Bread is the basis of it all, the staple food of most of Europe and beyond. Bread wakes up our kitchen early in the morning, and comes to life as the kitchen does, finally emerging from the oven when the place has become a flurry of activity, smells, noise and a slight nervousness about the impending lunch. I can’t imagine working in a restaurant kitchen that didn’t make its own bread.
At Paradiso we make five different breads every day, if you don’t count the bagels which I’m proud to say (while cunningly withholding the recipe) are as good a bagel as you’ll get on this side of the Atlantic. The breads are all cut from the same cloth, as it were, so I’m giving you my own favourite here. It’s a soft bread, rich in olive oil and rosemary. To adapt the recipe, simply replace the rosemary with whatever you fancy, but don’t put anything on top except olive oil. Chopped olives or some leftover tapenade or pesto make a great bread, sliced walnuts and chives are good, and we often simply add loads of chopped herbs and bake the dough in a loaf tin. Don’t get carried away though; it is possible to spoil the primal pleasure of bread with fancy-dan tactics. We use an organic, stoneground, strong white flour from Doves Farm in England, widely available in Ireland also. There is only one good reason for doing this, and it’s not our health, our bowels or our image. No, it simply has a great flavour. When so much refined white flour is tasteless powder and almost all of Europe’s white sticks of bread come from central production units, it is essential to use a good flour to make your bread and people love bread that has its own honest flavour.
This recipe makes two flatbreads of 650g each. Make only one if you like (though it’s hard to work such a tiny dough), or make the dough into one larger, slightly higher loaf, as long, wide and high as your oven will take. The finished loaves freeze well, and you’ll be glad to have one to warm up when you get back from the beach late on a Sunday.
MIX THE YEAST, sugar and
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