Plain ol' white bread dough - the backdrop for flavorful creations

A while back, American communities with a large ethnic population had a local bakery producing loaves of crusty bread twice a day. It came out of the ovens early in the morning for the restaurants and early risers, and again late in the afternoon. Everyone was entitled to a loaf of fresh bread for dinner.

One of my neighbors who liked the idea of always serving fresh bread would drop in to the bakery around 4 for a crusty loaf a couple of times a week. Standing around in the pleasant, floury, yeasty atmosphere of freshly made bread , waiting for the next batch to come from the oven, she made a small discovery.

Other people were buying the unbaked dough, taking it home to enact other dramas for late evening snacks or at unexpected, informal parties.

Few of us are close to this kind of bakery anymore, but the supermarket has several kinds of loaves of unbaked bread in the freezer section.

The variety is eye-widening, but the following recipes have been developed for ordinary white bread that forms a backdrop for other flavors.

In the following recipe, dried apricots, plump raisins, sliced almonds, and spices are swirled inside the bread, and then the loaf is glazed with honey and decorated with more apricots and almonds. Almond Apricot Roll 1 loaf (1 pound) frozen bread dough 2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped 1/3 cup sliced almonds, chopped 1/3 cup raisins 1/4 cup apricot preserves 3 tablespoons honey 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon allspice 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Allow frozen dough to thaw to room temperature. Soak chopped apricots and raisins in 1 cup warm water for about 5 minutes. Pat dry thoroughly. Mix apricots, raisins, almonds, preserves, cinnamon, allspice, and 2 tablespoons honey together.

On lightly floured board roll thawed dough out to 12-inch-by-14-inch rectangle. Brush dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Spread apricot mixture over dough, leaving 1/2-inch margin on all sides.

Beginning with 14-inch side, roll dough up tightly in jelly-roll fashion. Seal ends together to form oval and place on lightly greased sheet pan, seam side down. Using kitchen shears, make slashes 1/4-inch deep to expose filling at 1-inch intervals.

Brush with remaining butter. Allow to rise until double in size, approximately 1 hour. Bake in preheated 350-degree F. oven 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Brush warm loaf with remaining honey for glaze, and garnish with dried apricots and almonds. Remove from pan immediately. Fried Bread 1 1-pound loaf frozen bread dough, thawed and risen Vegetable oil Confectioner's sugar Lemon wedges

Roll out dough about 1/2-inch thick and cut in 2 1/2-inch squares or oblongs. Size is unimportant. Set aside to rise for 20 minutes.

In a 10-inch skillet, heat vegetable oil to 1/2-inch depth until it reaches 360 degrees F. Carefully slip in 3 or 4 dough squares and turn immediately. Continue to turn until puffed and golden brown on both sides. Remove to drain on paper towels for a moment. Repeat with remaining dough.

Serve piping hot with a shaker of confectioner's sugar and lemon wedges or butter and syrup or jam. Calzone 1 1-pound loaf frozen bread dough, thawed and risen 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese 1/4 pound prosciutto or other spicy ham

Punch dough down on a lightly floured board and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut in rectangles about 3 by 4 inches and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

Shred cheese and ham and mix lightly together. Distribute mixture evenly, placing it on one-half of each dough rectangle. Brush all sides with cold water, fold edges over filling, and press firmly together.

Generously butter a baking sheet large enough to hold turnovers when placed about 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated 375-degree F. oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Eat immediately. Cheese Puffs 1 1-pound loaf frozen bread dough, thawed and risen 2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheeses,

or a combination 1 egg yolk 1 teaspoon water

Roll or pat out the dough to 1/2-inch thick and sprinkle with Swiss cheese, salt, and cayenne. Fold dough over to enclose the cheese, and knead it four or five times until it forms a ball. Sprinkle the work surface with remaining cheese, except for 1 tablespoon, and continue to knead until dough has incorporated all the cheese.

Roll out dough to a 12-inch square. Cut in 1 1/2-inch squares and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Let them rise for 30 minutes.

Beat egg yolk with water and brush each cheese puff with the egg wash. Top with a pinch of reserved cheese.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree F. oven for 12 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Serve hot or reheat in a moderate oven for a few minutes. Makes 64. Tomato Onion Pie 1 1-pound loaf frozen bread dough, thawed and risen 1/4 cup olive oil 2 large onions, chopped 3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped or

1 1-pound can tomatoes 1 teaspoon salt 1 2-ounce can anchovy fillets, drained, or

small can of tuna, packed in oil 1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably

Mediterranean style 1 small beaten egg

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in 10-inch skillet and saute onions until soft, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 30 minutes.

Set aside to cool to room temperature. This is important, or the heat will kill the yeast in the dough.

Punch down dough, turn out on a lightly floured surface, and cut in half. Roll and stretch one-half until it covers the bottom and sides of a 9 -inch-square pan that has been lightly greased.

Spoon cooled filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border, and arrange olives and anchovies or tuna evenly over filling. Brush unsauced border with cold water.

Roll out remaining dough, position it on top, and press edges together. Set aside for 20 minutes. Brush with beaten egg and bake in 375-degree F. preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut in squares. Makes 9 pieces.

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