While I don’t have a problem with the breadmaking process – long as it takes – what’s really hard to deal with is getting bread to rise when it’s cold. It’s a cruel truth that in the months when warm bread and carbs, carbs and more carbs are what your body craves as you wrap up warm with blankets and hot water bottles, it’s not always easy to find a warm spot to let bread dough rise.
The warm place I created and fenced off was unfortunately where my two cats like to sit (being a warm place and all…), so I made this bread into pan-shaped loaves rather than fancy rounds or baguettes to give them extra protection from curious paws (they once stepped in a rising foccacia loaf on a baking tray while en route to a windowsill – I blame myself for the lack of foresight, really).
(makes two loaves)
2 cups (500ml) very warm water
4 cups (545g) bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning (mixed herbs)
½ cup finely-chopped sun-dried tomatoes (sorry, forgot to weigh this one - I used about 10 of varying sizes)
1. Put the yeast, sugar, 2 cups of the flour and water into a large bowl. Use an electric/handheld mixer to blend it together, scraping the sides to make sure it is mixed thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap (cling film) and leave for an hour, until mixture is bubbling and has expanded in size.
2. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Using a dough hook if possible, mix in the oil, salt, tomatoes and Italian seasoing (mixed herbs). Add the flour a bit at a time, then turn the dough onto a board and knead for 5-8 minutes or until smooth and springy. Add flour as necessary while kneading.
3. Put the dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
4. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a rectangle, then roll the rectangles tightly, tucking in the ends as you move along. Pinch the edge into the dough to create a smooth, neat seal. Put each dough roll into a loaf pan, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.