Better than sliced bread
With biscuit and cake week now under (or bulging over) our belts, we got out the flour and dusted down our kitchen worktop ready for our biggest baking challenge to date.
I’m not going to lie, Robin and I were a smidge nervous about week three’s theme — Bread week!
Bread is one of those baked goods that we both love (probably consume way too much off) and had not attempted to make ourselves, for all the obvious reasons you probably haven’t either. Nine seasons on and the kryptonite that is bread has slayed many a amazing skilled baker over the years. Granted we won’t have Paul Hollywood glaring at us with his stealy blues across the tent when we make ours, but still we knew it was going to be a big challenge.
It took us a few days of research, pouring over the cook books and pinterest boards for a spark of inspiration. Not only were we going to have to make something neither of us had tried before we also needed to add a St Helenian twist.
We decided to make a simple white load that we would then turn into a flavour enriched bread. And if that wasn’t enough we would then shape the bread into the Island’s beloved national treasure and oldest citizen, Jonathan the Tortoise.
The flavour we choose sums up comfort food and coming home for us. It’s what was in my sandwiches when I went to school. It’s the filling on many a Sunday family picnic and it’s what you ate at Dances and weddings to keep your energy up whilst you danced the night away. It is the queen on sandwich fillings (well at least where we’re concerned), it’s homemade tomato paste or ‘bread-n-dance’ as its known on Island.
This week’s bake didn’t all go according to plan though. We made the amature mistake of letting the dough slightly overproof on the second raising. But in all we had loads of fun this week. The end product, whilst a bit wonky, was damn tasty. We’re pretty proud of the outcome. And you know what, bread isn’t such a daunting thing anymore. This is something we will be making again.
Here’s how you make it:
ST HELENA TOMATO PASTE RECIPE
400g tomatoes (tinned or fresh)
1 medium onion — diced
Pinch of Sugar
2 rashers of bacon — chopped
- Fry chopped onion and chilli flakes until soft.
- Add diced bacon and cook until soft.
- Add chopped tomatoes and reduce heat to a simmer. Stirring periodically to stop the mix sticking to the pan.
- Keep stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the sauce thickens into a paste consistency. Sprinkle in sugar to taste to balance the acidity of the tomato.
- When the paste is almost finished crack in one egg and mix through the tomatoes to ticken.
- Serve warm on fresh bread. Or refrigerate in an airtight container and use in sandwiches for the week.
PLAIN BREAD RECIPE
500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-action yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
- Mix 500g strong white flour, 2 tsp salt and a 7g sachet of fast-action yeast in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the centre, then add 3 tbsp olive oil and 300ml water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add another 1–2 tbsp water and mix well.
- Add 4 heaped table spoons of tomato paste to the mix (or any other flavoring you like)
- Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for around 10 mins. Once the dough is satin-smooth, round into a ball shape and place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film.
- Leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight.
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Knock back the dough (punch the air out and pull the dough in on itself) then gently mould the dough into your Tortoise shape.
- To create your Johnathan the Tortoise shape first create a oblong shape with the dough by cutting your risen ball into two halves (this makes two tortoises).
- Taking a sharp knife cut one fifth of the oblong for the head and one fifth for the four legs, leaving the remaining 3 fifths for the larger body.
- Carefully round the body and head into two balls.
- Cut and shape into little oblongs your remaining dough into 4 equal parts to form the legs.
- Assemble the tortoise shape by gently lifting the body and placing the head and 4 legs slightly under the body dough to ensure it doesn’t separate from the body during baking.
- Taking a sharp knife cut the shell design into the back of the body by firstly cutting a large circle and then a crisscross pattern.
- Place it on the baking parchment and loosely cover with cling film and a tee-towel to prove for a further hour until doubled in size.
- Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.
- Wash with a light egg wash on top and bake for 20–25 mins until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.
Original recipe from Good Food magazine, October 2005