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Bread

Every time I think about a good Italian meal, my mind drives me to the perfume and flavour of a good slice of bread.
I remember when I was younger, my dad used to collect me from school and while driving back home he stopped in front of the bakery shop (aka panificio), dropping me off to get some bread for lunch. There was no other good choice than “Ciabatta” for him. “Rosette”, “spighe”, “tartarughe” (which are all names for other kinds of Italian bread) could not compare with the crunchy crust Ciabatta had and with its light inner texture (‘holes’ in its crumb are a natural sign of this characteristic).

Therefore, feeling a little homesick, few days ago I decided to make this marvellous bread at home. I followed a recipe I found in the great book called “Breads” by Paul Hollywood. Needless to say it worked out just perfect! It could take a bit to make, but the result is the taste and the perfume of a real Italian Ciabatta….the same I used to get at the bakery shop when I was a kid and that works just as a warm remembrance, whenever I need to feel a little closer to home  🙂

Ciabatta Bread Top

Ingredients
– 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
– 10g salt
– 10g instant yeast
– 40ml olive oil
– 400 ml lukewarm water

Directions
1.Lightly oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough).

2. Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water. Then mix for a further 5-8 minutes on a medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

3. Tip the dough into the prepared tub, cover with a tea towel and leave until at least doubled, even trebled in size – 1-2 hours or longer.

4. Heat your oven to 220°C and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment or silicone paper.

5. Dust your work surface heavily with flour – add some semolina too, if you have some. Carefully tip out the dough (it will be very wet) onto the work surface, trying to retain a rough square shape. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. Coat the top of the dough with more flour and/or semolina. Cut the dough in half lengthways and divide each half lengthways into 2 strips. You should now have 4 pieces of dough. Stretch each piece of dough lengthways a little and place on prepared baking trays.

6. Leave the ciabatta dough to rest for a further 10 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

Ciabatta Bread

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I was raised thinking that if one eats just a little of everything that’s the best way to have an healthy life (my grandad is 97 and he’s the living proof of this theory!). There’s to say though that it depends on what you choose to eat and back in the day it wasn’t as easy to bump into GMO, trans fats and so on. I got to read bread can be one of the worst products under this aspect cause it can be added with hydrogenated fats, alcohol (as a preservative), sugar, shoddy quality flour, etc. That’s why I decided to bake my super healthy bread loaf 🙂 I used whole wheat flour, which is healtier than AP flour (higher content of protein, so more nutrient) and walnuts, that are considered a ‘superfood’ (if you are new to this topic start reading this article here It takes a while to make it but the result is totally worth it…and the smell won’t leave your kitchen for hours, just like if you were in an old-time bakery.
Walnut Whole Wheat Bread1
Ingredients_
– 9 oz strong flour
– 9 oz whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp instant yeast
– 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 3/4 cup water*
– 2 cups walnut kernel
Directions_
  1. Add the olive oil, maple syrup and 3/4 water and start mixing with a dough hook, at low speed. Slowly add the remaining water and keep on mixing for 4 minutes, then increase speed to medium for 5 minutes. Add walnuts and mix at low speed for 1 more minute.
  2. Cover the bowl and leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size (at least 1 hour, but 2 or 3 would work even better).
  3. Cover a tin with parchment and set aside. Sprinkle your countertop with some flour, take the dough and knock the air out of it by folding inwards repeatedly. Knead the dough into a rectangle, roll it into a log, then knead and roll it again into a tighter log. Place your dough in the prepared tin, making sure the join is underneath.
  4. Place the tin inside a plastic bag and leave to prove for about one hour, or until the dough is doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it with your finger. Preheat the oven to 410 F.
  5. Dust the risen dough with flour and slash the top with a sharp serrared knife, designing a grid pattern. Bake for 35 minutes or until the loaf is cooked through. Check by tipping the loaf out of the tin and tapping the base – it should sound hollow. Remove your loaf from the oven and cool out of the tin on a wire rack.

* The amount of water depends on several conditions. It can occur you need a bit less than 3/4 cup. Add water slowly when indicated and stop pouring it when dough consistency looks good (elastic).

Walnut Whole Wheat Bread4

Yesterday morning I went to the bakery shop to get some bread and while I was waiting I saw some mini-loaves with raisins. Only 4 were left and I was thinking to get one to bring home and eat during the afternoon, as a snack. It was with my great displeasure I saw a lady who was standing in front of me buying them all 😦 I came back home craving some kind of sweet bread and I decided to bake it myself. As always, I started skimming through cookbooks and internet, when I saw these amazing Danish Pastries in an old italian food magazine of mine (called Sale&Pepe – Salt&Pepper). I couldn’t resist and I started making them immediately! The recipe calls for some saffron, which adds a little colour and a different twist in the taste. But the real yummy touch I enjoyed the most is the honey poured on the hot pastries (or maple syrup, if you prefer)…They can be stored up to three days in an uptight container. Make sure you heat them a bit before serving, either using the oven or a microwave (20-30 sec is enough).

Easy and yummy Danish Pastries with Saffron

Easy and yummy Danish Pastries with Saffron

Ingredients:

– 1/2 tsp saffron
– 2 tbsp boiling water
– 1 cup milk, lukewarm
– 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
– 1 egg
– 2 1/2 cups flour (I used Pastry Flour)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup caster sugar
– 1 stick butter, melted and cooled
– 1 egg, beaten for washing
– 2/3 cup raisin
– Running honey (or maple syrup)

Directions:

  1. Put saffron in a glass with the water and let it set for 2 hrs. Pour the lukewarm milk in a bowl, add yeast and egg, beating them slightly.
  2. Put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl of an electic mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix them for 10 seconds then add the milk mixture, saffron water (filter it if you used threads instead of powder) and melted butter previously cooled down. Knead the dough for 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Take a new bowl and put the dough in it, covering with some cling film and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. In the meantime let the raisins soak in some warm water.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 F. Transfer the dough to the kitchen counter, knead it for 1 more minute and then divide it into 8 or 10 equal pieces. Roll each one of them finto little logs, add some raisins (previously drained) on the external part and then roll the log on itself, forming 8 or 10 roses.
  5. Beat an egg and wash each rose, then transfer on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Bake for about 25 minutes, till the look golden but not too dark.
  6. Once they are out of the oven and still hot, pour some running honey or maple syrup on each rose. Don’t be shy…they have to be littlerally covered!
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