Doesn't this look good? It's tomato, basil, and garlic filled Pane Bianco, the winning recipe from the first-ever National Festival of Breads. Dianna Wara of Washington, Ill., won the gold in Wichita last year with this visually stunning and taste-bud-pleasing recipe inspired by her husband's Italian heritage. And with the 2011 National Festival of Breads just open for entries, it seemed like a good time to share the recipe and some hints from Dianna.

Here's Dianna:

Part of her prize package from the National Festival of Breads was an all-expenses-paid trip for a baking class of her choice at our Baking Education Center here in Norwich, Vermont. She came this summer for the four-day class Artisan Baking at Home, where she learned to make baguettes, sourdough bread, croissants, and more. Not a bad prize, eh?!

A special education teacher by trade, Dianna says baking is her way to relax - and if she can bring home some great prizes while she's at it, so much the better! She looks for inspiration for her contest entries in the grocery store - ice cream flavors, she says, are a good way to gauge what's trendy at the moment - and at local bakeries, scoping out the latest flavor combinations, shaping techniques, and popular items. And it seems to be working: Dianna has entered well over a dozen competitions this year, taking first place in three so far.

Now, before I show you how to make this award-winning bread creation, I want to tell you just a bit more about the National Festival of Breads.

The National Festival of Breads is America’s only amateur bread-baking contest, celebrating the relationship between producer and consumer in a biennial contest. Its categories include Ethnic Breads, Rolls, Time-Saving and Easy Breads, and Whole Grain Breads. Eight finalists receive an expenses-paid trip to the live competition in Wichita; and the grand-prize winner receives $2,000.

So start testing those recipes - we had hundreds of submissions last time around, and we hope to receive even more this time.

Finally, what you've been waiting for: The Recipe (slightly adapted in our test kitchen).

Put the following in a bowl:

1/2 cup warm water

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 cup lukewarm low-fat milk

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons salt

6 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

Beat on medium speed of an electric mixer for a minute or so, until the dough starts to come together. Dianna's original recipe called for 5 to 5 1/2 cups of flour, but we found that made a very sticky dough, so we added a bit more flour... make a more cohesive dough that looked like something we could make bread with.

Switch to a dough hook, and knead for about 5 to 7 minutes, till you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.

Grease a bowl with olive oil. Place your dough into the bowl, and turn it over to grease the top. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until double, about 45 minutes.

While your dough rises, prepare the ingredients you'll need to fill the bread. First, drain the oil from an 8.5-ounce jar of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes; lay the drained tomatoes on some paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

Using kitchen shears, make 2/3 cup chopped basil (about 1/2 ounce). Chop the sun-dried tomatoes the same way. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of shredded Italian cheese blend, and 3/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Once the dough has doubled...

...deflate it and divide it in two. You'll make two lovely loaves with this recipe.

Roll one piece of the dough out...

...until you have a rectangle approximately 8 1/2” by 22”. A kneading/rolling mat makes the measuring (and cleanup!) easy.

Sprinkle on half of the garlic...

...and half of the tomatoes...

...and half of the basil and cheese.

Now roll the whole thing into a log the long way.

Pinch the edge to seal, and place the log seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Here's the part that looks tricky, but really isn't: shaping.

Get those kitchen shears out again, and cut lengthwise down the center of the log, about 1” deep, leaving about 1/2” uncut at each end to hold everything together.

It'll start to fall apart a little bit; don't worry, just keep on going.

Keeping the cut side up, take the ends of the log and form an "S" shape.

Tuck the ends under the middle of the "S" to form a figure 8; pinch the ends together.

Cover the loaf and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, fill and shape the second loaf, and preheat your oven to 350°.

When the first loaf has risen, place it in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting with foil after 15 to 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The kitchen will begin to smell wonderfully of tomatoes, basil, garlic, and cheese.

When the first loaf is golden brown, pull it out, set it on a rack to cool, and bake the second loaf.

Mmmmm. Enjoy your gorgeous loaf - preferably with a crowd of family and friends who'll be so impressed by its unique shape!

Now that you've been inspired, go forth and create your own special recipe to enter in the 2011 National Festival of Breads!

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Pane Bianco.

Filed Under: Recipes
The Author

About Allison Furbish

Allison Furbish is a native of the Upper Valley, where King Arthur Flour is based, and an avid lifelong baker especially enthusiastic about anything chocolate.

View all posts by Allison Furbish