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Baking bread

I think I’ve cracked it now.

I know wholemeal bread is better for you, and when I have a good slice of chewy, nutty, ever-so-slightly sweet wholemeal I am a happy woman. However, those moments are few and far between. More often it’s claggy, heavy, dry and above all, bitter. The bitterness has kept me away from wholemeal bread for years. Three summers ago I had a picnic with my friend Catherine who brought a home-baked loaf of half wholemeal, half white. It was heavenly – light, tasty, chewy, and ever so slightly sweet. No bitterness. I harassed her until she emailed me the recipe and I have been making it ever since. She insists it’s nothing special, but it’s simple to make and very very good. I think that’s pretty amazing. Don’t be alarmed by the kneading and shaping instructions – it’s really easy once you get the hang of it.

[amazon_link id=”0091945011″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Catherine now has a cookbook out, all about pressure cookers[/amazon_link]. I had the chance to unofficially test a couple recipes from it, and it is amazing – cheesecakes, savoury creme brulées, all sorts. In fact, hers is my go-to cheesecake recipe ever since.

Catherine’s bread (with Erin’s lazy edits)
makes 1 loaf

250g whole wheat flour
250g white bread flour
300g room temperature water or whey (you might need a bit more)
1 tbsp oil (something flavourless, like canola)
1 tbsp honey
7g dry yeast
1 tsp salt

1. Add all the ingredients into a bowl, mix until it comes together into a sticky dough. You may find you need more water at this point – go slowly! Turn out onto a floured counter and knead until it becomes smooth and elastic. I find a good dough scraper is a godsend at this point. Clean out your original bowl, and oil lightly. Put your dough back in the bowl, and cover with a damp towel or oiled clingfilm. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with a dough hook.

2. Get a loaf pan out and oil it lightly, or lightly oil a baking sheet if you want a more rustic loaf. Leave it in a warm place to rise until doubled. Turn it out onto a floured counter and give it a couple business letter folds. What you want to do is gently press the dough into a rectangle, without tearing, with the long side parallel to your stomach. Fold in the edges like you were folding a piece of paper to go in an envelope, gently and without pressing down too hard. Do it again, starting from the top of the dough. Rotate your little package 90º and stretch it out again gently, and do the whole letter folding thing again.

You can now just transfer this to the baking sheet. If you want to use a loaf pan, I find a bit of gentle rolling so you have more of a log shape makes it fit the pan better. Gently does it, you don’t want any tearing. It doesn’t need to be as long as your loaf pan though, so don’t worry if it looks a bit small. You’re going to leave the dough to rest before baking.

3. Leave it for approximately 30 minutes. Then bake in a preheated 200ºC oven for 10 minutes, then turn down to 180ºC for a further 20 minutes. Personally, I love a soft crust on my bread, so leave it at 180º for the full 30 minutes. Let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then turn it out on a cooling rack.


This post originally appeared on my now-defunct food blog, Aubergine & Eggplant.


Honey ham, oven-dried tomato & apple pizza

Early autumn has found our household in a bit of scheduling tizzy. With Elliot in preschool every weekday afternoon, I’m still trying to figure out how to make lunch to take to the playground ahead of school, and make a decent dinner in the time allotted. To add to the confusion of the situation, our local grocery store is closed for renovations. I ran into the local European deli down the street from us and grabbed their homemade pizza dough, sauce, mozzarella and sliced honey ham. A slightly old apple was a kitchen counter inspiration, and my oven-dried tomatoes were stashed in the freezer. If you can’t get good quality pizza dough, I highly recommend making your own – it’s not hard and you can keep it in your freezer. Same applies for pizza sauce – passata reduced down a bit with some garlic and oregano, a dash of good olive oil and you’ve got a great staple for your freezer.


Honey ham, oven-dried tomato & apple pizza
serves 4

2 balls of pizza dough
About 1/2 cup of pizza sauce
100g honey ham, sliced
1/2 cup oven-dried tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes
5 small balls of mozzarella
1 gala apple
Finely shredded parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF / 230ºC.

2. Shape dough on cookie sheet, spread with pizza sauce to your taste.

3. Tear ham into pieces and add to your pizzas, followed by tomatoes, and finally tear the mozzarella into small pieces, divide between the two pies.

4. Bake on the top shelf for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until crust is browning and cheese is bubbling.

5. Straight away on removal from the oven, shave slices from your apple (after removing the skin) using a vegetable peeler, and spread over the top of the pies. Don’t cut the apple ahead of time or it will brown. Follow with the parmesan. Serve immediately.