If there’s one thing that disappears almost as fast as the milk in this house, it’s the bread. What is it with males and bread?! So when I put the chicken casserole in the oven to cook for a few hours, I thought I would be safe to leave it, bring it out just before tea time to cool a bit, and serve it with the trusty bread. I should have known my darling Mr 4 year old would make himself a late afternoon snack, and demolish the bread that was left, while I was, oh I dunno, cleaning the toilet, or comforting the sick baby, or writing emails, or updating my Facebook status.
When I realised at 4:30pm that there was no bread, and none in the freezer, I turned to my recipe book shelf. “HELP ME!” I screamed. And out jumped Annabel Langbein. Focaccia bread. Looks easy enough I thought. I mean, how hard could it be, how could I possibly fail at making FLAT BREAD???? Surely you can’t get any flatter than flat. I’ll give it a go.
You must do this people! It’s the easiest bread ever to make (I’ve made a few in my life), and as you can see from the results – it was a success! I give myself an A+ and a chocolate (or two) for that.
Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Annabel Langbein’s “The Free Range Cook”
(I actually halved this recipe shown below and made one bread, not two)
1 ½ cups warm (not hot) water
1 ½ tsp dry yeast granules
1 packed cup cooked mashed potato
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ½ cups high grade flour (very important you use high grade for bread), plus extra for kneading
2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
½ tsp sea salt
Place warm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the water and allow to stand for 2 minutes (I was in a hurry so I used the instant dry yeast from the packet, makes the dough prove faster).
Mix in the mashed potato (leftover from the hangi yesterday!) and the ¼ cup olive oil.
Stir in the flour and salt and mix until the dough just starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and using lightly oiled hands knead about 30 times (that’s the part I like – only 30 kneads! I can deal with that!)
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with muslin or a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 3-4 hours or until it has doubled in bulk (but if you used instant dry yeast like me, and halved the recipe, it only took half an hour in the oven warmer drawer). You can also leave it in the fridge, covered, to rise slowly overnight.
When you’re ready to cook your bread, place a baking stone on the centre shelf of the oven and preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (I don’t have a stone so just used a solid baking tray and it worked well).
Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured bench, divide in half and shape each half into a ball.
Roughly flatten one ball onto a tray lined with baking paper, pressing the dough out to an oval shape about 25 x 20 cm. Use your fingertips to press dimples into the top of the loaf, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary and salt.
Slide the baking paper with the dough on it off the tray onto the preheated baking stone/tray. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden. When cooked the bread will sound hollow when you tap it. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking stone for a few minutes. Then transfer to a rack to cool.
Phew! Bread to go with our casserole – crisis over!
Delish I tell you. Apparently the stickier/wetter the mixture the better, so don’t be tempted to add in more flour.
Give it a go, I’d love to know how you get on. Of course, you can use whatever topping you like!
By Christall Lowe