In the nick of time for the second edition of baking bread hosted by Columbus foodie...I've been very excited about baking bread since last January. Before that, I'd been baking bread, but somehow it always seemed very time consuming, which I don't mind if the result is great but it never turn out as good as expected. Then, a friend and I went on a half day bread baking course at Migros. This is not only one of the main supermarkets in Switzerland, but they also run many courses on a wide variety of topics at their ClubSchule.
The course was in German (good practice for me) but our teacher also spoke good English and she was happy to explain again or answer any of my questions when my German knowledge fell short. It was a great set up with some theory but also lots of practice and tasting and by the end of the day, I felt very confident and I took a few essential tips home which have made the baking fantastic since then!
1) Make sure to mix sugar/salt and fat well with the flour before adding the yeast (as the little yeasties like it in diluted form but not pure)
2) You can use dry and fresh yeast interchangeable and there is no need to pre-start it as long as you kneed well.
2) The batter needs to be quite wet and just not sticking to your fingers, but when you poke it, a little bit should stick temporarily (I used to make mine way too dry!)
3) To speed up rising, either put your bowl in a sink of lukewarm water or heat the oven up to 50°C, turn it off and place the dough in there.
So for the bread with fruit, I chose to make a variation on a recipe for Schiacciata. This is a flat bread from Tuscany that can be made savory or sweet. I used some little Italian pears that have been on sale here that are quite hard (good for baking)but full of flavor. I wanted to eat these breads with some pear preserve I made and as that had some tonquin bean (or tonca; a fragrant black nutlike South American bean, you can substitute with vanilla) in it I also grated some through the batter to echo the flavors. They turned out really well, crunchy thin crust on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. They were great for breakfast with the preserve that just enhanced their flavors and for lunch with some goat cheese.
Schiacciata with pears and tonquin
250 g strong white flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
10g fresh yeast (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
±300 ml water
1 tonquin bean
oil for brushing
First, mix flour, sugar and salt, then add butter and mix again. Second crumble the fresh yeast into the flour and mix again. Finally add the water till everything comes together. Kneed for 10 min, leave to rest for 1 h (or use fast rising tips above), knock back, divide into 6 balls that you flatten and brush with oil. Leave to rise until puffy, then dimple the dough with your fingers. Brush again with oil and top with slices of pear. Bake at 200°C for 15 min till golden and crisp.
Pear and Tonquin preserve
1 grated tonquin bean
40 ml vinegar
Clean the pears and cut them into small pieces. Bring sugar, honey and vinegar to the boil, add the pears and grated bean then simmer for 1 hour. Place into clear, sterilized jars and store in a dark place.