Saturday, 1 September 2012

Red Pepper, Thyme and Anchovy Damper Bread

I have a new love... baking! It's something I have tried now and again in the past to varying degrees of success, but not really been that enthused by. I don't really like making cakes, they always seem the same to me, cream butter with sugar, add eggs.... Creaming sugar and butter is hard work and the mixture always curdles when I add the eggs. I'll just leave all that to the professionals I think. I had thought I felt the same way about baking, but I don't! I've discovered I like making dough, I really enjoy kneading it, it's relaxing and feels like a real skill. I enjoy waiting for it to 'prove'... look, I even know proper baking terms now. It's very rewarding.

This bread was pretty simple as breads go, it doesn’t take that long, there's no waiting for it to prove, just mix, shape and bake... I watched Lorraine Pascale make an olive and rosemary version of it on her new show and decided to give it a go. I had some peppers that had roasted slowly in Mr. Smokerson the night before, a tin of anchovies and some thyme, I was ready to bake. Also being trapped in a Lakeland cottage with a monsoon going on outside it was a pretty good way to pass the time.

To start heat your oven to 200°C and mix 450g of self raising flour with half a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the leaves from 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme. Add 225ml of water and mix everything thoroughly until you are left with a ball of dough.

Dust your work surface with some flour and flatten out the ball of dough into a circle. I peeled and chopped one roasted red pepper and chopped half a tin of anchovies for my filling. You could use any combination of fillings you fancy really; chopped green or black olives, roast soft garlic, diced chorizo, roasted tomatoes. I'll be trying some more combinations soon, but the pepper and anchovy mix was delicious.

Pile your filling into the centre of the dough and start to fold the edges over the top until it is sealed. Turn the dough over and knead it to distribute the pepper and anchovies. This is quite a messy process, especially with a wet filling, as they do start to squidge out, but just push them back in with your finger and keep going. The aim is a ball of dough with the filling mixed through inside. Once you have it under control flatten it out a bit and squash the handle of a wooden spoon into it to create triangular segments.

Finally bake in the oven, Lorraine said 35 minutes for her olive version, mine ended up taking about 50 minutes, which is probably because of the plentiful wet fillings I used. It should be golden and risen and sound hollow on the bottom when tapped. The combination of sweet smoky peppers and salty anchovies, with fresh thyme, layered through warm fresh bread is totally delicious. It's a good, simple and tasty place to start experimenting with baking.

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Happy cooking! Let me know if you make any of my recipes, send a picture, and let me know any of your own recipes and tips! Anna x