Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bringing home the Bread

Playing around with bread dough can be good fun.
The Ploughman's Loaf:
1 x 500g pack white or granary bread mix
2 tblsp olive oil
3 tblsp Branston sandwich pickle (or other chutney)
1 lb (500g) assorted cheeses, grated
3 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
salt and pepper
milk and sesame seeds
Following directions on the packet, make up the dough adding the oil to the water. Knead well (this can be done in a machine) and when ready, cut in half and roll out each piece to a 10" (25cm) round. Place one round in a flan or shallow tin, spread over the pickle, followed by the cheese, ending with the celery and onion. Season to taste. Cover with remaining dough, brush top with milk, sprinkle over sesame seeds and tent with foil or a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about half an hour. Pre-heat oven to 190C, 375F, gas 5 and bake the loaf towards the top of the oven for 40-45mins until golden and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a cake airer. Serve in wedges. With salad, a wedge of Ploughman's makes a good packed lunch.
Tip: a newer variety of onion is now fast becoming popular, called the Sweet Onion, it looks like a normal onion, but has a paler skin, and has quite a sweet and very mild flavour, great for eating raw in sarnies and with salads.

The following basic bread dough can be used for making pizza bases, foccacia, sun-dried tomato loaf, and calzone. Recipes given for all.
Italian Bread Dough:
12 oz (350g) strong plain flour
good pinch salt
1 x 6g pk instant dried yeast
8 fl.oz (250ml) warm water
2 tblsp olive oil
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and put it into a low oven to warm through for a few minutes (alternatively use a warm bowl). Stir in the yeast and add the water and oil. Mix together, preferably using your (clean) hands. When it has formed a moist dough, turn out onto a well floured board and knead for about five minutes until the dough has turned smooth and elastic. Placed dough in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm or a cloth, and stand in a warm place for half an hour until it is beginning to rise. Then use in the following recipes:

Calzone: makes 6
1 batch Italian bread dough
2 tblsp olive oil
3 sweet or red onions, finely sliced
1 tsp sugar
pinch salt
4 oz (100g) pancetta or smoked bacon (chopped)
1 dessp fresh thyme leaves
6 oz (175g) grated cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 tblsp water
freshly ground black pepper
sea or rock salt
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, sugar and salt. Fry over medium to high heat for 15 minutes until juices have evaporated. Reduce the heat and stir in the chopped pancetta or bacon, and stir in the thyme leaves, cooking until the onions have browned. Put the pan to one side, cool then stir in the cheese and season with the pepper.
Divide the dough into six and roll each out into a 7" (18cm) round. Divide the pan contents into six and pile each onto the centre of each round of dough. Brush the edges with the egg/water then fold the dough over pressing edges together tightly, forming a half-moon shape. Place the calzone on a large, oiled baking sheet, leaving enough room between for the dough to spread, cover loosely with foil or clingfilm, and leave in a warm place to rise for half an hour.
Remove the cover, brush the calzone with the remaining egg, and sprinkle over a little sea salt and bake in a hot oven, 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 15-20 mins or until golden. Serve immediately.

Basic Pizza Base:
The traditional Italian pizza should have a thin crust, crisp on the outside, soft inside, with a passata topping, two or three other ingredients and little else.
one batch, or slightly less of Italian bread dough
5 tblsp passata
toppings of your choice
torn, sliced or grated mozzarella cheese
Roll out the dough to a 10"-12" round. Place onto an oiled baking sheet. Brush round the side of the dough with olive oil - this helps to crisp up without baking too hard. Spread the top of the dough with the passata. Add chosen toppings (see suggestions below or make your own choice) adding mozzarella to finish, and cover lightly with foil or clingfilm and leave in a warm place for half an hour to rise. Remove the covering and bake at 220c, 425F, gas 7 for about 20 minutes or until golden on top and the base is crisp.
Margarita: passata topped with sliced or grated mozzarella and a pinch of dried oregano, a drizzle of olive oil on the top.
Marinara: passata topped with capers, chopped black olives and anchovies.
Sicilian: passata topped with crushed garlic, sliced ham, halved pitted black olives, artichoke hearts, anchovies, and a pinch of dried oregano.
Hot Pepperoni: passata topped with sliced mushrooms, thin slices of pepperoni or chorizo sausage, pitted green olives, sliced or grated mozzarella.
Neptune: passata topped with tuna chunks, anchovies, pitted olives, onion rings, capers, dried oregano, and (traditionally) no cheese. Make up for this by adding more passata or sliced tomatoes.
Tip: make your own passata by draining a can of plum tomatoes (keep the liquid to add to soup), then finely chop or blend the tomatoes. Spread only a thin layer of passata onto a pizza base, too much and it ends up soggy.

The Italian Job: a speciality loaf
1 batch Italian bread dough
2 oz (50g) sundried tomatoes, chopped
handful fresh basil leaves,
4 oz (110g) mature cheddar cheese cubed
1 egg, beaten
Tear up the basil leaves, or chop finely and knead, together with the sun-dried tomatoes, into the bread dough. Divide the mixture in half. Press one half into an oiled, loose-based cake tin 8" (20cm). Pile the cheese on top, leaving the edges clear, them brush edges of dough with the egg and lay over the remaining dough, pressing down to seal the edges. Cover loosely with foil or clingfilm and place in a warm place for a least half an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Remove the covering and brush the top of the dough with egg then bake in the oven 220C, 425F, gas 7 for about twenty minutes or until turned golden. Remove from the tin and serve warm.

Herb and Garlic foccacio:
1 batch Italian bread dough
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tblsp chopped fresh rosemary
sea or rock salt
1 tblsp olive oil
Knead half the garlic and half the rosemary into the dough, then shape or roll into an oval roughly 11"x 9" (28 x 23cm). Place onto an oiled baking sheet and press in fingertips to form dimples all over. Blend the remaining garlic with a little oil and brush over the dough, sprinkle with remaining rosemary (alternatively tuck in tiny sprigs of rosemary into the dough), sprinkle over a little sea salt and drizzle the top with a little olive oil so that it pools into the dimples. Cover loosely with foil and leave in a warm place for half an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size, and bake in a hot oven (all the Italian breads use the same oven temperature), for about 15 minutes or until golden. Drizzle over more oil and serve warm.

Nothing to do with bread, but this I unearthed from a pile of copy I wrote years back. Worth repeating as it is very much in tune with the ozone-friendly approach to life we are experiencing these days.
'Sticky Stuff'
Remember those fly-papers we used to use, far safer than breathing in the fumes from an aerosol can of fly-killer. To make your own, all you need are a few store-cupboard ingredients and some brown paper:
4 fl.oz milk
1 tblsp each: white sugar, brown sugar, and black pepper
Put everything into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolve, boil for five minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Leave to cool.
Cut brown paper into strips of the size you want. Make a hole at one end then roll them up tightly an drop into the sticky mixture. Leave until completely soaked through. Uncurl the strips and leave to dry on a cake airer. When they feel sticky, they are ready. Thread cotton or thin string through the hole and hang where flies are likely to be.