Hello bakers! We now know about the Basic Bread, and yeast. Many of you have shared your bread baking experiences on the groups — I’ll be posting all those pictures in our Monday blog.
Today, I thought we’d try something different. I had some cherry tomatoes and an array of fresh herbs courtesy Mira Mishra Ma’am, a keen fellow baker and a generous neighbor. Why not bake a Tomato and Herbs bread? But first, a bit about tomatoes, and why you should consider adding it to your bread!
Tomatoes!? Why tomatoes?
This bread, the ubiquitous “red” ketchup, and almost all the Indian gravies would be sans tomatoes and their savoury flavour, had it not been for the Portuguese explorers who introduced us to ‘this red berry’. Would you believe that there were no ‘tamatars’ in India before the 16th century? Today we are the second largest producer and consumer of tomatoes in the world.
Sure, but why add it to my bread?
I am perpetually experimenting with how to roll out healthy and delicious breads, while keeping the recipes simple and minimalistic. This way my family, my fellow home bakers and especially new bakers can bake healthy breads and make them part of their daily meals.
While tomatoes are good for blood pressure, eyes, skin, heart health and blood sugar, fresh herbs are also very good for health as they prevent inflammation, heart disease, tumours, diabetes and blood clots. As the health benefits of tomatoes, fresh herbs and olive oil are well known, and I was already baking bread with some veggies like pumpkin and zucchini, this was next in line. So, I gave it a serious try and what I got was a fragrant, flavourful, fresh and nutritious loaf.
- Whole wheat flour – 2 cups (280 gms)
- Maida – 1 cup (120 gms)
- Water – 1 cup (240 ml)
- Instant Yeast – 2 tsp . If using Active dry yeast do prove it. (See the yeast blog)
- Honey – 2 tsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Olive oil – ¼ cup (50 ml) for the dough
- Cherry tomatoes, whole -1 cup (150 gms)
- Roughly chopped fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, parsley ⅓ cup (else mixed dry herbs – 1 tbsp)
- Baking soda – 1 pinch
Add some olive oil to the tomatoes and roast them in an oven preheated to 200℃ for about 15 minutes. Cool and puree or mash well.
Mix all the dry ingredients and sift the flour well, as aeration helps in baking good structured breads. Do not add salt now, as it interferes with the activity of yeast. We will add it later.
Add honey, fresh herbs and olive oil and gradually add water to mix the dough with hands or a spatula. Keep it aside for ½ an hour if you are not in a hurry. This process is called autolyse. It helps in breaking down the enzymes and helps in gluten formation for well structured and flavoured breads.
We can now add salt to the dough.
Add salt and tomato puree and knead well for 10 minutes or so. Enjoy the temporary mess — the dough will become more stable with the yeast feeding on sugars in the flour.
Remember to add water gradually as you continue to knead.
Keep kneading, stretching and folding it on itself (like folding a sheet of paper in half), for about 10 minutes for gluten to develop properly. Add some flour or olive oil to make the dough soft and smooth, if needed.
Roll the dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl (preferably a glass bowl). Cover and keep the bowl in a dark and warm place. The fermentation process will double the dough in size, so make sure your bowl is large enough. The dough should not over ferment (ie. the dough should not more than double, else it rises and then sinks).
To test whether the dough has fermented and risen well, the dough should spring back after a gentle press.
In my experience fermentation time in an Indian kitchen in warm weather would be 45 minutes to 1 hour. In cool weather, it’s about 1&½ to 2 hours.
Gently take the dough out from the bowl. Because of the oil great it should slide out. Do not pull it out else you disturb the activity of the yeast.
Again gently deflate the dough with finger tips — I call it dimpling.
Roll the dough into a log shape and tuck from all sides as if seaming it. Place the dough in a loaf tin, seam side down, for proving (second rise). Remember, the dough has yeast which is alive and has to be handled with care, at all times. It should not over-prove (ie. the surface should not flatten and crack) else it does not spring in the oven and you’ll get a flat-top after baking. During the proving, the dough should rise, while maintaining its shape.
Proving time is just half of the fermentation time. With practice, you’ll be able to tell by the look and feel of the dough.
Preheat the oven to 180℃. Create some steam (see note below) and bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes, till done.
To create some steam for a nice crusty loaf with keep boiling water in the last shelf or quickly spray some water on the loaf and in the oven as soon as you start baking.
And that’s it!
Tips and closing thoughts
- Store fruits like tomatoes at room temperature rather than in the fridge. This increases levels of valuable lycopene as they ripen well.
- Roast and puree or mash the tomatoes. If used in raw or cooked form the loaf will become soggy and very moist.
- You can roast some garlic pods as well. Leave them to roast with skin and peel later to prevent charring.
- You’ll need a bunch of fresh herbs for this bread and the main thing is quantity and they must be fresh. In case you do not have fresh herbs, use the dried ones.
- You can use regular tomatoes for this recipe, but I happened to have some cherry tomatoes, fresh from my friend’s garden– they’re ideal for roasting.
I hope you try this recipe and share your experiences with all of us on the groups, and here in the comments. Thanks again, to Mira Mishra Ma’am for the herbs and tomatoes!