I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but I’ve always wanted to be able to bake bread. I love bread, I mean love it, but I’ve never been able to master it. Actual sad face.
Recently I bought Paul Hollywood’s book Bread from which both of these recipes are taken. As a first attempt, I was really pleased. The soup is delicate, yet tasty, and the bread is just amazing. It’s light and fluffy on the inside, with a good crust that has a bit of chew to it. Make sure you spread with unsalted butter, though, as both the stilton and the bacon are salty enough!
For the bread:
500g strong white bread flour
10g fast-action dried yeast
60g unsalted butter
130g dry cure bacon
For the soup:
1 large peeled potato
1 large leek
600ml vegetable stock
150ml double cream
salt & white pepper
The soup will be plenty for four, and then it all comes down to how much bread you need! The recipe here is enough for 16 portions – four bits each doesn’t seem excessive to me, but for smaller appetites you could halve the proportions for the bread, and make just one loaf.
I have a firmly-held belief that second-day soup is best (the same applies to stews, chilli, curry….) so it probably makes sense to make the soup in advance.
1. Chop the celery, potato, and leeks.
2. Melt the butter over a medium-low heat, in a medium-sized pan. Add the veg, and stir to coat it all in the butter.
3. Cook for about 10 minutes, to soften, but not colour.
4. Add the stock, with a little salt, and bring to the boil, before covering and reducing to a gentle simmer for about 25 minutes.
5. Whizz it all up in a blender or food processor, until smooth, then pass through a sieve into a clean saucepan.
6. Have a quick taste, and add salt and white pepper to taste. Then set aside.
On to the bread. Leave yourself plenty of time – although you’re not working with the bread for too long, it needs some time to do it’s thing.
7. Put the flour into a large bowl, with the yeast at one side and the salt at the other. Add the butter in small pieces and mix with your fingers.
8. Add 240ml of the water, and mix it into the other ingredients using one hand, in a clawing motion.
9. When it starts to come together, add the remaining water a little at a time, until you have a soft, sticky dough, that’s gathered up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. You might not need all of the water to achieve this.
10. Lightly dust a work top with flour, and turn the dough out onto it. Knead well. If you’re an expert, you can do this in about 5-10 minutes. I generally take about 20, and I’m still not convinced that I’m very good at it! But practice makes perfect! So practice until the dough has become less sticky, and turns into a smooth ball with an elastic texture.
11. Pop the dough into a large bowl and cover with clingfilm or a clean tea towel and leave it to rise until doubled or tripled in size. This should take anywhere between 1.5 – 3 hours.
12. If you ignored my advice, and haven’t yet made the soup, now would be a good time.
13. Heat the grill to medium-high and grill the bacon rashers until cooked. Set aside to cool, before cutting into small pieces. You’ll need 90g. I found that after eating one rasher, this was just about spot-on!
14. Once the dough has at least doubled in size, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knock back by folding it in on itself repeatedly until it is smooth and all the air has been knocked out.
15. Crumble the stilton into the dough, along with the bacon. Make sure you mix it all through evenly and thoroughly.
16. Roll the dough into a long, sausage shape, and divide evenly in half. Repeat with each section until you have 16 even portions.
17. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
18. Roll each portion of dough into a ball. Place one in the centre of one of the baking trays, and arrange 7 more around it, almost touching. Then do the same with the remaining 8 balls on the remaining baking tray.
19. Pop each tray into a large plastic bag (I use a clean, unused, bin liner) making sure there’s enough space for the dough to rise without touching the plastic. Leave the bread to prove until about double in size again. It should take around 1 – 1.5 hours.
20. If you ignored me twice, this would be a really good time to make the soup.
21. Once the dough is ready (double in size, remember) you’ll notice that it’s come together to form two tear & share loaves, rather than the individual rolls you started out with. Officially yay o’clock.
22. Pre-heat your oven to 220ºC.
23. Spray the loaves with water from a spray bottle, and dust with flour. Bake each loaf on the middle shelf for 15-20 minutes.
24. Remove from the oven and pop on a wire rack until completely cool.
25. When the bread has cooled and you’re ready to eat, re-heat the soup to simmering point, and stir in 2/3 of the cream.
26. Serve with an additional swirl of the cream, some celery leaves, the bread, and a blue kettle bell (last suggestion optional).
Well, this was the closest for a while!
ASDA claim top spot for the first time in ages, clinching it from Morrisons – £11.46 narrowly beating £11.50, with Tesco hot on their heels in third place at £11.52. That’s right, only 6p difference between 1st and 3rd!
Considering how close the first three were, Sainsburys have definitely lost the plot, with their offering of £12.02 a full 50p behind 3rd place.
The real star of the show here is the bread, so I guess you could use a completely different soup. Do be sympathetic with the balance, though. You want something that’s going to go well with the cheese and bacon in the bread – so nothing too overpowering (and not cheesy in its own right). Broccoli could be a good option.
It could be fun to play with different cheeses – a mature cheddar could be tasty enough, or red leicester could look appealing. You could use a blend of different cheeses, or perhaps add some additional ingredients such as chillis or dried tomatoes – although Paul (of the Hollywood variety) does warn that such ingredients can alter the balance meaning you may require different amounts of liquid, so approach with caution!
If you really want to push the boat out, you could this with a tomato and roasted garlic soup, and chorizo & manchego in the bread!
This one, as I’ve said, is courtesy of Paul Hollywood, and his beautiful book Bread.