I'm sitting here in my usual spot, thinking about home. My phone pinged this morning with a message from my oldest sister: In one week we'll all be at home together!!!
That means sleeping in my narrow double bed. Brushing my teeth next to my sister in the mirror. The sound of doors opening and shutting as we all get ready for bed, footsteps in the hall in the early morning, the busy warmth of a house full of people.
Not being lonely. Breathing fresh air. Puzzles spread, half-complete, across the coffee table. Five other people who feel like pieces of a whole. Nighttime card games. No more city streets, no more strangers in the coffee line, no more rattling subway trains.
Baked goods: chocolate biscotti, sticky-sweet cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies. Waffles in the freezer, loaves of anadama bread on the counter.
And I'll add this star bread to the list this year, because if there was ever a festive holiday recipe, this is it. It's stunning to look at and extremely fun to make -- every time I've done it, I'm surprised by how just a few cuts and twists transform a lump of bread dough into a completely intricate shape.
You can switch up the filling however you like. I've made a version with thin layers of pesto and a sweet version with cinnamon sugar. If you choose to make a sweet version, increase the amount of sugar in the dough to 1/4 cup.
Whatever filling you choose, make sure it isn't too liquidy. I'd recommend sticking with thicker pastes (like Nutella or pesto), or adding mix-ins like chopped nuts, fruits, or chocolate to softened butter. When you cut and twist the dough, the filling will be exposed, so it needs to adhere to the dough (which is where the brushed egg comes in), and it shouldn't be too wet or it will leak everywhere.
Cheese & Herb Star Bread
For the dough
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
240 grams all-purpose flour (2 cups)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup potato flour
For the filling
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 tablespoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add all of the dough ingredients to a large bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix to incorporate and then knead until you have a soft, smooth dough.
Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough is almost doubled in size. When the dough is ready, divide it into four equal pieces.
Roll each piece of dough out into a 10" round.
Place the first circle of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the surface lightly with the beaten egg, leaving 1" space without egg around the edge.
In a medium bowl, mix the dried herbs, salt, and garlic powder with the softened butter to form a well-mixed paste.
Spread 1/3 of the herbed butter in a thin layer over the egg. Sprinkle 1/3 of the grated cheese over the filling.
Place the second circle of dough on top of the filling. Repeat with the butter and cheese, top with the next circle of dough, repeat with the filling, then top with the final circle of dough.
Trim the edges of the circles if they aren't even. Place a 2" wide drinking glass, biscuit cutter, or other circular object in the center of the top circle of dough.
Using a very sharp knife, cut through the dough from the outer edge to the edge of the circular object in the center. Cut sixteen equal slices.
Take two slices of dough and twist them away from each other twice. Repeat around the entire circle. Take each pair of twisted slices and press the ends together firmly to seal the dough.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 15 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the top of the loaf with beaten egg and bake it for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.