Cookbook 158: Simply Bread

It’s hard to go past a good bread cookbook, and frustratingly with the constantly reducing number of bookshops in Melbourne, it’s hard to browse bread cookbooks to know if they are good or not (or have the types of bread I want to cook). Thankfully this online purchase of Simply Bread by The Australian Women’s Weekly was a good one. The book guides the user through several different types of bread, from basic through to pastries, sweet breads (not internals), quick breads, etc. It doesn’t address the bread vs cake thing that I have in my head sometimes – do breads have to contain yeast in them to be breads, or is any rising agent sufficient – but that’s just my head.

Being an AWW cookbook and triple tested, it was clear and easy to use, the results pretty much as described and the hardest part of the book was choosing which bread to make. I over committed and planned to make 4 different types of bread, but due to time and general bleah at the state of the world, I only made two. This is ok. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars

Caramelised onion & smoked cheddar pull-apart

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp (7g) dried yeast
  • 2.5 tsp caster sugar
  • 1.25 cups milk, warmed
  • 3 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp table salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 medium red onions, sliced thinly
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated smoked cheddar (or regular cheddar)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, extra

Method:

  1. Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the milk in a medium jug. Stand in a warm place for 15 minutes or until mixture is frothy.
  2. Sift flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in yeast mixture and 1/4 cup of the oil; mix to a firm dough. Knead dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Stand in a warm place for 1 hour 20 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onion and remaining sugar; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until onion is soft. Stir in garlic, rosemary and vinegar; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until liquid is evaporated. Season to taste. Spread onion on a large tray to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. Oil a 20cm by 30cm slice pan.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth. Press or roll dough into a 25cm to 36cm rectangle on a lightly floured sheet of baking paper. Spread onion mixture on dough; top with the cheddar and three quarters of the mozzarella. Turn paper so a long side of the dough is in front of you. Roll up dough from the long side (like a jam roll), using the paper as a guide; cut crossways into 12 x 3cm thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side up, in a pan, all touching. Stand, uncovered, in a warm place for 15 minutes or until dough has risen slightly.
  6. Top pull-apart with extra rosemary and remaining oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with remaining mozzarella; bake for a further 10 minutes or until browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Cover loosely with foil if it starts to overbrown.

Notes on this recipe:

  • The bread was so soft, just like a pull-apart you’d buy from a bakery. The bread itself was also tasty.
  • I am not a big fan of vinegar and found that the onions were too vinegary. I’d cut the vinegar by half next time.
  • Also, I had way too many onions. Decide how much onion you want when spreading over the rolled out dough. As you’re covering it with cheese afterwards and then attempting to roll it all up into a log. I put too much onion on mine (no one was complaining other than me).
  • I used my excess onions (the ones I didn’t put on the bread) in scrambled eggs, that was tasty.

Chilli Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 fresh long red chilli, seeded, chopped finely
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 fresh long red chilli, sliced thinly, extra

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease an 11cm x 25cm loaf pan; line base and sides with baking paper.
  2. Sift flours and salt into a large bowl; stir in polenta and sugar. Make a well in the centre. Stir in buttermilk, egg, butter, chopped chilli and all but 1 tablespoon of the parmesan.
  3. Spread mixture into the pan; sprinkle with remaining parmesan and extra chilli.
  4. Bake bread for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn, top-side up, onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm, at room temperature or toasted.

Notes on this recipe:

  • This is really easy to make and was lovely and moist (unlike some cornbread recipes I’ve tried in the past). The main potential difficulty is getting your hands on buttermilk in Australia, but you can always sour some milk with vinegar to get the same effect (1tbsp of vinegar in that quantity of milk would be sufficient).
  • The chillies we bought weren’t even remotely hot (as happens from time to time), so this looked amazing but wasn’t spicy. Your mileage may vary (depending on when you make the cornbread and your luck with chillies)

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