Summer is here – but catch it while you can, in these parts at least it may not last long. A few days of dry weather means that a walk down the garden to collect herbs is no longer a chore involving wellies and waterproofs. And the chicken’s run is starting to look a little less like a duck pond.
The warm summer weekend meant that it was time for long, lazy lunches. Sitting outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun, good company, and some zingy summer flavours. What better than some home made bread, warm from the oven and flavoured with herbs and lime zest for freshness, and chilli flakes to give it a touch of heat. The combination works well, too well maybe – when I made this yesterday to feed a tableful of hungry children the loaf was almost gone before I could turn around! Either the bread is really good, or they were really hungry!
It’s a perfect loaf to share, rip off hunks of the salty, oily bread to eat with cheese, or to mop up the tangy juices of a tomato salad. And if herbs and chillies are not your thing, you can add pretty much whatever flavouring takes your fancy to the dough – garlic could well have figured in this loaf, raisin and caraway seed would be a slightly sweeter option, or maybe rosemary and black olives… What’s your favourite bread flavouring?
Chilli & Herb Bread
450g strong white bread flour, plus more for flouring your work surface
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the loaf
about 250ml warm water, enough to make a sticky dough
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
grated zest of 1 lime
Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl and give them a stir to mix everything together. Add the water – not all at once, but keep adding and mixing until you have a sticky ball of dough (it’s sometimes easiest to start stirring with a spoon, then use your hands as the mixture becomes more dough-like).
Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface, and knead for about 5 minutes – until it’s elastic and smooth. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover the top with cling wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Tip the dough back out onto a floured work surface and stretch it out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the chilli flakes, chopped herbs and lime zest evenly over the top, then fold the dough over to ‘sandwich’ the flavourings inside. Knead well until the chilli, herbs and lime are evenly distributed through the dough, then shape into a flatish oval. Put the loaf onto an oiled baking sheet, make 3 or 4 deep cuts in the top of the loaf and drizzle with olive oil. Leave to rest while the oven heats to 200oC, 400oF, Gas 6.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf. Allow to cool slightly before sharing with friends!
(I drizzled some extra olive oil over the top of the loaf while it was still warm from the oven, and added a good grinding of sea salt – not so healthy maybe, but it tasted really good.)
Through reading Karen’s lovely blog (Lavender and Lovage), I’ve just discovered the Bake your own bread challenge hosted by Heather from GirliChef, Michelle from Delectable Musings and Connie from My Discovery of Bread. This is great – I’ve found three more wonderful food blogs to read, and I can link this recipe in with the challenge!