One of my favourite weekend pastimes is baking. This comes as a surprise to many, as I spend my days creating sweet treats, So this is how I balance it out. My weekdays may be filled with cake, but on the weekends I like to bake bread. I've had a love affair with bread since I first learned the craft whilst working as a pastry chef in a bustling little restaurant in south east Leicestershire. It was soon after that I stopped buying supermarket bread and began to bake my own. Sourdough, ciabatta, cinnamon rolls, challah, anything goes. Although this particular recipe has remained with me since those early days, I know it so well I can remember it off by heart, in fact this will be the first time i've written this recipe down for quite a while. It's the recipe I always return to when all I really want is a simple, delicious slice of bread.
You will need
- 500g strong plain flour
- 1 tsp fast action dried yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 30ml olive oil + 1tbls extra for drizzling
- 300ml warm water
- olives, thyme and sea salt to decorate
This recipe makes enough dough to fill a 33cm pizza pan, or a 36 x 25cm baking tray.
Place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water to bind the dough together, you can do this either by hand, with a handheld blender or with an electric mixer. Once you have a wet paste knead the dough for around 5-10 minutes to build up the structure of your dough. You can test the elasticity of the dough by gently pinching and stretching it, if it pulls away to form a thin transparent sheet you know you're there, if it snaps you need to work the dough for a little longer. Once you have a stretchy elastic dough leave to rest in a warm place for an hour or so.
Once the dough had doubled in size turn it out onto a well floured work surface and roll out to the size of your baking tray. Leave the dough to prove for a further hour or so. In the mean time, preheat your oven to 200
Once the dough has doubled in size, press your fingers into the dough to create indentations then drizzle over the olive oil, herbs, olives and salt.
Bake for 20 minutes, serve warm.
We ate ours with herb crust chicken, sweet pepper and Halloumi salad, watercress, avocado and sundried tomato, and a little homemade pesto.
All photographs by Matt Horan