This recipe comes off Jamie Oliver, who always looks like he enjoys making his bread, so I guess he knows what he's doing. Making bread is really enjoyable because it's relaxing, and you get to work out your frustrations on the dough, but best of all, there's nothing like the smell of freshly-baked bread and the knowledge that you made it.
Ingredients (Serves 8)
300g cherry tomatoes
5 - 10 Tbsp olive oil
Again, click on the image to see what the different ingredients are. What you don't see in the meez is basil, because I like mine freshly-plucked. You can buy some from the supermarket if you don't grow your own. The bread flour you see in the picture comes from Phoon Huat, and I find it makes a lighter, fluffier bread than the bread flour you get from NTUC, so try and get that if you can. The olive oil is essential to this recipe so try and get a good one. Naturel works well for me.
Basically, 500g of flour, 15g of yeast, 15g of sugar, 15g of salt and 310ml of water makes enough bread for eight people, depending on how much bread each person can/will eat.
So dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water, stirring to make sure it's all dissolved.
Pour the flour and salt into a big, clean mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre of the pile.
Pour half the water into the well you've made (don't worry if it leaks out) and using your right hand, incorporate the flour and water in circular motions, working inwards. When all the water's been absorbed (your flour will still be in flakes and strands), pour in half the remaining water and continue incorporating. Continue in this manner until you have a ball of moist, but not sticky, dough.
If your dough becomes too sticky, sprinkle some flour onto it and work it in until the stickiness is gone. If it's too floury and flaky, pour in a bit more water till you've got it right. It's all about whether you've got the touch. You should end up with something that resembles the ball of dough in the picture.
Now, the best part - kneading! You'll want to knead because you get to vent all your frustrations on the dough, and you get to abuse it the way you'd like to abuse your spouse but prevented from doing so by the Woman's Charter. Oh yeah, it helps develop the gluten and structure of the dough too.
Just keep rolling, pushing, folding, bashing, punching, working and massaging the dough for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until your arms feel like they're going to fall off, whichever is sooner. Try not to let your perspiration drip into the dough.
Once you're done kneading, form the dough into a roundish shape and dust it lightly with flour. Score it deeply with a knife (just pretend you're acting in a Hitchcock and plunge it in) and place it back in your mixing bowl. Cover it with a damp cloth, and leave it somewhere warm, moist and draft-free to prove (rise) for 40 minutes. I like to use my oven, switched off, of course. If you want to speed things up a bit you could preheat your oven on the lowest setting, then switch it off and pop the dough in. Wouldn't advise it though.
While it's proving, boil up some water till it's good and rolling, and drop in about 300g of cherry tomatoes, for about ten seconds, then fish them out and plunge them into ice-cold water. Remove them from the water into a clean bowl. Most of them should have split and you can spend the next ten minutes removing the skins. Leave the skins on the small ones and the unsplit ones. Once they're all peeled, cover them with 5-10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. More is better, I feel.
Now that it's doubled up, just punch it down to get all the air out. Take out the dough and transfer it to a baking tray, pushing the dough to fill out the whole tray.
Pour over the olive oil and tomatoes and sprinkle one handful of fresh basil. You can sprinkle over a handful of fresh rosemary leaves if you have any. Try not to let the oil pool in one spot (usually the centre because it's the shallowest).
Using all ten of your fingers, push down into the dough to form little wells of olive oil. Do this across the whole dough, poking some of the basil leaves into the wells, but avoiding the tomatoes.
Allow it to prove for another 40 minutes.
You usually have to poke it again with your fingers after this time, as the wells would probably have disappeared. Try and distribute the oil as evenly as possible by tilting it this way and that.
Once done, pop it into a preheated 220C/425F oven for 20 minutes.
It should look something like that by the end of the 20 minutes. Don't worry about the oil - I added about one and a half times too much. You'll find that where the tomatoes are resting the bread is still rather dough-like. To overcome this, you could let the bread sit in the oven a little while more at a lower heat, or you could have made sure the tomatoes were sitting in the wells of oil before you began.
In any case it doesn't really matter, the bread should turn out just fine.