The quote above was uttered by Miguel de Cervantes, probably better know as the author of Don Quixote, than as a fan of bread, but I think his point of view shows him to have been a fair judge of the realities of life. And when you are down, the yeasty smell of bread rising and baking can envelope you like a warm duvet against the cold realities of life. Even the act of kneading can be incredibly satisfying as you exact punishment against whatever the wrongdoers have done to you by banging, slapping and generally beating the bejaysus out of an inoffensive piece of dough. And what does the dough do? It repays you by becoming soft warm bread.
Okay, enough eulogising over bread, let’s get down to recipes. There are literally thousands of breads in the world, but the seem to break down into a few categories – flatbreads, cornbreads, yeasted, sweet and sourdough are some of them. And, yet again inspired by the GBBO we decided to try our hand at flatbreads. There are loads of different kinds, using different flours (the usual wheat as well as maize, barley or even rice flour) but we decided to just make up a plain flour dough and use it as a base for various toppings. They were pretty gorgeous on their own but they’d be even better being used to scoop hummus. Mega yummy.
The only piece of equipment that I’d say was useful would be a pizza stone as it gives a better finish to the look of the thing, but a normal baking sheet will work just as well. Place the stone or sheet in the oven and heat it to the highest temperature that it’ll go. The word ‘blistering’ should spring to mind.
- 675g Strong white flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 sachet (17g) easy blend yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 55g sugar
- 450ml warm water
Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to thoroughly combine them. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and most of the warm water. Different flours absorb water differently so you may not need it all. Stir the liquid into the flour and once it looks like a gloopy mess, use your hands to finish combining them. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes until you’ve for an elastic dough. Let it rest and rise slightly while you’re preparing the toppings.
The topping are entirely up to you. As you can see, we used poppy seeds, fresh rosemary, garlic, thyme, salt, tomatoes (home grown – get me!!!!), and the one on the right above had blue cheese kneaded into the dough before being rolled out again prior to baking. Once you’ve got the toppings done, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll them flat and then sprinkle the topping on them before placing – one at a time – on the pizza stone. Bake in the hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes and allow to cool before serving with olives, hummus etc.
By the way, the final of the Great British Bake Off is tonight, so I’m going to be very partisan and say ‘Good Luck’ to James Morton, a fellow Scot, and one of tonight’s finalists.