Pane Bianco

This recipe makes a flavorful loaf filled with fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic, and shredded cheese. The bread has a wonderfully soft texture, yet the dough is strong enough to hold its elaborate shape, thanks to the high protein content of bread flour. With an overnight rest, this recipe can be broken up over two days to fit into a busy schedule; see a sample schedule in "tips," below. 

This recipe is a slightly modified version of the one Dianna Wara debuted at the first-ever National Festival of Breads.

 

Prep
30 mins
Bake
35 to 40 mins
Total
2 hrs 40 mins
Yield
1 large loaf
Pane Bianco - select to zoom
Pane Bianco - select to zoom
Pane Bianco - select to zoom
Pane Bianco - select to zoom
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Instructions

  1. To make the dough: Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl (or the bucket of your bread machine), and mix and knead — by hand, using a mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth, very soft dough. The dough should stick a bit to the bottom of the bowl if you're using a stand mixer.

    Pane Bianco – Step 1
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it's doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. 

    Pane Bianco – Step 2
  3. Meanwhile, thoroughly drain the tomatoes, patting them dry. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut them into smaller bits. (Shears are also useful for slicing/chopping the basil.)

  4. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat it into a 22" x 8 1/2" rectangle, deflating it slightly. Spread with the cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

    Pane Bianco – Step 4
  5. Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

    Pane Bianco – Step 5
  6. Using kitchen shears, start 1/2" from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1" deep, to within 1/2" of the other end.

    Pane Bianco – Step 6
  7. Keeping the cut side up, form an "S" shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the "S" to form a "figure 8;" pinch the ends together to seal. When shaping the loaf, tuck any larger pieces of tomato or basil down into the dough (to avoid char).

    Pane Bianco – Step 7
  8. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Want to add flexibility to your schedule? See "tips," below, for details on how to let the dough rise for 8 to 12 hours (or overnight).

  9. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

    Pane Bianco – Step 9
  10. Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

  11. Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

    Pane Bianco – Step 11
  12. Storage instructions: Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

Tips from our Bakers

  • To prepare ahead: Follow the recipe as written through shaping the loaf (step 7). Cover the bread and refrigerate it for 8 to 12 hours, or overnight. When ready to bake, let the loaf rest at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes while the oven preheats to 350°F, then bake as directed (step 10). 

  • Substitute all-purpose flour 1:1 for the bread flour in the recipe, if desired. Reduce the water to 1/4 cup.
  • Want to make a gluten-free version of this bread? See our gluten-free focaccia recipe, with its tips for adding filling.
  • Want to make a softer loaf with extended shelf life? Try the tangzhong technique, a Japanese method for increasing the softness and shelf life of yeast rolls. Begin by measuring out the flour and milk you’ll be using in the recipe. Now take 3 tablespoons of the measured flour and the 1/2 cup milk; put them in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it forms a thick slurry; this will take about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer the cooked mixture to a bowl, let it cool to lukewarm, then combine it with the remaining flour and the other dough ingredients, increasing the amount of water to 99g (1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon). Proceed with the recipe as directed. Well-wrapped and stored at room temperature, your loaf should stay soft and fresh for several days.

  • For additional tips and variations, see our blog post: Pane Bianco Bakealong.