An experiment in bread making

Since my days as a student I have dabbled in bread making, mostly unsuccessfully. I keep trying and hopefully a visit to a cookery school planned for next year will help. In the meantime I whip up a few savoury scones* and quick soda breads to salve my conscience and reduce the amount of shop brought bread. Below is my recipe for an Italian flavoured soda bread. This bread is good for dunking in soups and stews, but is not a loaf for sandwiches or toast. *My North American reader will recognise savoury scones as a version of biscuit.

Ingredients

300g plain flour

15g golden caster sugar

13g baking powder (or 1.5 teaspoons)

6g baking soda (or 0.5 teaspoons)

1 medium egg (beaten)

284ml (1 carton) buttermilk

70ml rapeseed oil (other vegetable oils are available)

50g Parmesan (grated) plus a little extra for a garnish

25g pesto (or one dessert spoon)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 175c (fan oven), and lightly grease a small loaf tin.

2. In a large bowl sieve together the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the Parmesan, retaining a little to garnish the finished loaf.

3. In a separate bowl mix together the egg, oil, pesto and finally the buttermilk.

4. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Work quickly, but softly with a spatula to mix until all the flour is incorporated.

5. Soft but quick hands are essential to avoid flattening the mix which will start to rise as soon as the wet ingredients mix with the baking soda.

6. The dough will form small shaggy peaks and be quite wet in appearance and texture.

7. Scrape the dough into the prepared loaf tin and gently press it into the corners so it will form a uniform shape. Garnish the top with the extra parmesan.

8. Into the oven for 45 minutes. Test that it is cooked by probing the middle of the loaf with a skewer, when cooked the skewer will come out clean. The top should be gently domed and a dark golden brown colour

9. Out of the oven, leave to cool for two minutes in the tin, then turn out to a wire tray to cool. The bottom f the loaf will sound hollow if gently tapped.

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