The first time I baked a loaf of bread, I was in seventh heaven… it came out looking nicely risen and with a wonderfully browned crust…only the bread had to be sort of, sawed through, and the slices were too upright …they were as stiff as cardboard A few rolls followed soon after, but by then, the other three fourths of my family were too scared of my freshly baked breads. So, definitely, when this month’s daring bakers challenge was announced( I could not put up the last months), I did have a few nail biting moments…should I back away or should I carry on with the spirit of a true daring baker to tread on this tricky ground?And, oh boy! am I glad that I decided on the latter…for how would I have been ever able to conquer my self consciousness and bake such a tender, herby and garlicky focaccia, some more soft flatbreads, spicy breadsticks and cheesy braided bread, to woo Dinesh, Rengoni and Agastya …they simply adored them all… and I graciously took the compliments …thanks Tanna, for choosing this challenge; you’ve brought me back into my family’s good books again Here’s a look at the bounty…
Now to the recipe…the dough was really, really soft….the softest that I’ve handled so far and needless to say, very, very, scary for me to work with…but by the end of the day, the warm and heavenly smells emanating from the oven of the herb and spice crusted breads was quite comforting indeed and I did regain my confidence.
I halved the ingredients and followed the basic recipe for the dough, then played around with the shape and topping of the breads; we were allowed this liberty as long as the bread was savoury. I wanted to get the basics right, so didn’t experiment more than was necessary. Probably next time…and oh yes! I am hoping for a next time, or for that matter, many more times
2 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
The variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold, there are others.
2 cups(475 ml) water a few pods of crushed garlic,chilli flakes, coarse sea salt, rosemary, thyme, grated parmesan cheese,olive oil, melted butter( a little of each for the various toppings)
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1 /4cups to 4 1/4 cups (500g- to 675g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (65g) whole wheat flour
a few pods of crushed garlic,chilli flakes, coarse sea salt, rosemary, thyme, grated parmesan cheese,olive oil, melted butter( a little of each for the various toppings)
Making the Dough (Directions will be for making by hand):
Put the potatoes and 2 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil.Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.
Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well.
Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 – 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.
Add yeast to 1 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 1 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
( At this point you have used 2 cups of the possible 4 1/4 cups suggested by the recipe).
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.
Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky(the bit that scared me )
Forming the Bread:
At this stage, we were given the liberty to shape and season the bread as we pleased..so this is what I made …an 8 inch square focaccia(about 1/2 the dough) brushed with olive oil mixed with crushed garlic, rosemary and thyme and sprinkled with a little chilli flakes and coarse sea salt; a 12 by 3 inches long braided bread, brushed with melted butter and topped with poppy and nigella seeds and a little grated Parmesan cheese; about 12-14 small 5 inch breadsticks brushed with melted butter mixed with chilli flakes, rosemary and thyme; and 4 round (5 inch diameter( flat breads, brushed with melted butter and topped variously with poppy, nigella and sesame seeds.
To make focaccia- Take 1/2 of the dough and spread out with your fingers to an 8 inch square on a baking tray lined with foil. Dimple all over with the fingertips. Brush generously with olive oil mixed with crushed garlic, rosemary and thyme and sprinkle a little coarse sea salt and chilli flakes. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for about 20 minutes. Dimple all over again before baking.
To make the round flat breads- Cut out 4 small and equal pieces of dough. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and slightly flattening it, place on a baking tray, leaving 1 inch between them. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until almost doubled. Brush with a little melted butter and sprinkle with either some poppy, nigella or sesame seeds.
To make the spicy bread sticks-Pinch out small pieces of the dough and roll them out into long pieces between the palms of your hand. (I was having fun at this stage, and ended up shaping a D and B too )Place them a little apart on a baking tray, cover with pastic wrap and leave for about 20-25 minutes. Mix some melted butter with a little rosemary, thyme, chilli flakes and grated Parmesan and brush all over them. Prick them with a fork.
To make the braided bread- Spread the remaining dough with your fingers on a tray lined with foil into a 12 by 3 inches long shape. Leaving some space from the top, cut out into three strips(again, the top should be joined). Now start braiding from the top and when you reach the bottom, neatly tuck in the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for about 25 minutes. Brush with some melted butter and sprinkle some poppy and nigella seeds and a little grated Parmesan cheese.
Baking the breads-
The focaccia- Place the tray in the centre of the pre heated oven (at 230 deg cen) for about 10 minutes or till golden. Let it cool for 10 minutes on a rack before slicing and serving. This was really heavenly.
The round flatbreads- Place the tray in the centre of the pre heated oven (at 200 deg cen) for about 20 minutes or till golden. Cool on a rack.
The braided bread- Place the tray in the centre of the pre heated oven (at 200 deg cen) till golden. Cool on a rack.
The breadsticks- Place the tray in the centre of the pre heated oven (at 190 deg cen) till golden. Cool on a rack. Hot nibbles…Dinesh loved it
All in all, I was quite pleased with myself…and I will surely be making them again, especially the focaccia. It tasted absolutely great with a crispier crust and softer insides.
A last look at my bounty…(Check out what the others have been up to here.)