I honestly can’t think of a better Saturday afternoon activity than baking.
From cupcakes and tarts to truffles and macaroons, I’ve always been quick to throw on the apron and make a mess of the kitchen which is why my Bucket List is full of cooking and baking aspirations.
This week I crossed #12 off my bucket list; learn how to make bread, from scratch!
Alongside making pasta from scratch, making bread is something I have always wanted to do. The whole process is so enticing; the smells, the flavours, the end product, and I always find myself mesmerized when watching Paul Hollywood knead away to create perfectly shaped buns. So I was over the moon when I was gifted with the bread making essentials this Christmas.
The reason I have only just got round to making it is because I came back to Manchester to a broken oven in January and then I turned gluten free for Lent. Bad timing really. However, it was completely worth the wait *wiggles eyebrows*.
I read through Paul’s book a few times and it was really inspiring in terms of flavour combinations, however I feel like the book lacks the depth of direction first timers need. Now that I have made one loaf, I would probably get on better with his instructions, but this time I was left feeling slightly intimidated.
Maybe this is what all bread recipe books are like? I’m just used to Nigella Lawson who makes sure she covers everything in her recipe books, i.e. what to do if something goes wrong, what consistency to look out for, alternative flavours etc. But after all, she is the one and only Domestic Goddess.
Anyway, back to bread!
Because all of my family, myself included, adore Mediterranean food, I decided to go for a Mediterranean inspired loaf. Paul’s book had several recipes that would meet this criteria, but the winner was his Olive and Basil Focaccia. *I added sun-dried tomatoes to mine for extra tastiness*
Olive, Tomato and Basil Focaccia
- 500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 100ml olive oil
- 10g salt
- 300ml water
- 25g yeast, fresh. (Take 25% off if using dried or instant)
- 1 handful basil leaves, chopped
- 100g black pitted olives, whole
- 60g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 30g salt and 100ml warm water for salt glaze
Start by mixing the flour, yeast, salt, water and half of the olive oil in a large bowl until combined. Remember to put the salt at one side of the bowl and the yeast at the other to avoid killing the yeast.
The mix should be sticky at this point.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well – don’t be afraid to unleash the power.
If you have a Magimix (I have the Magimix 4200), put the dough mix in the processor for around 2 minutes using the bread dough panel.
Then, take it out the processor and place on a lightly floured surface and knead well.
This helps start you off in the kneading process.
To knead, spread the dough apart, fold, rotate 45 degrees and repeat. (Should only take 4 minutes if you used the Magimix, or 6 if you do it all by hand)
When the dough feels and looks more smooth, but still retains some of its stickiness, it is ready to prove.
To be honest, at this point it wasn’t that dissimilar to the texture of pasta dough.
Put the dough back into the bowl and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
You don’t need a proving cupboard or anything fancy, just leave it in the kitchen or utility room.
When you return to the dough, it should have quadrupled in size! *well, mine did*
Stir in the olives (putting a handful aside), basil and tomatoes. I found this quite tricky as the olives weren’t sticking – perhaps kneading it slightly before adding the ingredients would fix this problem?
Stretch the dough out to around 1 inch thick and place onto a lined baking tray.
Brush with olive oil, push the remaining olives in the top and poke your finger in the top several times before leaving to rest for a further hour.
During this time, preheat your oven to 230⁰C.
Don’t expect the dough to rise as much as it did in the first stage of proving, but there should be a slight enlargement. *wiggles eyebrows*
For some reason, a pocket of Mediterranean goodies formed in mine.
Make the salt water glaze by mixing the salt and water together and brush over the bread so it is all covered.
Drizzle over the remaining olive oil and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
*I didn’t use all the salt water glaze or olive oil as my bread looked too wet – just make the call depending on the consistency of your dough*
The bread should be golden brown, the house should smell like a dream and your tummy should be rumbling.
Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Expect a crispy crust and a beautifully soft dough, packed full of flavour and hidden treats.
We served ours with homemade hummus, feta cheese, salami and chorizo for the meat eaters, salad, nuts and cheeses.
The bread went down a storm at a family gathering and lasted about 30 seconds – good job I hid a couple of slices in the kitchen for my supper!
I can’t believe how easy it was to make, and I am super excited to experiment with more flavours. I think my next loaf will have a cheese in… watch this space!
Have any of you guys made bread from scratch – what recipe books do you recommend?