Farina Pugliese for breakfast

One of the things I find continually disappointing about the bakery at my local Waitrose is how little freshly baked bread they have in stock. I initially thought this was because I went at the end of the day, but despite going at different times of day I find the shelves empty of bread. It’s not like that all the time, but I would say 90% of the time I visit, there is virtually no fresh bread.

On my most recent visit I wasn’t expecting to find any fresh bread, I hoped I would, but no there was only a few rolls. Well ni surprise there then. However I needed some bread for breakfast so off to the pre-packed stuff.

Looking over the selection I found Farina Pugliese toasting bread.

Farina Pugliese for breakfast

This Italian bread is made from durum wheat, giving it thick crust and a golden crumb.

The packaging says that the bread is for toasting and it does need toasting, otherwise it can be a bit dry.

Delicious toasted with butter.

Tasty Bread

So I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had never been to Hart’s Bakery. I had heard of Harts Bakery in Bristol, but assumed it was in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Clifton or Gloucester Road) so challenging to get to when working in the centre of Bristol. So was surprised to find out that it’s underneath the arches (at Bristol Temple Meads).

I bought a malted and sunflower seed sourdough loaf, which looked great. The bread itself was delicious, nice firm crust, soft fluffy bread, and full of flavour. You could taste the malt and the sunflower seeds added both flavour and a nice seeded crunch.

Hart's Bakery Malted and Sunflower Sourdough

Nice with just some butter, just as nice toasted with butter. So definitely will be going again, and will see what else they do.

Hart’s Bakery

Only found out about Hart’s Bakery last week. I had heard of Harts Bakery in Bristol, but assumed it was in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Clifton or Gloucester Road) so challenging to get to when working in the centre of Bristol. So was surprised to find out that it’s underneath the arches (at Bristol Temple Meads). Today, third time lucky, it was open and I managed to buy a really nice looking malted and sunflower seed sourdough. Looks tasty and not bad value for artisan bread at £2.

Hart's Bakery Malted and Sunflower Sourdough

It felt and looked really nice. Not tasted the bread yet…

Why third time lucky? First time I went, it was just after work (having missed a train) and I went to find it, but the opening hours are 7am to 3pm, so a place to go first thing in the morning (or at lunchtime). Second time I went was yesterday, and found that it was only open from Tuesday to Saturday (should have noted that the first time I found it). So third time, today, it was open and busy. As well as selling bread, they also do coffee and cake.

Piada’ing to nostalgia

One memory of my trips to Italy in the 1990s was of the different kinds of sandwiches that were sold in bars and cafes. These weren’t the pianinis (or wraps)_ that you find all over the place here, but usually some kind of flat bread filled with mozzarella, salami or prosciutto and fresh salad leaves. What triggered this trip down memory lane was finding these Italian flatbreads in my local supermarket, so in a fit of nostalgia, I bought some.

Piada

These are thicker than the sandwich wraps that you find, the ones made by Mission for example. They are certainly not as thick as naan or pitta breads.

I followed the instructions and heated mine up in a dry frying pan, before adding some Milano salami, mixed lettuce leaves, sliced tomato and cucumber. The entire bread is then folded in half and served.

The bread is nice with a nice taste of olive oil, soft and warm and a nice contrast to the crunch and freshness of the salad.

I do think that they were slightly expensive at £1.75 for four, so might consider making my own.

Olive Focaccia

Olive Focaccia

This was the first time I have made Focaccia.

Taking 500gram strong white bread flour, I added a pack of quick acting years. I then added two spoons of olive oil and 350ml of water.

This was mixed into a dough which I then kneaded for ten minutes. I placed this in an bowl, greased with olive oil, this was covered in cling film and I placed it in a warm place for forty minutes.

After letting it rise I put it into a rectangular floured tin, pushed it into a square shape, and then poked it with holes, placed some olives in the bread, some slivers of garlic and a light scatter of dried Italian herbs. I would have liked to use some fresh rosemary, chopped, however I didn’t have any. If you want extra saltiness (or don’t use the olives) you can add some sea salt.

The bread was then left to prove for another thirty minutes. After that I brushed it with some olive oil and it was then baked in a hot oven 220ºC for twenty minutes or until browned.

Serve and tear apart on the table.

Baking the Bread

Homemade Bread

Over the last few months I have got into a habit of making and baking my own bread.

I don’t use a bread maker, all done by hand, but sometimes I will use a bread mix. The key I find is, both good kneading and letting the dough rise.

I use to think that making bread was too much effort, but as with any cooking technique, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Yes I make mistakes, but generally the bread making process is quick and the results very tasty.

My personal preference is for more rustic breads, sometimes with seeds or wheat flakes. However I also quite like making ciabatta style bread, including dough sticks. I have also made olive bread.

Homemade Olive Bread

I have a couple of loaf tins for baking, but these aren’t essential. In theory you can use cake tins.

So do you bake your own bread? Do you have a favourite recipe?

Breads and Cheeses

Sometimes you find really nice places in the most unobivous of locations.

I don’t go to Cabot Circus in Bristol that often, but when I do I am somewhat surprised by how busy the restaurant places are. There are loads of people queuing to eat at Nandos, Bella Italia always looks packed, as does Yo Sushi.

Though I have to say I was somewhat surprised to find out the other day that La Tasca at Cabot Circus had closed (and will be replaced by a Wagamama). I went to La Tasca last July and said back then:

It wasn’t awful, it was just okay, nothing special and I do think that the restaurant could have done a lot better.

I finished off by saying:

I think it might be a while before I go to La Tasca again…

I wonder if my experience was similar, as a result there was a lack of repeat custom and if you are losing sales, it makes sense to close.

It might be more that people have fallen out of favour with tapas and have moved onto other things… Nandos judging by the queues if you were to ask me.

We went to La Tasca back then, as we didn’t want to eat at the restaurant in Harvey Nichols, as my wife put it “she didn’t want to have a celebrationary dinner in an upmarket BHS or Primark!” So it was somewhat strange that on our most recent visit to Cabot Circus we did end up in the bar at Harvey Nichols.

This was a really peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of the shopping quarter and it was nice to just sit down, relax and be waited upon.

We weren’t there for a meal, just a glass of wine and a snack. The wine list was comprehensive and interesting, and I thought very reasonable, a lot cheaper than I was expecting and anticipated. It was also very nice wine.

In terms of snacks we ordered the rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a nice bar snack at just £3.50.

 rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar

We also splashed out and went with the cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread, which was a little more pricey at £8.00.

 cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread

The breads were really nice and interesting. There were ciabatta style breadsticks, focaccia, and some very unusual gingerbread style bread (not quite gingerbread, but similar). The cheeses were really nice, there was a farmhouse cheddar, a type of brie and a hard Spanish cheese. The chutney was nice, not too strong, but still full of flavours. Alongside came some celery and apple. Both snacks were really tasty and complemented the wines we had chosen.

Now they do that thing, which I don’t really like “a discretionary 10% service charge will be added to all bills” and to be honest I don’t understand. Either include the “service” in the prices or let the customer make the choice about rewarding good service. Using a term like “discretionary” implies that it is a choice, but unless you had really terrible service, you wouldn’t likely say that you were going to not pay it. I also think it stops people tipping more!

Just as an aside really, what I did notice was that (even with the discretionary 10% service charge) many of the prices were quite reasonable. The different coffees available were cheaper than those you would find in a high street chain nearby, and unlike those where you would have to wait at the counter for your coffee, here you would have a waiter deliver the coffee to your table. Much more civilised, wouldn’t you say?

Overall this was a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle that is Cabot Circus and recommended for a quiet drink, whether that be wine or coffee.

I want some artisan bread

Bread

There have been various discussions on various websites and radio programmes about the problems of the Chorleywood process that is used to make modern bread. As I am sure most people reading this blog are aware, the Chorleywood process was devised to speed up the bread manufacturing process. There has been recently a fair bit of criticism about bread made in this way, that it has a reduced nutritional content and doesn’t taste as good as bread made in a traditional manner.

I do like traditional or artisan bread, that is bread made in a traditional manner by a traditional baker. My real issue is that I don’t have easy access to such bakers to be able to buy such bread on a weekly basis, let alone daily as I would prefer.

There is something beautiful about a fresh baked loaf, straight from the bakers. Sliced with a spread of butter. If I had a baker close by, I would be tempted to pop down in the morning to get fresh bread for breakfast. I have done this a few times, such as when I was on holiday in Aldeburgh and when I was in France. I even managed to get some decent bread in Bristol when I lived there.

I have considered baking my own bread, not so sure I have the time to undertake this before I go off to work, however I still firmly believe that to bake decent bread you need a decent bread oven. A standard kitchen oven in my mind is okay for a few things, but it’s not a bread oven.

Having said all that and written all this I think I might try and bake some bread at some point in the future. Any advice for me?

Fruit loaf

Fruit Loaf

I didn’t make this, my wife did and it was really really nice. However you wouldn’t want to have eaten too much of it as for some reason it contained bran flakes and prunes. However a thin slice with butter was delicious.

Bruschetta

A variety of bruschetta with cheese, tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried), artichokes and mushrooms.

Bruschetta

Start off with a ciabatta, though in theory you could use a baguette or french stick (and I have done so).

Slice.

Butter one side only.

Add topping.

Dribble olive oil over.

Bake in a hot oven for less than ten minutes.

Serve.

Eat.