Thursday, September 6, 2012

RIDICULOUSLY EASY Rustic Tomato Basil Parmesan Bread

A couple weekends ago I met my girlfriends for a weekend trip in Nashville. I'd like to take a moment and say that the only thing more wonderful than homemade bread is sharing it with women who can laugh at themselves. And you. And then make even you laugh at you.

We went to the spa in honor of one of our friend's new baby--instead of a baby shower. And as if that weren't smart enough (wish I could take credit for that genius plan)...two of the significant others of the girls...well, they made us food. Like real food. Not microwave popcorn food, but like BAKED bread, NYT recipe egg strata, oven roasted potatoes and onions, and buckwheat pancakes on the griddle. We need more of these men in our lives, no? I mean, it's been a while since a man made me French press coffee like this...

Well, we took the bread to the spa. Because that's what one does when olive oil is the spa theme. Here's a picture of girlfriend, Harmony, enjoying the fruits of a man's labor before the spa. (And check out her absolutely hilarious blog HERE.)

Now, tell me you wouldn't want to eat, drink, and be merry and then rubbed down with women who are probably going to cause problems in a nursing home with you one day...instead of making small talk with people you may not know over tissue paper and diapers (sorry Jolene).

Anyway, when I got back from Nashville, I started craving homemade bread again. Just like that. Even if the temperature has been in the 80s. Years ago, my good friend, Erinn, would make tomato basil bread in her breadmaker. It was delicious. And now years later, I miss it (and her, since we're discussing friends) and wonder what a rustic tomato-bread loaf would taste like. So, after playing around, the conclusion is that it is delicious and almost as easy if you don't mind waiting overnight (so worth it). I urge you to try my little experiment because I think it's going to turn out beautifully for you. And again, if you know me by now, you know...NO KNEADING!

This bread is the perfect transition between summer and fall. If you have basil growing on your porch like myself, give it a go. Read this slowly: This bread is idiot proof. I mean, it is RIDICULOUSLY EASY. 

All you need that's considered special equipment is a cast iron pot (a dutch oven if you will) like the ones Le Creuset or Staub makes. Even Aldi sells knock offs these days. You can find these pots on Amazon, at Target, TJMaxx, Marshalls, even Walmart. It is THE ultimate 'tool' in making rustic breads. You definitely need one. LOVE LOVE LOVE these pots.


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil, rinsed and patted dry
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, preferably NOT oil-packed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • *A DUTCH OVEN (I used a 3.5 qt size--which is about 3.3 L)

Using a food processor or large knife, process or chop finely the dried tomatoes and basil.

Using a stand mixer OR a medium to large sized bowl and spatula, mix all the ingredients, except the water. Then pour in the water and mix until the dough is shaggy and comes together easily. This should only take a minute or two.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours. Overnight is really ideal.

When you are ready to bake the bread, place some flour on a clean kitchen towel. Dump your dough onto this floured towel and flip it over once or twice until it is a round shape and evenly covered with flour. Flip the towel to cover the round shape. Next, place a lidded dutch oven pot in the oven and turn the oven on to 450 degrees. When the oven has preheated, continue to let the pot heat or 'bake' on its own for another 10-15 minutes.

When the pot is good and hot, carefully take the pot out. Then, carefully lift up dough with edges of the damp cloth/towel and dump your dough into the hot dutch oven pot. Shake the pot gently side to side to let the dough even out in the pot. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking the bread for another 15 minutes until it is baked throughout and golden in color.

Check out the green and red flecks of color...

I made two loaves. So glad I did. And that's how you meet your neighbors in a big city.

Before I forget....some major things to keep in mind with the breads I post on this blog:
  1. If you want a crispy crust, store the bread in a paper bag.
  2. If you want a chewy crust, store the bread in a plastic bag after it has cooled. 
  3. I suggest refrigerating it after a couple of days and warming it up either in the oven (which can restore some crispi-ness, the microwave--which can restore some chewiness, or just toast it). Due to the fact that it doesn't have preservatives, the bread can spoil faster than store-bought breads.

And boys? Thanks again. You done good. Sorry I didn't take your picture as you smiled when you served us food. Your mommas would be proud. 

*You can use a bigger size pot, but the bread will be a bit thinner and spread out more. The 3.5 quart size is probably my favorite for rustic breads. I use the Le Creuset brands (mainly round shape) and if you have these brand of pots and don't know what size they are, check the number on the bottom of the pot. I found this little chart on a message board and it is helpful in understanding what size I'm dealing with--so if your Le Creuset pot has a 16 on the bottom of it, it's a 1.5 quart pot, etc. See below:

For Round Dutch Ovens:

16: 1.3 liters (L) = 1.5 quarts (qt) 
18: 1.8 L = 2 qt
20: 2.4 L = 2.5 qt
22: 3.3 L = 3.5 qt
24: 4.2 L = 4.5 qt
26: 5.3 L = 5.5 qt
28: 6.7 L = 7.25 qt
30: 8.4 L = 9 qt
34: 12.4 L = 13.25 qt



  1. I'm confused by the sequence the dough follows.
    In the 4th paragraph below the ingredient list you have the dough dumped onto a towel and covered with a towel.
    However, in the 5th paragraph, once the pot is ready you remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and dump the dough from the bowl. How did it get from the towel back into the bowl? Do you put it back into the bowl with the towel?

  2. Oh! Thank you for catching my mistake. So sorry about the confusion. I have corrected it--once it's out of the bowl, it's out & doesn't go back in--the floured dough goes into the towel and then from the towel it is flipped into the hot dutch oven. It's super easy.

  3. YUM! Following you :) Maybe I can have you feature a recipe on my blog as a guest post