Tomato, rosemary and caramelised garlic bread
Bread and cheese. It pretty much speaks for itself. One of the simplest and most delicious meals you can make, seemingly infinite in variety. All you need for a fantastic meal is just to be a bit selective about the component parts and thats about it – maybe a beautiful crisp baguette alongside some runny camembert or strong slivers of cheddar with a chunk of sourdough.
Bread is such an easy thing to make for lunch on one of those days where you are around and about at home. You just need to start about 3 hours before you will want to eat and then be available to attend to it for 5 minutes or so every hour.
I set off making the base for this bread without giving much thought to the topping. I wanted to make a focaccia style bread, probably with rosemary and garlic, but when I saw some cherry tomatoes in the fridge I thought they would be nice on top too. Unusually I had some fresh yeast in my fridge, (I actually bought it in Norway, I couldn’t resist since its so hard to come by in the UK. The weirdness of my souvenir shopping knows no bounds.), using the more readily available dried yeast would be absolutely fine.
Weigh 500g strong bread flour into a large bowl and add 15g yeast (fresh or dried) and 10g salt. If using fresh yeast make sure to rub it in thoroughly as if you were making a crumble topping. Then add 320ml room temperature water and 50ml good olive oil. Mix together briefly in your bowl until everything is combined and then turn out onto your work surface to knead it.
The dough will seem unmanageably sticky as you start to knead it, but don’t worry and don’t add any more flour at this stage. It will weld itself round your fingers and generally create a sticky mess, but something magic happens when you knead it which brings it into a together eventually, so have patience with it. You want to stretch the dough away from you, fold it back in on top of itself and then lift and turn it over. Repeat over and over. After 5-10 minutes the dough should be forming into a springy ball. If you still have a totally sticky mess after 5 minutes, then add a tablespoon of flour and work it again for another few minutes. It really shouldn’t need a significant extra quantity of flour.
Once you have a nice springy ball of dough, place it into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for an hour or so, until it has doubled in size. Try not to leave it in a cold draught, but room temperature is fine.
Once its had its first rise, oil a rectangular baking tray and tip the dough gently onto it. Push and poke it around gently to make a rectangle shape, but try not to stretch it. It won’t quite cover the tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for another 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, poke the top of it with your finger tips to form dimples and then cover and leave for another half hour.
Now is a good time to prepare the topping. Start with the garlic. Separate a bulb of garlic into individual cloves (unpeeled for the moment) then place into a small pan cover with cold water and bring to the boil. As soon as the water boils, drain and repeat the process. This will just mellow the garlic. After you’ve drained the garlic for a second time, slip the skins off once the cloves are cool enough to handle. Pop them back into the pan with a couple of tablespoons of balsamic or sherry vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of water. Bring to a simmer until a thick, sticky, caramelly goo coats the garlic.
Preheat your oven to 250C. Halve around a dozen cherry tomatoes and pick the leaves off a couple of sprigs of rosemary. I like to coat the rosemary lightly in olive oil to protect it in the oven. Randomly scatter the tomatoes, garlic and rosemary over the bread, pressing them in gently. Drizzle over a generous quantity of good olive oil, which will pool nicely in the dimples on top of the bread and sprinkle over some nice crunchy sea salt.
Put the bread in the pre-heated oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 220C. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Serve with cheese of your choosing – I think it needs a cheese with a bit of a tang as the bread is quite rich and sweet. I had a Chaource, a lovely soft, creamy, slightly crumbly cows milk cheese, but I think a goats cheese would be lovely with it too.
500g Strong bread flour
15g yeast (fresh or dried)
12 cherry tomatoes
1 bulb garlic
50ml olive oil plus extra for drizzling