Rosemary, tomato and onion bread

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

Appears in

The Café Paradiso Cookbook

The Café Paradiso Cookbook

By Denis Cotter

Published 1999

  • About

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.

Ingredients

For Two Flatbreads of 650g Each

  • 3 tsps dried active yeast
  • 2 scant tsps sugar
  • 800 g strong flour
  • 400 mls warm water
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
  • 100 mls olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced in thin half-rounds
  • 4 tomatoes, thinly sliced and deseeded

Method

MIX THE YEAST, sugar and 300 g of the flour in a large bowl, then stir in the warm water. Somewhere in the region of body temperature is the ideal warmth of the water: test by sticking your finger in it for a few seconds. Leave this to get on with its business for three or four minutes but no more - the yeast will become activated and cause the mix to puff up a little and become spongy. If nothing happens, chuck it all out and try again. Now add in the rest of the flour, the salt, rosemary and olive oil. Use first a wooden spoon to bring it all together, then your hands to finish the gathering up and to tip it out on to the worktop. Begin kneading in your own inimitable style, to your favourite kneading music, and keep doing it until you lose interest or ten minutes passes, whichever is longer. (Three standard pop tunes or one meandering jazz odyssey is just about right.) Brush the inside of the bowl with olive oil, put the dough in, creased side down, brush the top of the dough and leave it in a warm, not hot, place for about 30 minutes or until the dough has about doubled in size. When it has, punch it down, or gently push it if you’re sensitive, and cut the dough in two with a sharp knife. On a lightly floured worktop, roll one of the pieces to a thickness of about 15 mm in a roughly rectangular shape. It should sit in a 26 x 36 Swiss-roll tray, though it doesn’t have to. The dough is a very manageable and elastic one, though you should still be careful not to stretch or tear it. Set the dough on a parchment-lined flat oven tray, or that Swiss-roll tray, brush the top with olive oil and scatter the onion slices on it. Next, arrange the tomato slices on top and press them down gently. Set the dough in a warm place to rise again and repeat with the second piece of dough. They will take another 20 minutes or so to rise again to nearly double their thickness. Use this time to set the oven to the right temperature, 350°F (Gas Mark 4), and to clean up the mess you made. Bake the loaves for 12-15 minutes, turning them on the horizontal once if they need it. A conventional oven will give the loaves a soft, pale finish, while a fan-assisted oven will cook them faster, browner and with crisper crusts. Both ways are fine; you’re lucky if you have the choice.