Monday 9 May 2016

Roast shallot bread (to make beetroot and goats cheese toasts)

This is a variation of my focaccia, a bread I've now made hundreds of times. So often in fact that I barely weigh anything and I can tell when the dough is ready by the sound my KitchenAid mixer makes. The bread is only proved once, which should send purists into hysterics but calm yourselves, it's a slow prove at least and no one's ever complained of a lack of flavour. This would make the most delicious cheese on toast. Which is kinda how I use it here. Also great to make croutons for a soup.

Here I purposefully make a thin wide bread that I can slice into long, thin strips to be first griddled and then oven dried. It's a light, moist bread with a deep savoury flavour but also hints of sweetness from the caramelised shallot.

I developed this as a base to my starter of beetroot and goats cheese toasts. Yes, you could call it bruschetta but I live in Palmers Green, not Italy.

Two types of goats cheese with beetroot puree and crisps and a little roasted walnut atop my shallot bread.
The leaf is red veined sorrel from my garden.

Roast shallot bread
Makes one half kilo loaf

I make this with a mixer as it's a wet dough but you could do it by hand. I'd still use a bowl to knead it though.

Add 150g each of plain flour and bread flour in a bowl. Add to this 10g of dried yeast, a big pinch of sugara tablespoon of sea saltabout 250ml of cold water and 50ml of oil and mix well.

For this bread I used an English rape seed as I thought the nuttiness of the oil would work well with the onion flavour. I'm using less and less olive oil now in favour of local rapeseed. This is Hillfarm, available from Waitrose (I think). If you don't taste your oils, you should. They affect the flavour of any recipe but especially a focaccia style bread like this.

The mix should be very soft and gooey. Beat with your machine, or by hand, until the dough is very smooth and elastic and starts to clump on the beaters. You should be able to pull a long filament of dough away without it snapping.

While that's doing... finely chop three long shallots and fry off gently in 40g of unsalted butter. You want to soften and cook until it's golden. You could use eight small, round shallots but it's much more work. No shallots? Use half an onion.

This is a huge one. Yours will be much smaller.
Once the shallot mix is golden, whack the heat up and stir frequently. You want to char and caramelise some of the edges to get that wonderful deep savoury smell as well as a little sweetness. Once done, allow to cool. Don't go bunging hot onions into the dough will you? It might kill the yeast.

When the dough is ready, stir in the cooled shallots and butter, kneading a few times to distribute.

Slosh a little oil around the bottom of your tin and stretch out the dough. You can also use a baking tray, as I did for this.

Leave for at least 90 minutes, in a warmish, draught free place (like cupboard) until tripled in size with nice big air bubbles visible on top. I'm looking for a slow rise here to allow the flavour to develop. It might take two hours. That's why I used cold water rather the traditional luke warm, if you were wondering. 

By the way, the term prove here is an old meaning: to test. In bread baking, it was to test the yeast. It's the same meaning we use in the expression 'the exception proves the rule'. The rule is tested by the exception. It doesn't mean the exception is proof of the rule. How could it be? Sorry, but this winds me up.

Back to the bread. It should have risen by now.

Once risen, treat the dough VERY gently. Any knock will have it deflating faster than an X-factor competitor's ego. 

Bake at 230°C for about 15 minutes.

Someone took a chunk out before I could take the photo. This was made in my cast iron skillet. I can't remember why.

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