I can’t imagine that there’s even one person in the whole world who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread. When I do my weekly grocery shop I have to stop myself scoffing all the bread on the way home. And, as with pretty much everything (except maybe things like cars), homemade is even better. (Perfume isn’t better homemade either. Remember when you were a kid and you made perfume with water and rose petals? At first it smelt really nice, but after a few days the water went really yellow and it smelt kind of sickly sweet verging on rotten. Homemade perfume definitely isn’t better than shop bought. Nuh uh).
I don’t make bread very often at all. I make my own pizza dough fairly frequently, but other than that I can’t remember the last time I made my own bread. Given my (bordering on obsessive) love for chorizo, this recipe from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy gave me the kick up the bum I needed to finally getting round to baking my own bread.
To be honest, I find bread a little intimidating. I’m always completely surprised when I leave it to rise for an hour and it actually rises during that time. There’s something about it that seems a little bit magic and I’m sure one day I’ll return to it finding it in the same state it was when I left it. Fortunately, today was not that day and I returned to a beautiful, puffed up loaf, all ready to be baked.
This recipe is very easy to follow. There aren’t any complicated steps, and it comes complete with an arm workout when you have to knead the bread for 10 minutes. Which is great, because, if you’re anything like Chris and me, you’re going to eat half this loaf in one day and you’ll need those calories you burned with that arm workout.
500g (1lb 2oz) strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
250-300ml (9-11 fl oz) lukewarm water
Leaves from 4 springs of fresh thyme
50g (2 oz) chorizo, cut into small chunks
1-2 tbsp milk
2 handfuls ice cubes
Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl and mix briefly. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in about 250ml (9 fl oz) of the water. Mix this together with a fork, then get your hands in there for the final mixing. The dough may be a little sticky at first, so knead it for a bit. It’ll get less sticky as you knead it. If your dough feels fairly tight and not very sticky, add the remainder of the water and knead a bit more, then tip onto a lightly floured surface. If your dough feels a bit sticky, don’t add the water yet, just tip onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead the dough for a few minutes. Now add the rest of the water if you haven’t done so already (unless your dough is still really sticky, in which case don’t worry about the extra 50ml, it’ll be fine!) and dust the surface you are kneading on with flour again. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand (5 minutes in an electric mixer with a dough hook). Add the thyme leaves and knead again briefly until the thyme is well distributed. Put half the chorizo in the middle of the dough, then fold the edges up around it and seal them, so that the chorizo is hidden in the dough. Knead for an extra minute or so.
Now shape the dough into a ball and then use a rolling pin to roll it out into an oval shape. I rolled mine about 1.5 inches thick. Use a sharp knife to cut slashes into the dough and then pull the slashes out wide (they’ll close up again when the dough is rising).
Push the remaining chorizo right into the dough all over the top. The point here is to push it in fairly deep so that it is covered/almost covered once the dough has risen. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Lightly oil some clingfilm with the vegetable oil and use it to loosely cover the dough. Leave the dough in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about an hour). Preheat the oven to 200C/400F fan oven when the dough has been rising for about 45 minutes, so that it is ready for the dough once it has risen.
Get your ice cubes out of the freezer. Remove the clingfilm from the dough and brush it with the milk. Chuck the ice cubes into the bottom of the oven (the steam will stop the bread from crusting too quickly, which would hinder its rising) and place the baking tray with the dough on on the second to bottom shelf.
Bake for 30 -35 minutes (mine took 30 minutes in a 200C fan oven) until the bread is well risen and golden brown. The bread will come easily off the baking tray once it is cooked.
Serve warm with all sorts of yummies. We had garlic and herb cheese, olives (not for me though, bleurgh), ricotta-stuffed peppers, sun blush tomatoes and parma ham. Nom nom nom.