Apricot & Walnut Soda Bread

 

One of life’s great joys is the aroma of freshly baked bread, not to mention, that first lovely fresh slice of bread you’ve baked yourself.  I love baking my own bread, from the raw basic ingredients to the end product, it is easy, and so satisfying!  I don’t own a breadmaker – I am the breadmaker!!  I find baking generally relaxing and therapeutic, and you can’t get much more inbuilt therapy than kneading dough and feeling it transform from a lump to something magically “alive”.  To be honest, the kneading is the best part of baking bread.  Well, for me it is!  The only down side is the time it takes, because you can’t hurry a good loaf of bread.

I have wanted to bake walnut bread for ages – lovely fresh walnut bread with cheese…..heaven! But I couldn’t find the recipe I had kept and so I searched….when suddenly this one caught my eye.  Apricot & Walnut Soda Bread.  I haven’t baked soda bread before, mainly because it is best on the day of baking, and I prefer my bread to last just a bit longer than a day.  But…this one had to be tried, it would be quicker because it is not a yeasted bread, and so I persuaded myself.

Chopped dried apricots, chopped walnuts and the addition of oats to the mixture, made it a nice wholesome bread.  The dry ingredients were mixed with the fruit and nuts.

and then a mixture of milk and yoghurt was added and everything mixed gently together.  The dough seemed a bit damp to me, but I was hesitant to add more flour in case it toughened the bread, and not having made soda bread before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The mixed dough was turned out on to the baking tray, it was a bit too damp to shape neatly, never mind to make a nice neat cut across the top.  But sometimes if you just grit your teeth and pretend it’s not all going wrong, it can still work out, and so into the oven it went.

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This is the end result – I prefer to call it “rustic”……………..and the proof is always in the tasting…………

And yes, reader, it worked!  Appearances are not always everything.  It tasted good, I got the vote of approval from my Kitchen Taster, and now I have a new bread recipe to add to my repertoire.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

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Stuffed Focaccia

This is a recipe I always feel smug about.  It is so simple and easy, but the end result makes me feel as if a whole lot more skill and effort are required to achieve it.

It is, put simply, focaccia dough, filled with grilled vegetables, Parma ham and Taleggio and then baked. The filling however is very flexible, you can change the ingredients to taste.   I think Taleggio is the perfect cheese for this, but again, there are many cheeses which would also work with the ingredients. When I first saw this recipe, it called for a packet of  focaccia bread mix.  But honestly, there is no difference in effort required when making the bread from scratch or making it from a packet.  I choose to make it from scratch because I know exactly what is going in to it, and there will be no preservatives or additives.

The first task is to grill your chosen vegetables.  I have used courgettes, red onions and mixed peppers.

Aren’t the colours just beautiful?

I have also chosen to add mushrooms and tomatoes to the mix.  I bought a bottle of mixed mushrooms with herbs in oil.  This is because I have never mastered the art of cooking mushrooms so that they don’t end up oozing water. The tomatoes I have used are a pack of sun-dried tomatoes in herbs and oil.  I always find the flavour of these is a bit more concentrated, and therefore ideal for this kind of recipe.

Then start on the focaccia dough and leave it to do its first rise for around two hours.. Once it has doubled in size, knock it down and divide into two pieces, one piece just slightly larger than the other.  Roll out the smaller piece of dough and place on a baking tray.

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Yes, I know this looks a bit rough and ready, I ended up with a few holes I had to patch up!

Then spread a thin layer of sun-dried tomato paste over this, leaving a clear centimetre around all the edges. Now you can begin by layering your ingredients.  First a layer of Parma ham, and then the courgettes, peppers, Taleggio, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and a final layer of Parma ham.  Roll out the last piece of dough and carefully place it over the vegetables, pressing down the edges to meet the base layer of dough.  You want to seal the edges so that the filling does not leak during cooking. Bake at 200°C (180°C fan) for 30 to 40 minutes.

This is a dish that can be eaten hot or cold, but is at its best when just warm.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing I hope you  have a peaceful day 🙂

Rosemary, Olive and Garlic Focaccia

Baking bread is therapeutic. All that kneading. Not to mention the aroma of freshly baked bread….

A recipe tweaked my interest – no-knead focaccia.  What??? WHAT??? No kneading? Oh, go on, I’ll give it a try.

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I don’t have a breadmaker. In fact, I am the breadmaker! I enjoy it as much for the process as for the end result. I have read about slow rise breads, where the dough is refrigerated overnight for a slower rise and here was the recipe to try.

My dough was initially very dry, which I felt was wrong, and so I upped the olive oil and water quantities and nervously put it in the fridge overnight. It did rise, but looked alarmingly wet.

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Still, I persevered, ever hopeful.

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The dough really was too wet, I found it difficult to shape out on the baking tray. But, live and learn, huh!

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And so, the end result. I really need to tweak this, although it worked, and the texture is good, I think it could be better, and maybe a little less liquid, a different baking dish. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.  In the meantime, freshly baked focaccia tastes fantastic 🙂