Wednesday 4 September 2013

Not more food please!

Last week I catered for Laura's Txt Message workshop at our local Village Hall. The students seemed to enjoy their lunch and asked for recipes so I promised I'd post them here. I can't take any credit for being original - I just find a great recipe and follow it! The bread I make most regularly is from a book called Dough by Richard Bertinet. I would urge you to track a copy down if you're serious about making your own bread. I make mine at least twice a week and it never fails. It also freezes perfectly so I can simply double up on the quantities to keep us in toast and sandwiches for the whole week. The ingredients are fairly straightforward but it's the kneading process that is quite different to the way I was taught at school. Luckily Richard's book includes a DVD showing his technique.

Our everyday bread is his Olive Bread recipe. For this you take;
500g strong white flour
20g semolina
15g instant yeast
10g salt
320g water
50g olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and pour in the water and oil. Mix to a wet dough. It is very wet so don't panic! Tip the mix onto a clean worktop and bring together as well as you can - it will stick to your fingers and the worktop - that's normal. With both hands cupped under the mixture lift the dough and fling it down bringing the end you are holding back over the rest. Continue doing this until the dough behaves itself.

It's always difficult to explain a technique which is so easy to understand when you see it demonstrated which is why you probably need to buy the book. Basically he lifts the really wet dough with both hands up above the worktop and slaps it down and over on itself so the air is trapped at every fling. At first it's really sticky but in a matter of minutes it begins to firm up and soon becomes smooth and elastic. I usually do this flinging stage for 8 to 10 minutes whilst listening to the Archers on Sunday morning! At this point, shape it into a ball and place in an oiled bowl until doubled in size - usually about an hour. When it's ready, remove carefully from the bowl and shape for a single large or two medium sized loaves. Give the loaves some tension on the top by stretching the sides to the middle and place the untidy join underneath for baking.  I place the loaves onto tins sprinkled with semolina both to give a nice crunchy crust and to prevent sticking. Prove for another hour or thereabouts until doubled in size again. If you have a really sharp knife or a breadmaker's lame you can score the top now and then pop into a preheated hot oven to cook until golden. Loaves will take approximately 25 minutes and should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Rolls will need less time but should have some colour on the bottoms too. To achieve an even bake you will need to rotate the tins once or twice during baking.

I use this as my basic dough for both loaves and dinner rolls. Depending on how generous your rolls are that quantity of dough will make at least 24. Lots of recipes call for spritzing your oven with water to create steam. I've tried it with and without and not noticed a great difference. Of course, once you become an obsessive baker like me you need to have all the gear. The Bertinet Kitchen website can mail you everything you crave! There are also some great videos showing techniques from his new book Pastry - I feel a purchase coming on!

While we are on the subject of food, the cake we had at the workshop came from a lovely cookery book I was given a couple of years ago for my birthday.

I choose to make the Birthday Cake recipe where the secret ingredient was courgette. And not just a token amount - it used 400g of them peeled and finely grated. The recipe also called for the zest of 3 lemons in the mix and lemon juice to make the butter cream topping - all I can say is YUM. I don't know if you can feel entirely virtuous eating this but it probably would count as one of your five a day if you ate enough of it, especially as it was layered with my homemade summer fruits jam.

I promise not to talk so much food next time - who knows I might even get round to showing you the progress with my latest quilts and more little bird paintings.

Bye for now,


  1. The video from the DVD from this book is also availble at You Tube


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