Sunday, March 30, 2008
I wasn't planning to bring you a bread recipe today, but when this chubby loaf came out of the oven I found it irresistible. It's the first time I've made bread in weeks: my once thrillingly active starter has been languishing at the bottom of the refrigerator looking gray and neglected (though I know it will be quick to forgive me).
The recipe is a remarkably simple one using fast-acting yeast from Australian-born, London based bread guru Dan Lepard. The difference is that it calls for fizzy water - Dan uses Italian, I substituted Badoit - and soft 00 flour, the kind that goes into fresh pasta. Containing a spoonful of delicate-tasting Nice olive oil and Claude's incredible deep amber honey that tastes of wild mountain herbs, the dough was soft, velvety and a joy to knead by hand.
While I made tabbouleh for lunch I had Philippe take over the kneading, which he did with such enthusiasm that my marble board broke in half. Talk about stress relief!
With a creamy-colored, bouncy crumb and surprisingly distinctive honey taste, this bread reminded me of a crusty milk loaf. It's definitely going into my file of "breads to make again and again."
A little tip for Thermomix owners: when I make bread using bottled water or milk, I give the liquid 1 minute in the Thermomix at 40 C to warm it up.
Makes 1 round loaf
Slightly adapted from an article in The Observer Food monthly.
1 tsp fast-rising (easy-blend) yeast
150 g 00 pasta flour
200 g sparkling water, warmed
1 tsp honey
350 g 00 flour
100 g sparkling water, warmed
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp good-quality olive oil
Cornmeal or semolina, for the baking sheet
In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sponge to make a smooth batter. Cover with a plastic bag and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour.
Add the remaining ingredients and combine with your hands or a plastic pastry scraper to form a slightly sticky dough, adding a little more water if necessary. Clean your hands and rub a marble or other work surface with 1 tsp olive oil, also rubbing some oil into your hands. Knead the dough for a few minutes, until very smooth and velvety. Return the dough to the cleaned bowl, cover with a plastic bag and set aside in a warm place to rise for 45 mins.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured marble or other work surface and flatten with your hands, then shape into a ball. Line a small bowl with a floured tea towel, or use a linen bread basket if you have one. Place the dough seam-side up in the bowl or basket, cover with the plastic bag and let rise until doubled in volume, about 45 mins.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220 C, with the baking sheet in the oven and a ramekin filled with hot water on a shelf underneath it. When you're ready to bake the bread, sprinkle some cornmeal or semolina onto the hot baking sheet. Gently turn the ball of dough upside-down into your floured hand, then slide it carefully onto the baking sheet. Slash a cross in the dough using a very sharp knife or serrated bread knife.
Bake the bread (I used the convection setting) for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown and very crusty. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.