Recently I have found a new favourite TV show on UK television: The Great British Bake-Off! It’s the Big Brother of amateur baking (although I have seriously never watched BB). 12 contestants are baking against each other and each week the weakest baker has to go. They have to bake to different topics each week (for example one week it is all about bread, the other all about British cakes). They make three different bakes each week: one signature bake where they can use their own recipes that they usually have made many times before; then a technical challenge having to re-bake a recipes by one of the judges, cookery writer Mary Berry (Seriously, that IS her name!) and professional baker Paul Hollywood (I am not making up those names!); lastly they have to create a showstopper piece, something that looks and tastes amazing and uses a complicated technique if possible. At the end of the week, one is crowned star baker, another has to go home. You can debate about the characters on the show just as you do on BB or Come Dine With Me (I am looking at you there, Ruby!), so apart from the baking it is quite entertaining.
Due to the show I acquired even more British kitchen vocab now, or I am getting into the baking lingo, if you want to. I can tell you all about gluten strings, soggy bottoms and a nice crust. As Paul, the baker, always makes such a fuss about breads, I had to try myself again. I have made quite a bit of bread before, but this time I wanted to try a twisted crown with two different flavours which I had never attempted before. Enter a rainy Sunday and the muse to bake. I have to say that I am very pleased with the result. It is surely not the most beautiful crown, but for the first time I did quite well. What do you think?
And look at the bread! It even has two colours when you cut it! Doesn’t it look appetizing? Also, the two flavors are great with each other. The yellowish part of the bread is flavoured with Moroccan-spice mix Ras el-Hanout (I have used it with the Barley Stir fry already), the other “string” is flavoured with garlic and some fresh basil. Next time I would use coriander/cilantro instead of the basil, that would make the flavours go together even better. For the flour I used a lot of wholemeal (brown) flour, so it is also super healthy. Now what is keeping you from making this lovely loaf?
Here is what you (k)nead:
500 g flour (I used 200 g plain flour and 300 g wholemeal stoneground flour)
1.5 teaspoons of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon salt
150 ml + 150 ml of lukewarm water (NOT hot! Hot water destroys the yeast)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
handful of fresh herbs (I recommend coriander), finely chopped
2-3 teaspoons of Ras el-Hanout
Combine the flour, the yeast and the salt in one bowl. Then divide the flour mixture into two equal parts into two bowl. Add the garlic and the herbs to one bowl, add the Ras el-Hanout to the other bowl. Then add 150 ml lukewarm water to each bowl. Knead the dough thoroughly in each bowl until everything is incorporated. Keep on kneading for a few more minutes so the gluten strings develop (Told you I learnt something watching TV). Cover the bowls with a kitchen towel and let the dough proof for about an hour, somewhere warm like your kitchen or near a radiator.
After the volume of the dough has about doubled, knead the doughs thoroughly again. They are very (k)neady (Ok, I will stop with those jokes here). Then roll each dough into a sausage of about 7 cm in diameter (they should be each about 30 to 40 cm long). Line a baking tray with baking paper. It is easier to assemble the crown on the baking paper as you don’t have to lift it up again. Lay both dough sausages next to each other and press the upper ends together. Then just twist one strand over the other, as evenly as possible. When done all the way down, press those ends together and bring it up to the top, forming a round shape. Cover the crown with a kitchen towel again and let proof for another 20 to 30 minutes on the baking tray. Heat the oven to 200°C and pop in the crown for about 30 minutes. The bread is done when there is a hollow sound when you carefully knock on the bottom of the bread. Let cool slightly and enjoy with a serving of hummous or margarine.
You could also try different shapes or adding different spices. I’d love to hear from you what you came up with for your bread!