My friend, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen made many
resolutions decisions this year, one of which was to bake a bread every month. Now you know how easy it is to maintain resolu decisions when you have a group with you. Aparna asked whether anyone would like to join her, and thus was formed a group – We knead to bake. And as if it is not enough that my limbs are already paddling for separate boats, I thought I should try it too – to keep the resolution.
The first recipe we tried is very basic. It is a pull apart bread. The recipe was simple, and could be completed in a day, but I chose to divide it in two days. I like breads that have strong fermented flavours, so I chose to make a pre-ferment the night before I would actually bake the bread. I modified the recipe a little without deviating much from the original. What you will see here is my version.
I made the bread twice. The first time I used a zaatar filling. It was a weekend, and after setting the bread onto a wire rack I popped over to K’s house to see the new tupperware products she had brought in. I did not realize but I apparently ‘popped off’ for quite a bit. When I returned I saw remnants of the bread in the form of a few zaatar crumbs. The son and the husband could not resist. I made it again this morning, but this time I used my vegan basil pesto as the filling. The recipe for that has to wait. I felt today’s version was tastier, but then I could be prejudiced. Pesto makes my knees weak and wobbly!
Recipe: Pull apart bread with vegan pesto
Contains gluten and nuts
Yield: One loaf measuring 7″ x 2″ inches
The pre-ferment or poolish: (To be mixed the night before as this needs to be fermented for at least six to eight hours) ‘A’
Flour | Maida – 1/2 cup
Note: scoop flour into measuring cup and level off. Do not tap the cup to hold more flour or scoop flour with cup
Warm water – 1/2 cupy
Active dry yeast – 1 tsp. (I use ‘prime’)
The main dough: ‘B’
Flour | Maida – 2 cups + 1/2 cup for dusting and adding if needed
Powdered rock salt – 1/2 tsp.
Warmed coconut milk (second extract) – 1/2 cup
Raw sugar – 1/2 tsp.
Active dry yeast – 1 tsp.
(I will reduce this to 1/2 if I made it again)
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tsp. + for greasing the container
Nutritional yeast – 2 tsps.
Sea salt – 1/4 tsp.
Prepare the pre-ferment / poolish using ingredients listed under ‘A':
Mix yeast in warm water and stand till dissolved.
Place flour in a wide bowl. Make a well and add the yeasted water. Using a thin spoon mix the flour gently with water to form a lump free, soupy batter.
Place batter in an oiled air tight container, and let stay overnight or for 6-8 hours in a warm spot.
It should be riddled with holes and have a strong fermented smell after 6-8hrs.
Prepare the dough using ingredients listed under ‘B':
Warm the milk and mix the sugar and yeast till dissolved.
Place 2 cups of flour and salt in a wide mixing bowl. Form a well and add the yeast solution and salt.
Mix gently to form a rough, quite sticky mixture, adding the poolish. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead the dough, sprinkling some flour if you find it sticky. I needed only about 2-3 tsps. You will have to knead for about 10 minutes to form a smooth pliable dough that is not sticky. Check note at the s bottom of this page for tips on how to knead.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled container, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let rise for about an hour, or till doubled in volume.
Filling and assembling:
Dust your work surface lightly with flour. Empty the dough from the container onto surface. Gently deflate the dough, shaping it into a square about 12’ x 12” (or 10″ x 10″). I did not roll as this dough was very soft. Instead I kept changing flipping between my arms till it was a square, as for a pizza.
Spread the surface of the square with the pesto liberally and evenly. I ran out of pesto which is my my bread does not have an even distribution.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips.
You can put the 2 strips cut from the sides in the middle of the stack so it looks neater. Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks). Mine were rectangles! I am not perfect.
Line a 7″ x 2″ loaf pan with parchment paper. Grease lightly and sprinkle nutritional yeast. Place the sliced stacks, cut sides down into the loaf tin.
Cover the tin with an oiled film loosely and let prove for 1/2 an hour till it fills the pan and puffs up slightly. Drizzle a little olive oil, preferably extra virgin, and dust nutritional yeast generously. Sprinkle sea salt.
Pre-heat oven to 180 deg. C, and bake the bread in the middle rack for about 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Once done, remove pan. Let cool for ten minutes before turning out on a wire rack. Cool completely. Pull apart and serve with more pesto on the side and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
How to knead: Place dough on liberally dusted (or oiled) work surface and holding the end close to you, fold the far end over the dough itself. Now push the dough away from you to stretch it a little. Turn the dough from 12 O’ clock to 9 O’ clock (A quarter turn clockwise). Hold the end close to you and fold the far end of the dough over itself. Push it again to stretch a little. Repeat turning, folding and stretching 8-10 times, dusting with flour, only if needed. Be gentle. Do not stretch the dough to breaking point. Stretch only as far as the dough yields else the gluten will act up. After a few turns you will find that the dough will not be quite as sticky and easy to handle. Once soft do not knead any more. I like to rub a little extra virgin olive oil on my palm while kneading as the oil subtly flavours the dough – only once. Too much oil hinders the development of gluten. I follow this method based on Dan Lepard’s book. You can see him using this technique in this youtube video. The video makes it clear as to how much you can stretch your dough.