  • ¾ cup grated Asiago cheese

  • ½ cup pureed roasted red peppers (prepared or homemade) Note: if your puree has too much liquid, strain before using so the texture is more of a loose paste)

Heat ¼ cup milk in microwave for 15-20 seconds. Add yeast and sugar, let stand for 10 minutes. In large blow, add the flour, egg, butter, ¾ cup milk, salt and yeast mixture. Combine until a sticky ball forms. Turn onto counter and knead for 6-8 minutes, or until the dough becomes soft and elastic. Place into a large lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for 1 hour until dough has doubled in size.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into four equal parts. Shape into fours balls and cover for another 10-15 minutes. 

Roll one ball a time into a 10-inch circle. Place dough on parchment paper lined pizza pan or large baking sheet. Spread the red pepper paste on the dough, leaving half-an-inch space from the edge. Roll out a second ball, layer onto of the first and sprinkle with cheese and pistachios. Roll out third ball, layer with basil pesto. Roll out forth ball and place on top.

Using a cup as guide, place in the centre of the dough. Cut the dough into four equal parts, stopping at the edge of the cup. Cut each quarter section twice more so you are left with 12 slices (this will make a 6 point star, if you’d like a 8 point star, cut each quarter into four slices). Pick up two slices (one in each hand) and twist the strands outwards twice and pinch the two twists closed together. Repeat until all slices have been twisted and combined.   

Preheat oven to 400. Brush bread with beaten egg, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 20 minute, or until golden brown. Serve hot.

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Some sweet alternatives - Cinnamon Star and Hazelnut Nutella.

Cinnamon Star Bread
Hazelnut Nutella Star Bread
 

Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls with Lion’s Mane and Chaga Mushrooms

 
Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls

The incredible health benefits of edible mushrooms
Fungus has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Lion’s mane mushroom is best known for their benefits of improved cognitive health and reduced inflammation. It’s great for supporting short-term and visual recognition memory.  Chaga is known for boosting the immune system, being a potent antioxidant, and lowering cholesterol. It contains melanin, which helps fights radiation and tumors. Chaga is also good at helping the body adapt and respond to stress.

Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls

Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls with Lion’s Mane and Chaga Mushrooms
Makes 20-24

1 cup hazelnut meal (ground fresh hazelnuts or purchase as a meal)
1 ½ cup medjool date, pits removed
1/3 cup cocoa powder
½ cup shredded coconut flakes
4 tbs coconut oil, melted
3 tbs protein powder
2 tbs powdered lion’s mane mushroom
1 tbs powdered chaga mushroom
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt

Powdered mushrooms
I find the best way to get powdered mushrooms is to purchase them in their dehydrated state and pulse into a powder using a spice grinder. You can usually find dehydrated lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms at your local Asian supermarket.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the batter comes together and sticks. If you find the batter is still loose, add a tablespoon of water and pulse. Form the batter into small balls. If you wanted to be extra fancy, you could coat the energy balls in some melted chocolate and sprinkle with some fun toppings. I like to use bee pollen, pistachios, wild rose petals, coconut flakes, or some falvoured salt like raspberry.

Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls
Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls
Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Balls
 

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

 
Hot cross buns

I think I might have started my own personal Easter tradition. I didn't grow up with hot cross buns being made in our house, or even purchased around Easter. However, with my ever increasing love for making bread, this is second year in a row I've made them. I'm sure I will make them again next year, or perhaps a second batch for Easter weekend! 

This year I wanted to make something a little different than the traditional bun made with raisin. I had some amazing whole wheat flour from a local Alberta farm, Gold Forest Grains,  I've been wanting to bake with. They grow heirloom and heritage wheat, stoned milled in small batches. Trust me when I say, you can feel the difference when you touch and smell this flour. 

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12

Yeast Mixture & Dough
1 tbs dry active yeast
½ cup sugar, plus 2 tbs
1 ½ cups lukewarm milk
1 ¼ cups (two apples) of chopped apple
4 ½ cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
1 ½ tbs cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
50g(1 ½ oz) melted butter

Mixture for Crosses
½ cup plain all-purpose flour
1/3 cup water

Glaze
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water, plus more for blooming the gelatin
2 tsp powdered unflavoured gelatin

Add the yeast, milk and 2 tbs of sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes. The mixture should start to form bubbles (activating the yeast). Add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, egg, melted butter, remaining sugar, and apples to the yeast mixture. Mix until it forms a workable ball. Place the dough on a floured surface and kneed for 5-10 minutes, until the dough feels elastic. Let the dough rise in a lightly oiled bowl for 1 hour; covered with a damp cloth. The dough should double in size.

Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan and line with parchment paper. Form the dough into 12 evenly sized balls and place in the pan. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. To make the dough for the cross; mix the remaining flour and water in a small bowl until it forms a loose paste. It shouldn’t be too runny, or too thick. Place the mixture in a piping bag, or plastic bag and cut off one corner. Pipe the mixture in a cross pattern over the buns. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.

To make the glaze, sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup cold water until it “blooms” (has absorbed the water ~10 minutes).  In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water on low to medium heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the gelatin and heat for 1 minute. Glaze buns while they are still hot out of the oven.

Serve buns warm, with butter and honey.

Hot cross buns
Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns