See these twists? Well, I made them just so that I could use my new toy : an immersion blender! I've been using my jar blender well beyond it's time and capacity, I think. The blades don't seem to be so sharp anymore -- it takes me forever to puree basil leaves for pesto and, even after an eternity, there are pieces of basil left unblended. And don't get me started on how long it takes me to blend nuts (on the rare occasion I try and make peanut butter). Plus, I've gotten tired of carrying a hot pot of soup (I make soups quite often) across the kitchen to the blender and then back again to the stove.
So, yeah, I bought an immersion blender: a hand-held blender/stick blender that can puree food in any container be it a pot, a pan, a tumbler .. you name it. I can just immerse it in my soup in the saucepan on the stove (heat off, of course) and in a minute or less, everything is pureed nicely. The immersion blender, with it's smaller blade, is also better for small quantities of food than the jar blender and as I cook mostly for two, it's ideal.
Since Ivy (who blogs at hungryc.com ) gave me a large bunch of basil from her garden last Friday, I decided to make basil pesto over the weekend. And since I didn't feel like eating pasta or pizza or quiche (dishes which I usually use pesto in), I dug up a recipe on pesto bread sticks from heatovento350.com which I'd bookmarked a while ago.
Making the pesto with the immersion blender was so easy and SO, SO much fun. Watching everything turn to mush as I moved the wand of the blender around the jar containing the basil leaves, cheese, nuts and olive oil was pretty cool. The blades worked quickly and efficiently and within a minute or less, my pesto was done. Not a stray leaf in sight. (For a recipe on pesto, check out this previous post!)
And the washing up was super easy too. No need to dismantle any parts; no need to wash multiple parts (jar, lid, blade, rubber locking ring ... it used to be such a chore. With the immersion blender, I just have to clean the stainless steel wand. That was it.
The recipe for the bread twists is a basic bread recipe: flour, water, salt, yeast. Mixed together, kneaded, rested and then rolled thin.
2 cups + 2 tbsp bread flour
11/8 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup water
Whisk the flour, salt and yeast together. Add the oil and mix, using your hands, into the dough. Make a well and add the water gradually (as much as needed) in the well, pulling in the dough to the centre until a dough forms. You may need a tbsp or so more/less water.
Grease a bowl with some olive oil and once the dough has come together, shape it into a ball and place it into the oiled bowl, turning it around so it is coated with the oil all over. Cover and let rest for an hour or so, until it has risen to double.
Apart from the pesto, I also chopped up some sun dried tomatoes (after re-hydrating them in olive oil) and used them as a filling as well.
Sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and knead it a couple of times. Transfer to a lightly floured or oiled surface and roll thin (about 1/4 cm).
With the long edge of the dough facing you, spread the filling onto the rolled dough: if you like the sticks to be filled with pesto, spread it all over the sheet of dough. If you'd rather just a speckle of pesto, spread the filling only halfway up the length of the dough sheet. Whatever your choice, leave about 1cm along the edges clean.
Fold the top over to the bottom edge and seal the edges with your fingers. Cut strips (thinner is better and the dough expands and rises while baking) with a pizza cutter/knife. Twist each strip and place on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with some olive oil and let them sit on the tray for about 15 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Once the twists have rested, put the tray in the oven and bake for about 15- 20 mins (if you like the sticks more chewy, take them out at 15; if you prefer them crunch leave them an extra 5 mins).