It’s official. I’m completely, totally and utterly over winter. I desperately need a break from all things winter-related. Ankle-deep slush puddles, sleet and snow, heavy winter coats, wooly hats, practical boots and frigid temperatures… they all need to go.
I think the tipping point was the faceful of sleet that smacked me in the face as I left the office yesterday… several words came out of my mouth that aren’t really fit to share here, but suffice to say that I exercised my right to swear fluently as a Canadian (ie. in both official languages).
At this point, all I want is to sit in my backyard with my toes wiggling around in fresh green grass, sipping on a cold drink on a bright sunny day. I want to dive into a juicy steak grilled over charcoal, thick slices of ripe tomatoes still warm from the sun, and race to eat an ice cream cone before it melts away in the heat. I want to hop on my bright orange bike first thing on a Saturday morning so that I can take the long way ’round to the farmers market and beat the crowds. I want to take a long walk after dinnertime while it’s still bright, and watch the sun go down at 9pm. I want summer. NOW.
Sadly, I’ve yet to discover any magical powers I can use to bring on an early spring… so I’m going to suck it up, though I can’t promise that I won’t be swearing under my breath every time I pull on my parka and every time I have to jump over an ankle-deep slush puddle between now and springtime.
At least I’ve got this Turkey and Red Pepper Braid to keep me company in the meantime. It reminds me of picnics because it neatly tucks everything into a conveniently portable (and delicious) package that’s somewhere between a sandwich and a stuffed bread… though it’s also perfectly suited for those crappy winter days when I just want to pretend.
- 1¼ cup warm water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 4 tsp active dry yeast
- 4 cups flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp honey mustard
- 2 whole roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
- ½ lb deli sliced Asiago or Provolone cheese
- ½ lb deli sliced smoked turkey breast
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- In a small bowl, mix together warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir until the yeast is dissolved, then set aside to proof for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, sift flour and salt into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the proofed yeast mixture, olive oil and chopped rosemary. Begin mixing at low speed, slowly work up to medium high speed as the dough starts to pull together into a ball. Continue mixing for another 5-6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, and transfer to a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for an hour, or until just about doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two pieces, and knead each one four or five times. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for five minutes.
- Roll out the first piece of dough into a 14x12 inch rectangle on a piece of parchment. Spread two tablespoons of honey mustard into a 4-inch wide strip running lengthwise down the middle of the rectangle, leaving a 4-inch border of uncovered dough on each side. Layer with half of the roasted red peppers, half of the turkey and half of the cheese. Repeat this process with the second piece of dough and the remaining fillings.
- To shape the braids, cut the borders on each side into ¾ inch wide strips, stopping within ½ inch of the filling. Starting at the top end of the loaf, fold down the first ¾ inch onto the filling. Repeat with the bottom edge, folding up the last ¾ inch of dough. Finally, fold in alternating strips at an angle across the filling to create a braid pattern. Pinch the ends to seal. Transfer each loaf to a baking sheet, then cover with a damp towel and let rise for 30 minutes or until slightly puffed.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400ºF.
- After half an hour, uncover the loaves, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caraway and cumin seeds. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing, or cool completely to room temperature to pack for a picnic.
Note: I used turkey and roasted red peppers because that’s what I happened to have on hand, but this loaf is infinitely customizable. Just use whatever combination of spreads and fillings might suit your fancy – think classic ham and swiss with a grainy mustard, Reuben-style pastrami with sauerkraut and swiss, or even a vegetarian version with roasted vegetables, pesto and goat cheese. I’ve even seen it made with ham, cheddar and scrambled eggs as a brunch dish… so by all means, please play around!