Chef Dario Cavaliere writes a weekly food column for the Waterford News & Star
WITH the kids back in school, and days that are relatively free, you have no excuse when it comes to baking. An hour or two spent in the kitchen proofing, rising and baking will make all your worries disappear. They say that baking is one of the most therapeutic things that you can do, all you need is a little patience and a good recipe. Never try to alter a baking recipe, as it usually is an exact science, and even changing one ingredient can throw off the whole process and result in either too dense or raw bread. Try these two easy bread recipes and get yourselves in the kitchen!
Onion & Poppy Seed Scones
1 white onion, diced
100g chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
200g self-raising flour
25g pinhead oatmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the onions in the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter on a low heat until the onions start to soften and become translucent. This should take about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and continue to cook the onions until they start to brown and caramelise. Make sure to continually stir the onions so that they do not burn. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 200oC, and place a large baking tray inside to also preheat. Sift the flour, baking powder and pinhead oats into a large bowl, adding any oats that are left in the sieve. Add 1 tsp. salt and fresh black pepper. Then add the sugar and the remaining butter, and rub it with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Add the poppy seeds, cooled onions and thyme and then add the buttermilk, mixing with a wooden spoon until you have a soft dough. Tip out onto a lightly floured board, and roll the dough out to about 1 ½ cm thick. Then using a 6cm round cutter, cut out your scones and place on the preheated floured baking tray.
Glaze each scone with a little milk and bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes and serve warm.
Crispy Focaccia Bread
450g plain or 00 flour
1 tsp. salt
1 sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp. sugar
250ml lukewarm water
60ml olive oil
6 sprigs rosemary
Coarse sea salt
Start by activating your yeast with the sugar and sprinkling into a small bowl of warm water. Leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until it begins to foam. Meanwhile sift your flour and salt into a large bowl.
Remove the rosemary leaves from the stalks and roughly chop it. Add half of the rosemary to the flour and set the rest aside for the top of the focaccia.
Add the yeast to the flour and mix well to form a dough. Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead into a ball for about five minutes. You need to get the dough smooth and quite elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly greased plastic bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
Tip back onto a work surface and knead the bread out into a 12” round. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray, cover with a sheet of oiled baking paper and leave to rise for a further 45 minutes.
Scatter the top of the focaccia with the remaining rosemary. And using your fingers, poke about 10 holes into the top of the focaccia. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and scatter with the sea salt.
Bake in a preheated oven at 220oC for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 190oC and bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack and allow the bread to cool completely.