Bread wreath with a savoury filling

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Makes: 2 loaves

Preparation time: 2 hours, including rising time

Oven temperature: 200°C

Baking time: 35 minutes

  • 1kg (7 cups) white bread flour
  • 10ml salt
  • 10ml sugar
  • 10g instant dried yeast (or 25g fresh yeast)
  • 30ml olive oil
  • about 650ml lukewarm water
  • 250 – 300ml grated cheese (use a mixture of pecorino, gorgonzola, mature cheddar, parmesan or feta
  • 1 packet (about 6 slices) prosciutto, roughly shredded
  • a handful torn, fresh basil leaves
  • 8–10 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

1. Sift the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and dried yeast and mix well. (If you’re using fresh yeast, mix it with the sugar and half the lukewarm water, add the olive oil and leave to stand while you mix the flour and salt.)

2. Mix the oil and lukewarm water, and gradually add to the dry ingredients to create a soft dough. Add more water if necessary. (If you’re using fresh yeast, add the liquid to the dry ingredients now, then the rest of the lukewarm water.) Once you’ve created the soft dough, knead it for about 5 minutes until the texture is elastic. Kneading is essential for the development of the gluten in the dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with greased clingwrap and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume.

3. Knead down, add the rest of the ingredients and knead until smooth and all the ingredients are completely mixed 1 2 3 4 through. Divide the dough and place each half in a greased 23cm loaf or springform tin as illustrated. Cover lightly and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can also shape the dough into rolls, or bake it in individual pots

4. Once the dough has risen, you can snip it with a pair of scissors for a professional appearance. Brush the top of each loaf with water and bake in a preheated oven to for 35 minutes. (This is the time required for large loaves; rolls or smaller individual breads will require less baking time.)

The magical ingredient

• Yeast is an essential raising agent for bread. A 10g packet of dried yeast is equivalent to a 25g cube of fresh yeast and is enough for 1kg of flour, or 500g of flour mixed with other ingredients.

• Yeast’s effectiveness is dependent on heat.

• Sugar feeds yeast, making it more active and encouraging faster fermentation. Some bread recipes call for honey or golden syrup for extra flavour and colour, but too much sugar can cause bread to rise too much – and then flop.

• Salt not only improves the flavour of bread, but also controls the pace at which the yeast ferments and the consequent development of the gluten.

• Water is generally used with yeast, although it is sometimes mixed with milk, which gives the bread a softer, lighter texture. The liquid should be lukewarm for the yeast to work effectively.

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