Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bread! I made bread!

As mentioned in the post previous to this one, I made dinner for some friends this weekend, which went okay. They all said it was very nice, but all I noticed were the faults (cracked tart, slightly doughy bread, lack of promised macaroons etc.) Giddy as a child at Christmas to be allowed free-reign in the kitchen, I was determined to make as much work for myself as possible, so I hand-made bread, pastry and ice cream. This is the story of the bread.

I'd definitely recommend making this bread, it's basically a meal in itself, and would be PERFECT for a sunny summer picnic or a BBQ. It also worked pretty well on a rainy February night, due almost entirely to the unholy quantities of cheese within its golden hump. It's also really easy peasy, as long as you have lots of time to hang about waiting for it to prove etc. Normally I think 'oh bread, what a faff, who has time for that in this modern age, yeast, yeah right.' But this is focaccia, and all you really need to do is roll it out and fill it with tasty things.

I started with a KILO of strong bread flour (this is a lot of flour, but it makes a lot of bread, 6 of us only managed half of it, but apparently it freezes well, though I haven't done this yet.) Jamie Oliver told me to dump it onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle in which to pour water, yeast, sugar and salt. When I've seen Mr Oliver do this on television I've always thought, 'oh how messy, I would definitely end up breaking the walls of the mound of flour and end up with a gluey mess all over my kitchen floor.' I decided to ignore the voice in my head which was shouting 'DO IT IN A BOWL! IT WILL BE MUCH CLEANER AND YOU WONT END UP SCRUBBING YEASTY WATER OFF THE CUPBOARDS FOR HOURS!' and tipped the mountain of flour onto the work surface thus:
All was going great guns until I tried to 'confidently combine the rest of the flour into the well' per the recipe. I broke the well, just as I knew I would. Of course I did, of course. Why didn't I listen to the voice? Why?! My keenness to appear professional to the audience of NOBODY in my kitchen overruled my tried and tested cack-handedness and I had a doughsaster (!) on my hands. The water started trickling, nay GUSHING all over the work surface as I frantically flung more flour at the stream to stem the flow. Eventually I had my small land slide under control, I wiped up the floury paste from the floor, cupboards (even inside, how?) and myself and continued with the next stage. This is what I had:

It was very gloopy and wet and I worried that it would not come together in the prescribed fashion. However my worries were unfounded, and after a bit of bashing about and kneading (dupstep helps to establish a good kneading rhythm, FYI) I had a smoothish dough so I whacked in into a bowl and put it next to a radiator for half an hour to prove. Below are the pre- and post- proving pictures:

Because I'm a truly terrible photographer, and haven't managed to take the before and after shots from the same distance from the bowl, you can't really tell, but the dough has roughly doubled in size. I poked it a bit after proving and it was springy and bounced back, which is a good thing, I think.

Next I got to punch it back to knock some air out of it, and roll it out into a great big rectangle on my beleaguered work surface. Half of the rectangle needed to be tucked into a baking tray, whilst the other half flopped over the side like a doughy duvet:Then came the fun part of filling the bread with delicious soft gorgonzola, fistfuls of grated parmesan and a good grate of cheddar to stick it all together. Bung a couple of handfuls of rocket on top and some marjoram. I used dried as I couldn't find fresh, and it was fine.
Then tuck the duvet end over the cheesy end and press it down hard to seal all the dairy delights inside. Rub the top with oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper artfully over the top and then some herbs. Jamie suggests sage, but I had some fresh thyme handy and that worked too. Leave it somewhere warmish for an hour and then bake for about 40 minutes at 180C. The recipe suggests 25 minutes, but mine was still too pale at that stage, so I left it in a bit longer, just remember to check it regularly. It could have done with a little bit longer as the bottom-side was a bit stodgy, but my friends and I are big proponents of stodgy food, so it wasn't problematic. There you have it, yum! Easy cheesy bread! (Even if it looks a bit like a super-sized pasty...)
For bread:
1kg (just over 2lb) strong bread flour
625ml (just over 1 pint) tepid water
30g (1oz) fresh yeast or 3 x 7g sachets dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
extra flour for dusting

1. Pile the flour onto a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.

2. Slowly but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well (without breaking the walls like me, or else water will go everywhere, maybe just use a big bowl?) Continue until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency, then add the remaining water. Mix until stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour and making it less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with remaining flour.

3. Put some dirty dubstep on in the background and knead the dough for 4-5 minutes until silky and elastic.

4. Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to prove for around half an hour until doubled in size (ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place).

For the filling:
extra virgin olive oil
170g (6oz) parmesan cheese, grated
200g (7oz) cheddar (or other good melting cheese), grated
140g (5oz) gorgonzola
handful of fresh marjoram or 2tspn dried
2 large handfuls of rocket
salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage or thyme leaves

5. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 secs by bashing and squashing it. Roll into a large rectangle around 1 cm/ 1/2" thick. Drape half of it onto a medium-large floured baking sheet, with half hanging over the side. On the half that is on the tray, drizzle about 3 good lugs of extra virgin olive oil, rub it into the dough, then add all your cheeses, rocket and some seasoning. Using your fingers, push it all into the dough.

6. Fold the overhanging dough back on to the dough on the tray, and then push around the edges so that you seal them together, tucking it under a little so it fits nicely onto the tray. Rub the top with a little olive oil and rip over some fresh sage.

7. Heat your oven to 180C while you leave the dough to prove a second time for half an hour, and when doubled in size, bake for around 25 mins until lightly golden and cooked. Allow to sit for around 25 mins before eating, best slightly warm.

(I used slightly less cheese in this recipe and it was fine. This was purely down to reasons of economy though, as I couldn't afford a massive lump of parmesan.)

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