Thursday, August 18, 2011

Broken promises in bread making

I am a bad, bad blogger. Months ago (and in this post)I promised myself and you that I would bake a loaf of bread every second day until I had mastered a variety of different breads and was able to rustle up a loaf in minutes.

Have I kept this promise?  Indeed I have not.  Instead, I have bought bread from Orla and Niall (of the excellent Bácús Bakery) who man the bread stall beside me at Dingle Farmers' Market and when their bread is not available, I (shh, whisper it) buy bread from LIDL.

My conscience has reminded me of my broken promise from time to time and at such guilt-ridden moments, I have experimented with bread.  These experiments have included a sourdough fiasco, Kerstin Rodgers' wonderful pitta breads and many variations of this focaccia, which is based on a recipe by Nigel Slater.

This is a great recipe for beginners.  It's easy to make.  It always works out well.  And you can add any sort of topping that you please.

450g/1lb strong white bread flour (this is just flour with a high gluten content)
1 and a half tsp salt
1 7g packet of fast-acting yeast
400ml warm water
16 cherry tomatoes
3 sprigs of rosemary
1tbsp olive oil
Sea salt  
  • Place the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl.
    • Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Stir it in until you have a dough of sorts. Don't worry if it's quite sticky and gloopy.  Mine always is and it always comes right. 
    • Flour your work surface generously and then turn your dough onto it.  
    • Start kneading it lightly, incorporating the flour from the surface. If the mixture is still too wet and sticky, add a little more flour - until the dough no longer sticks to the work surface.  
    • Knead the dough for five minutes more or so and then place it in a floured bowl. Cover it with clingfilm or a towel and leave it until it has risen to double its size or so. This will take 40 minutes to an hour. 
    • Lightly oil the bottom of your baking tin (the one I used was 30cm by 20cm). Sprinkle it with a layer of the cornmeal, which will keep the base crisp and stop it from sticking.
    • Set your oven to 220 degrees Celsius/430F/Gas Mark 7.
    • Remove the dough from the bowl carefully. It will sink slightly. Push it into the baking tin, covering as much of the bottom as possible. Set aside once more, covered with clingfilm, for another 20 minutes or so until it has risen again. 
    • Now for the fun part: cut your tomatoes in half and tear up your sprigs of rosemary. Push them into the dough. Then drizzle over the olive oil and scatter the flakes of sea salt. Soon, your dough will look pretty as a picture. 
    • Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the bread is golden and crisp on top.

    This bread is best eaten warm. Cut into slices or torn into chunks, it's perfect with salads or soups. In fact, it's perfect with so many things that it's a bread that's well worth making. Perhaps I should persist with this bread-making lark after all.  


    1. Sharon, you are not alone with your bread baking promises. Everytime I make bread I realise that it's not difficult and that I MUST do it more often, and then I walk into Lidl and my resolution falls apart! I have been reading lots about the book 'The Bread Baker's Apprentice' as a great introductory guide, I may have to invest in a copy!

    2. Arlene, I am so glad that I am not the only one! I ate this bread with a salad niceoise last night and my boyfriend and I were saying that it was the nicest dinner we had had in ages - mainly because the bread was so tasty and fresh and went so nicely with the salad.
      We must both bake more bread and if buying what sounds like a fantastic book will help us keep our bread-making promises, then that's what we must do!