Come on, people, raise a hand and show your age.
How many of your are like me, and were born in PST? No, not Pacific Standard Time. I'm talking Pre-Salsa Time.
That's right, there was a time, especially for those of us on the cold, dark East Coast, when salsa was unheard of. PST was also PBT, and PNT as well...
Yes, you guessed it. Pre-Burrito Time and Pre-Nacho Time. I believe I was 18 before I had a burrito that didn't originate in the frozen foods section (2/$1.00!).
My first genuine Mexican food came from a great little restaurant that was bring your own bottle. We college kids would pool our money and take up several tables on a Friday night, including one just for the beer. I clearly remember spicy refried beans and rice, a killer chimichanga, huge platters of nachos, and ordering burritos by the bunch.
I remember a little less clearly dancing with a great group of friends on those nights, too. Who needed 5-star restaurants when you had 5-star friends and $5 in your pocket?
These days, most of the Mexican food we eat is made at home. My husband, David, makes a mean dish of rice and beans; and tangy-savory guacamole in his molcajete. I often make eggs and refried beans for breakfast, and salsa is a constant companion to so many dishes.
Our fridge has so many different bottles of hot sauce we regularly run out of room, though Cholula and green Tabasco are favorites of mine. David favors Sriracha. I think a good meal of Mexican favorites would be pretty high on my desert island list of forever foods.
This recipe for Mexican Spiral Bread was inspired by my love for refried bean and cheese burritos, and a desire to have some other kinds of swirled bread beside good ol' cinnamon. You start with a batch of bread dough, cook up a spicy filling, layer on some cheese and peppers, then bake until it all melds together into the ultimate burrito loaf.
While you can't pick up and bite the whole loaf, big chunky pieces of this bread and a bowl of salsa will make an unforgettable lunch or snack.
Let's make Mexican Spiral Bread.
In a small bowl, combine your spices. Feel free to adjust different ratios to your tastes. The cheese-y, garlicky goodness of Pizza Dough Flavor makes this filling extra tempting.
For the other spices, I used 1 teaspoon basil, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, and 1 tablespoon chili powder. I used a medium heat powder, but feel free to kick it up (or down) to your tastes.
In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add 1 can of black beans, drained, and 1/2 cup chopped onion. Simmer for 5 minutes, then dump in your bowl o' spice.
Stir and cook for another 5 minutes, until the beans are quite tender and "smush" easily into a paste. Mash the bean/onion mixture and set aside to cool slightly.
Take your batch of risen bread dough and divide it in half. This recipe for Our Favorite Bread is just the right size batch for making two buxom filled loaves.
Roll half the dough into a 9" x 12" rectangle. Spread with half the cooled spicy bean mixture. Leave about 1/2" of dough all around as a border.
If desired, top with 1 cup shredded cheese ( I like the bite of sharp cheddar) and some pickled jalapeño peppers. I'll let you decide how much of those to add.
To roll, start with one of the short ends and roll up firmly. By leaving the border all around the edge of the dough, your ingredients shouldn't pop out the sides; but if they do, just tuck them back in with a finger.
When you reach the end, seal the seams together and pinch firmly with your fingers.
Place the log of dough into a greased 9" x 5" loaf pan, seam-side down. Placing the seam at the bottom will prevent it from bursting open during baking.
Rise on the counter for about 20 to 30 minutes, until full and round. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190° to 200°F.
To keep the top crust tender and avoid ripping when you slice, brush the top of the warm bread with a little butter. Not a lot, just a thin layer.
There you have it. A thick slice of warm bread, melty cheese, and fragrant, spicy bean filling.
If eating the bread warm, I like to cut it into hefty chunks for grabbing and devouring. A few chunks of bread and a nice cold beer would make a perfect snowy day snack. Or a perfect sunny day snack, for that matter!
To be perfectly honest, this bread above all others gave me trouble with "crust gap". I made several loaves for testing, and at least three of them had crust gapping issues under the top crust. I believe the cheese is the culprit here, so be careful that your dough is well covered with beans to act as glue. Also, be careful not to over-rise the loaves.
I don't mind the gap (tee-hee, a little British subway humor there), it just makes it a little harder to make grilled cheese from the slices with gaps.
OH MY CHEESE-Y GOODNESS! Buttery, crisp crust; hot, spicy refried beans, and CHEESE! That's right, there's cheese in the spiral, then you sandwich more cheese between the slices and let it all brown up. Jerry Springer confession time; I ate three of these sandwiches in two days – they're that good.
Having made so many loaves, I ended up with one whole loaf left over. The little gray cells started to work, and I realized this would make one heck of a cheese-y, beany, savory bread casserole. To make a savory casserole/bread pudding, combine:
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- ½ cup cream or half & half
- 5 large eggs
- 6 cups cubed bread
Bake in a buttered 2-quart casserole dish at 350°F for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until all of the milk is absorbed and the pudding is well browned on top. It makes an excellent side dish for grilled chicken or steak, and I think it would be perfect on a brunch buffet line.
Please share your favorite ideas for non-cinnamon swirl breads. Remember, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing swirl!
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