If you’re not familiar with Muir Glen, they specialize in tomatoes, pasta sauces, and salsas – so TOMATOES! Their company focuses on three principles: organic, pollinators, and zero waste. All the tomatoes are grown in the Sacramento Valley of California and they work with local bees to grow the best organic tomato. Yes, bees. Bees are natural pollinators and help sustain a healthy ecosystem. Muir Glen has partnered with the Xerces Society to plant pollinator habitats to preserve the bee population. They also created a composting facility to ensure their tomato waste is regenerated into natural resources. Talk about an environmentally conscious organization!
I chose to work with Muir Glen’s fire roasted tomatoes. I absolutely love these canned tomatoes. Too often are canned tomatoes tasteless and just full of sugar to impart flavor. But there is a natural tomato sweetness and slight tart from their tomatoes. And they’re really fire roasted. The evidence is in the skin! The tomato skin is visibly charred and gives the tomato a delicious smokiness as well. These are the perfect canned tomatoes to keep stocked in the pantry.
One of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is in caprese salad. Caprese is a very simple Italian salad made from tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s so simple but so refreshing and satisfying. I wanted to bring this flavor profile into my recipe. The one thing about caprese is that it’s definitely a fork and knife dish and I began to think how much fun it would be to have it compact in a single bite. So I began to brainstorm. Single bite. The sandwich was actually invented by an Englishman because he wanted something easy to eat while playing cards. So, like a sandwich. Hmm, what if I stuffed the bread? Swirl bread? Japanese-style swirl bread?
Japanese-style bread is super soft and fluffy. If you think American white bread is fluffy, I really urge you to find a specialty foods store to try Japanese bread – it’s life changing. Japanese-style bread is one of the most popular, but all of the breads in Asia are much fluffier and softer than European breads. Why? They all use a water roux bread starter, also known as tangzhong. This water roux is a mixture of water, milk, and flour and cooked over heat until thick. Cooking the flour hydrates it further and allows the gluten to develop in the flour. When the water roux is added to the bread dough mixture, the gluten strands trap water creating a softer texture.
A few special tools you’ll need for this recipe:
- A loaf pan: I used a 8″x5″ pan
- A stand mixer: you can do all this by hand, but trust me that it’s easier with the stand mixer
- A thermometer to check the temperature to ensure the dough is fully cooked (we don’t want Paul Hollywood saying your bread is underdone)
You can choose to make one huge bread loaf with a single swirl in the center, or 4 swirl sections (as the recipe below shows). It’s just soooooooo satisfying to pull the bread apart so I like to bake bread in segments. This is totally personal preference. Whichever way you choose, this caprese bread loaf is so delicious. The sweetness and light acidity of the tomatoes working with the herby freshness of the basil and saltiness of the mozzarella against the fluffy and soft textures of the bread make this bread loaf a meal all on its own. No shame, I finished this bread loaf in one day for lunch and dinner. I loaf this bread from my head tomatoes! ???
Caprese Bread Loaf
- Tomato Filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
- 15 whole basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- Bread Starter
- 3 tablespoons bread flour
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 21/2 cups bread flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 (0.75 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1 egg, room temperature and beaten
- 1/2 cup milk, room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- Handful of shredded mozzarella
- Step 1 Add oil and garlic to a large sauté pan and cook over medium low heat for a minute.
- Step 2 Add canned tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Step 3 Blend tomatoes and return to saute pan.
- Step 4 Cook over low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool down.
- Step 5 Add starter ingredients to a small saucepan. Stir ingredients together until there are no lumps.
- Step 6 Turn on the heat to medium low and stir constantly until a thick paste forms.
- Step 7 Place saucepan aside and allow starter to cool.
- Step 8 Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the starter, egg, and milk to the dry ingredients and turn on stand mixer on low and knead for about 5 minutes.
- Step 9 Add the butter one cube at a time and continue to knead on low for another 5 minutes.
- Step 10 Increase the speed to medium until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and begins to look smooth.
- Step 11 Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rest between 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on ambient room temperature). Note: the dough does not need to double in size.
- Step 12 Grease loaf pan with butter and set aside.
- Step 13 Punch dough down and transfer onto a work surface. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Cover dough as you work with each quarter to avoid the surface from drying out.
- Step 14 Working one quarter at a time, roll out the dough into a 9×6 inch rectangle. Spread 2 tablespoons of tomato filling onto the dough evenly and sprinkle about a tablespoon of mozzarella over the filling. Fold in about ½ inch of the longer sides of the dough rectangle and roll the dough into a log.
- Step 15 Place the log seam side down into the loaf pan and repeat with remaining quarters of dough.
- Step 16 Cover pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on ambient room temperature).
- Step 17 Preheat oven to 350F and adjust rack to be in the center.
- Step 18 Brush dough with egg wash and sprinkle handful of mozzarella over the top.
- Step 19 Bake for about 35 minutes until top is golden brown (or until an internal temperature reaches 190F). If the top is browning too fast, cover with aluminum foil.
- Step 20 Let pan cool for at least 5 minutes before unmolding the bread. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before eating.