Makes 6 to 8 ‘tin’ breads
- 1kg/21/4lb cherry vine tomatoes (or plum tomatoes)
- 1 bulb of garlic, cut in half crosswise
- 1 handful of fresh basil, leaves picked
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 dried red chilies (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 x basic bread recipe (see below)
- Optional: 6-8 empty tomato tins, or equivalent, to cook the bread in
DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2. Prick the tomatoes with a knife - you can leave them on the vine. Toss them into an appropriately sized roasting tray with the garlic - you want the tomatoes to fit nice and snugly so you only have one layer. Rip in your basil, season well with salt and pepper and even a little chilli crumbled over if you like, and add 2 or 3 lugs of extra virgin olive oil. Place the tray in the preheated oven and roast for about 1 hour.
When the tomatoes are done, remove and allow to cool. Squeeze the sweet garlic out of its skin and throw the skins away. Choose 6-8 really nice tomatoes and put them aside to use on top of your bread. Remove all the stalks from the remaining tomatoes, then mash them up with the garlic, scraping up all the lovely, sticky goodness from the bottom of the tray. Start making your basic bread dough, and when it comes to adding the water, at Stage 2, pour your mushed tomatoes into a measuring
jug and just top up with water to give you the same amount of liquid as in the basic recipe. Carry on with the rest of the recipe, adjusting the amount of flour so you end up with a non-sticky, elastic, shiny bread dough. Allow it to prove for half an hour.
Shape the dough into a large loaf or smaller rolls. If you’re using tins, like I have, oil them well with olive oil and divide the dough between them and then push the remaining tomatoes into each one. Leave to prove again until doubled in size (about 15 minutes). Bake at 180C/350F/ gas 4 for around 20 minutes until golden and crisp. A larger loaf will need an extra 10-15 minutes. To check if the bread is ready, tap the bottom of it. A dull thud means it’s done.
As a quick alternative, you could work through the basic bread recipe and simply add sun-dried tomatoes. Just tear them up and squeeze them into the dough at Stage 5.
Try pushing some pieces of mozzarella into the bread along with the tomatoes before baking — this will be really nice.
BASIC BREAD RECIPE
- 2 lbs strong bread flour
- 1 pint tepid water
- 1 oz fresh yeast or 3 - 1/4 oz packets dried yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 level tablespoons sea salt
- Extra flour for dusting
DIRECTIONS Stage 1: Making a Well Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.
Stage 2: Getting It Together Slowly, but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don’t want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Continue to bring the flour in to the centre until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency - then add the remaining water. Continue to mix until it’s stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)
Stage 3: Kneading! This is where you get stuck in. With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
Stage 4: First Proof Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size — ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place. This will improve the flavour and texture of your dough and it’s always exciting to know that the old yeast has kicked into action.
Stage 5: Second Proof, Flavouring and Shaping Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. You can now shape it or flavour it as required — folded, filled, tray-baked, whatever — and leave it to prove for a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more. This is the most important part, as the second prove will give it the air that finally ends up being cooked into your bread, giving you the really light, soft texture that we all love in fresh bread. So remember - don’t fiddle with it, just let it do its thing.
Stage 6: Cooking Your Bread Very gently place your bread dough on to a flour-dusted baking tray and into a preheated oven. Don’t slam the door or you’ll lose the air that you need. Bake according to the time and temperature given with your chosen recipe. You can tell if it’s cooked by tapping its bottom — if it sounds hollow it’s done, if it doesn’t then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes — fandabidozi. Feel free to freeze any leftover bread.