Monday, 9 November 2009

Italian Bread

After taking T's brother and his girlfriend to a couple of restaurants over the long weekend, we decided that Saturday night should be a bit quieter (and cheaper!). We decided on a games night, with pizzas, beers, and perhaps even a bit of X-Factor thrown in.

I wanted to make something for people to nibble on, that was a bit more interesting than a bowl of crisps or nuts. Riffling through Leith's, I found a recipe for "Italian Bread". I'd also seen this post on Wild Yeast, which made me really want focaccia.

Italian Bread served with olive oil

The recipe itself is pretty quick to pull together, although the kneading time of 8 minutes is a bit of a killer if you are lacking in upper body strength. I mixed in a handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh basil, but rosemary, cheese or olives would also be tasty.

My two food fears are baking with yeast and deep-frying. Luckily this recipe didn't involve deep frying, but it did involve yeast. The last few times I've used yeast, I've seemed unable to get any rise out of it. However, on this occasion, an hour in a previously warmed oven seemed to do the trick.

Italian Bread flavoured with Sundried Tomatoes and Basil

I was initially a bit disappointed, as the bread was quite hard and crusty. It was still tasty, but it wasn't as soft as I was expecting. Left overnight, it softened up a bit, but still was a bit too tough and crusty for my liking.

Slightly too crusty.

I think if I was to make this again, I'd give the Wild Yeast recipe a go instead. It's fairly similar to the Leith's one, but the photos look less crusty so the small tweaks obviously make a difference.

Italian Bread (Leiths Cookery Bible)
Makes 1 large loaf

30g fresh yeast (I used a 7g sachet of quick yeast)
225ml warm water
450g strong flour
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
coarse salt to sprinkle over the top

1) Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
2) Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix in 2tbsp of the oil and the yeast mixture.
3) Once a dough in formed, knead well for 8 minutes. (After kneading, I added a handful of sundried tomatoes and some chopped basil.)
4) Roll the dough out until it is about 2cm thick. Place on to a greased baking sheet and cover with greased clingfilm.
5) Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until it is soft and fluffy looking. Preheat the oven to 200C
6) Make some indentations in the dough with your finger, and drizzle over the last 2tbsp of oil. Sprinkle over coarse salt, or you could use woody herbs like rosemary.
7) Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the tray and bake directly on the oven rack for a further 10 minutes.