This week was bread week in the Bake Off tent. I have to say, I'm usually disappointed when they announce that the following week will be bread themed. I just don't get excited about bread in the same way I do with cakes and biscuits. I never have a craving for a slice of bread like I might do for a slice of cake. And you can't spontaneously decide to just bake a loaf of bread at nine o'clock at night.
Then there's the problem that bread making just scares me. Kneading techniques, letting it prove for the right amount of time, not burning it... there's just so many things to worry about! If you're following me on twitter, you might have seen me half-seriously suggest that my 'bake' this week would actually just be some extremely simple plain chapatis. Later on I was even considering not bothering to do this week at all, and instead sharing with you a risotto recipe (which I will still be sharing in the future).
Anyway, despite all my moaning and lack of confidence, I decided I would attempt an interesting bread after all, although I shunned King-of-Bread Mr Hollywood in favour of Sister-of-the-future-Queen Pippa Middleton. I found her recipe for a Provençal fig and goat's cheese fougasse in the May 2013 edition of Waitrose Kitchen. I love making fig and goat's cheese salads, so I already know the flavours go well together and it sounded like a bread I might just actually want to eat. And when I did get round to eating it, it was really very tasty! I'm a huge goat's cheese fan (like practically everyone at the University of Bristol if the orders at QED Bistro are anything to go by) and the figs give a really nice sweet, tangy taste to complement the salty, herby bread. It was so tasty I had to make another one the next day as well!
Ingredients for a loaf to serve 4-6
250g strong white bread flour (plus some for dusting)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp quick yeast
1 tbsp olive oil (plus some for greasing the cling film)
1 1/2 tsp herbes de provence
50g soft dried figs
50g hard goat's cheese
Weigh out the flour into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and quick yeast. Mix them all together, then create a well in the centre. Mix 150ml warm water with the olive oil and pour into the well. Mix everything to form a soft dough. It can seem a bit crumbly and dry at first, but don't be tempted to add more liquid- it will all work out fine!
Flour the work surface, then turn out the dough and knead for ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic. I actually kneaded for just a couple of minutes longer because my kneading technique is not all that good, but beware of overkneading. Chanting 'Push, Roll, Fold' in the style of Rosemary Shrager on An Extra Slice is optional...
Once kneaded, lightly oil a bowl and then put the dough in. Leave in a warm part of the kitchen to rise until doubled in size. The recipe said 45-60 minutes, I actually left mine for about 1hr 20 minutes.
Chop the goat's cheese and figs into small pieces. Take the dough out onto the work surface again and knead in the rest of the ingredients, apart from 1/2tsp of the herbs.
Once everything is kneaded in, stretch the dough out to form an oval shape. Mine was probably about 2cm thick. Make a cut down the middle, and then about four either side in to look like a leaf. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, then put the dough on and stretch it out to open up the cuts.
Oil some cling film (I did this by painting it lightly with a pastry brush. I then tried googling it to see if that's right, but all I found was a load of 'don't diet- wrap yourself in cling film!' pages...) and place over the bread. I think this is the alternative to using those great big plastic bags the bakers use- I'd be curious to know what the difference is. The first time around, I left mine to rise for one hour as per the recipe. The second time though, I left it for seven hours in a warm kitchen and it was much better, so if you have the time to leave it that long, then do.
Lightly brush the dough with some more olive oil and sprinkle on the other 1/2tsp of herbes de provence. Pippa's recipe then says put in a pre-heated oven at 200°c, bake for 15 minutes on the parchment and baking tray, then for 5 minutes directly on the oven shelf. I was using a slightly hyperactive fan oven, so firstly did it at 180°c for 12 and 2 minutes, then repeated the next day at 170°c for more like the 15 and 5 minutes which turned out perfectly. Don't be afraid to adjust recipe instructions to suit your oven.
Remove from the oven and marvel at the fact you've made something that vaguely resembles the picture in the magazine, but with slightly more burnt figs...(or you could just not burn them I guess).
Aww the fig made a love heart on my bread <3
I left it to cool before tearing off a chunk to try. And it was good! Just the right combination of salty-sweet-herby-cheesy-goodness. I just ate this chunk plain, but it would probably go well with a soft goat's cheese, or dipped in olive oil, or possibly even with some sort of a chutney. I was wondering whether Pippa's ever made this for William and Catherine- could this be a bread fit for royalty?!
So the moral of this story is- bread is not scary! It did still take probably the best part of three and half hours to make, so I'm not really in a hurry to do it again unless I dig out the bread machine and let that do some of the hard work, but I felt like the time I put in was worth it. I'm just relieved that next week is desserts, putting me right back in my comfort zone!
What do you think? Did you try out any bread recipes this week? I would love to hear from you!