It’s always a joy to receive a new cookbook as a gift and this Christmas, my good friend Hannah bought me the simply titled Bread authored by Liz Herbert and the Women’s Institute.
Now if I am completely honest, in a book shop I would probably have passed this publication over as no doubt I would have been swayed by something more cheffy. But it really is a little gem of a baking book. And I am so glad it was gifted to me.
Split into five chapters for basic, savoury, sweet, celebratory and yeast/gluten/wheat free breads, it’s clearly laid out with enticing food photography. Admittedly there aren’t as many pictures as I would like but those that are included appear to have been done so with purpose. Photographs largely accompany those more obscure or intricate recipes.
My poorly preconceived notion was that a book published under the Women’s Institute banner would have its feet planted firmly in the traditional. But what I love most about this book is the surprisingly innovative and modern feel of many of the recipes. Recipes for brie and redcurrant rolls, cardamom and green tea teabread, and Swiss mountain buns (made with Toblerone!) sit alongside old favourites such as French bread, English muffins and hot cross buns.
If you’re an experienced bread baking purist then this probably isn’t the book for you. But if, like me, you have made a few loaves in your time but are looking to expand your repertoire (or are simply brand new to baking bread) you could do a lot worse than purchasing a copy of this great little book.
The first recipe that really caught my eye was this one for an Italian stromboli. A sort-of inside out pizza, you can customize it with any filling you like. It would be an amazing bread to take on a picnic as it is quite robust and, cut into slices, makes ready made sandwiches. This is a beautiful recipe. Use good quality ingredients and you’ll have a bread that would look right at home in any smart deli.
Salami, mozzarella and roasted pepper stromboli (adapted from Bread by Liz Herbert and the Women’s Institute)
- 225g white bread flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fast action yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 150ml luke-warm water
- 2 large (or 3 small) red, yellow or orange peppers
- 75g wafer thin salami (or use prosciutto or parma ham)
- 150g mozzarella, torn into chunks
- small jar of artichoke hearts (about 150g), drained and roughly chopped
- a small handful of sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained
- a small handful of fresh basil leaves
- black pepper
1. Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil and water. Mix to a soft dough.
2. Turn out on to an oiled surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside for about an hour or until doubled in size.
3. Meanwhile, turn your oven to its hottest setting and roast the peppers, whole, until the skins have started to blacken on all sides (about 30 minutes). Transfer the peppers to a large freezer bag, seal, and set aside to cool. Then remove the skins, slice the peppers in half and remove the central core and seeds.
4. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 30cm x 25cm. Leaving a 2cm gap all the way around the edge, lay the salami over the surface of the dough then top with slices of roasted pepper. Scatter over the mozzarella, artichokes, tomatoes and basil. Season with black pepper.
5. Starting from the longest side, fold the third of the dough nearest you up and over the filling, then fold the top third over to seal. Flip the stromboli over so the join is underneath, then fold the ends under. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Using a skewer, pierce the dough all over, right through to the baking sheet. Brush the stromboli with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve slightly warm or cold.