I find baking my own bread to be one of those simple pleasures in life, such as watching the sunset or picking fresh flowers from lush green fields in the countryside. Although I was brought up in the city, I think I am definitely a country girl at heart. The idea of having my own cottage or ranch in the middle of nowhere surrounded by endless greenery, maybe having some chickens and horses, growing my own fruit and veg, all cocooned with the aroma of freshly baked bread is blissful country living. It is also the sense of relaxation that baking bread gives, as well as the feeling of pride when you taste your very own home-baked dough of deliciousness, that encourages me to continue.
One of my favourite breads to bake is Tortano, a traditional Easter bread in Italy. I make it a lot for picnics and the distinctive wreath shape ensures it to be an ideal sharing bread when served with whatever you like.
15g dry or fresh yeast
300ml warm water
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil (from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp salt
475g strong bread flour
30 sun-dried tomatoes (1-2 jars will be needed)
100g parmesan cheese
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
- Dissolve the yeast into a large bowl containing the water, sun-dried tomato oil, honey and salt, and leave to stand for 2 minutes.
- Mix the flour into the mixture a little at a time, and then knead the dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes until it becomes soft.
- Cut half of the sun-dried tomatoes and mix them into the dough. Keep adding a little flour to your hands if the dough becomes too sticky.
- Let the dough rise in the bowl under a cloth for 40 mins.
- Press the dough into a long rectangle shape about 1cm thick with your fingers.
- Cut the rest of the sun-dried tomatoes and scatter them over the dough, leaving a 1cm border.
- Layer the cheese, oregano and garlic powder on top of the tomatoes. Reserve 2 tbsp parmesan cheese.
- Brush the edges of the dough with water and roll it into a thick sausage shape.
- Shape the dough into a wreath.
- Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F, gas 7.
- Put wreath on a tray lined with baking paper. Dust a little flour and scatter 2 tbsp parmesan cheese on top.
- Cover the wreath and let it rise for 30 mins.
- Put the tray in the oven and lower the temperature to 200°C/400°F, gas 6.
- Bake the bread for 30 mins and let it cool on a rack.