Up early this morning to try and get a head start on my day. M.D. is with her Grandma today so, if I time this right I can have a whole day doing research – but not until the bread is complete. I am determined to keep this one safe; the focaccia I made for the previous blog was at the centre of a dastardly plot, one filled with subterfuge and trickery which resulted with its untimely demise at the hands of the greatest thief, and most common culprit . . . the dog ate it whilst I was out.
So, today’s bready adventure brings in a new ingredient for me; one I have tasted in bread, but have never attempted to use in any way bread related. The potato. Paul assures me, through the dulcet tone of his written words, that the flavours will work so I will trust him. It should be a quick bread, all done and dusted by 10ish giving me until 5pm to read, take notes and prepare some articles I am writing.
Mixing and Kneading
You guessed it: white flour = easy knead. The mix and knead were easy enough; a good steady rhythm, jumping between techniques until the dough becomes elastic and just generally pliable. There is so little to say about this bit that hasn’t been said before, perhaps I was ambitious in thinking I could always have something to say in this section when I first planned this challenge and format?
Oh well, the bread was left to rise for an hour and 45 mins. It was meant to be an hour, but I got caught reading for too long and missed the timer going off. This isn’t an actual problem, a dough can be left to prove for anywhere up to 3 hours without any trouble. The dough was knocked back and shaped – well Paul doesn’t give a lot of guidance on shaping the dough, he just says to flatten it out so I look at this picture and tried to recreate it. I feel I have more dough than he did when he made that one.*
Once flattened, brush it with olive oil, then you have to make dimples in the bread using those very important portable, dimple making utensils (all bakers have them), your fingers. Thinly sliced, new potatoes are layered on the top and pressed in slightly, fresh rosemary is pressed into the dough and rock salt is sprinkled on top. This is now ready to prove for an hour . . . well what I am learning is that proving times are the one area of bread recipes that should not be adhered to religiously.
Needless to say, I left it prove for 45 mins and that was too long so, you will notice in the picture below, that the dimples are no longer visible. The bread is then chucked in the very hot oven, at 230 which is pretty much our oven’s maximum, for 30 mins.
*As an aside, I am starting to notice that pictures in recipe books are often unobtainable through the method that you are given. I do wish they would give the actual method that resulted in the picture they provide.
I know I say this a lot, and I will keep saying it, but oh what a glorious smell this bread has when it cooks. It is like a combination of bread, Mediterranean vegetables, and chips all cooking at the same time. The sort of smell that makes you wish the oven would speed up, and makes you question whether your timer is still working properly.
I probably should not have baked it on the top shelf of the oven, you will notice that it has taken a little more colour than I would have liked, but other than that and the lack of dimples, I am happy with it.
Being quite a thin bread, it cools quite quickly and so is ready to eat in under half an hour! That’s lunch sorted. It tastes amazing, the crumb is unbelievably soft and the potatoes have crisped nicely. The rosemary has not burnt so its flavours are strong and present in every bite. I always forget how much I like rosemary, I will have to use it in bread more often. I slice the loaf into long fingers and pop in to give M.D. some for lunch; she wolfed it down. She liked it so much that she refused to let the dogs have any!
No question, I will definitely make this bread again.
History of Bread
Back to old Pliny the Elder. Here we hear about the introduction of professional bakers and, similarly to the Greeks, how involved women were in baking bread:
“There were no bakers at Rome until the war with King Perseus, more than five hundred and eighty years after the building of the City. The ancient Romans used to make their own bread, it being an occupation which belonged to the women, as we see the case in many nations even at the present day.” Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 18.28