I started making Halloween-shaped fougasse when my twin lads were tiny – it became a bit of a family tradition in late October to get them to help me shape the bread dough into ghouls and skulls. Now I carry it on as I still am a big kid myself and it’s simply just nice bread. It’s particularly gorgeous dipped into a very cheesy fondue, even dyed green if you’re into the full-on ghoulish experience!
I’ve shown my Halloween shapes for many years on Instagram but I’ve never previously shared my recipe, so here it is. Hope you like it and have fun making your own Halloween shapes – you’re not limited to the pumpkin and ghost I’ve shown here.
A previous year’s example of my boogasse, to show some alternative shapes:
Notes – this dough is a bit wet. If you don’t fancy kneading by hand pop it in your stand mixer with a dough hook.
Makes 2 large “boogasse” fougasse – enough for four people.
Preparation is about 1hr 45, though much of that is hands-off, with around 22 minutes baking.
Place the chopped squash in a saucepan and add enough water to almost cover it
Simmer until soft
Strain the squash, but sieve it over your measuring jug – you’ll need to keep the water it was cooked in. Press the squash flesh to get as much water out as possible (this is so you can measure it more accurately)
Mash or blend the flesh so it’s not lumpy or stringy
Top up the liquid with water until it reaches 260g
Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, the squash, olive oil, yeast and liquid in your large bowl
Mix roughly and leave for 10 minutes
Tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly and is a little wet
Knead for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
Divide your dough in half
Flour both baking trays
Take half of the dough and cut off a small piece. Roll this into a long sausage/string shape
With the rest of this piece of dough, flatten it out to about 1 cm thickness, shaping it into a pumpkin shape (like a fat ‘8’ on it’s side with a short stalk)
Take the string of dough, persist lightly onto where the stalk is and curl it on it self across the pumpkin shape. Do NOT make the indentations at this stage (see image below)
Cover the dough with a tea towel
With the second piece of dough, pull and flatten into a ghost shape – but do NOT make the holes for the eyes and mouth yet (as in image above)
Cover this one with your other tea towel
Leave both to rise for about 30 minutes
While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 200C fan / 220F conventional / 450F
When the fougasse has risen, use the edge of a spoon to make the indentations on the pumpkin shape – as the spoon is curved it makes it easier. Use the handle end of the spoon to create the holes for the eyes and mouth on the ghost shape
You can now lightly brush with beaten egg if you prefer – my pumpkin was brushed with egg and the ghost was left without (so you can see the difference)
Place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 190C fan / 210C conventional / 425F
Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
I’ve had a glut of chillies and peppers this year, thanks – I’m assuming – to the unusually hot and sunny spring we had here in the UK. My tiny greenhouse is currently bursting with produce compared to how it’s done over recent years.
This glut of produce has lead to jars of pickles and chutneys, salsa, sugo/sauces as I’m sure many of you have made too, but here’s a method for pickling the baby peppers whole, with a mini ‘recipe’ further down for stuffing these with cream cheese (or similar).
I’ve used Mini Bell Mixed variety peppers I’ve grown myself for this, but there are many snack sized varieties you can grow such or buy, such as the more commonly used Pepperdew. You could also pickle ‘fat’ chilli varieties, such as Padron, and large bell peppers, but you’d need to chop these into chunks (and you won’t be able to stuff these later).
This set of instructions is for a 1 litre jar – multiply the volumes up for additional jars.
1 litre jar which closes water-tight, such as a clip top Kilner jar
Apple corer, knife, small spoon, scales
600 ml clear pickling vinegar
360-400 g of small peppers
20 g salt
60 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
3-5 chillies (I used three Thai chillies)
Sterilise your jar – put it in a dishwasher on high heat, sterilise in a hot oven or use an infant sterilisation solution such as Milton fluid (follow the advice on the label). Full details on sterilisation in an oven can be found on my (very old – 2014 – but still good) lemon curd recipe post
Wash the peppers and either dry them with a clean tea towel or leave them to dry
Take take off the stalks and remove the pith and seeds from each pepper. My top tip for the EASIEST way to do this by far is to use an apple core to screw down over the stalk and into the pepper (stop before you come out the other side!). If there are any seeds or pith left, flick this out using the tail end of a teaspoon
Chop the chillies, removing any stalks. You can remove or keep the chilli seeds as you see fit (it doesn’t matter too much either way – it’s all just personal preference).
Warm the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns in the saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves – you should not need to let it boil
Push all the cored peppers into the jar, with the holes facing upwards so that they will fill with liquid. Don’t push too hard or you’ll split the peppers; before they are pickled fully they are fairly easy to snap
Fill with the vinegar slowly. You may need to jiggle the jar or push the peppers down a little as you fill to get as much air out as possible
Close the lid and leave for 24 hours
After a day, open and push the peppers down a bit more into the vinegar as they will have softened a little in just those 24 hours. It’s likely that some weren’t fully submerged and this will ensure that they all get pickled (any peppers above the liquid level are at risk of going off)
If you can’t make all the peppers go under the level of the 600ml vinegar, top it up with a little extra plain distilled vinegar (no need to add any more spices and sugar etc)
Leave your peppers ideally for a full week until opening, but they will store for about 6-8 weeks (if all the peppers are fully submerged in the pickling liquid).
After a week they’re fine to use as you would any pickled peppers. Once opened best to store in the fridge and use within a fortnight.
Here’s how to go on to stuff them:
Cheese stuffed baby peppers
Sieve or colander
Spoon and sharp knife
Piping bag (with or without large circular nozzle)
and possibly: a sterilised jar up to 1 litre in capacity if you want to stuff them in advance of eating them. Please note though that they are best eaten soon after stuffing.
Ingredients – assumes you are stuffing ALL of the 1 litre jar of peppers (up to 30 peppers)
The pickled peppers
500g of soft cheese*. Cream cheese, cottage cheese, brie, taleggio or similar are all good for this
100 ml (approx) of extra virgin olive oil* (I used Filippo Berio Organic Olive Oil) Or use a flavoured oil, such as a chilli or garlic oil.
* If you are only stuffing a portion of the peppers: use about 100g of cheese and 20ml of olive oil for a quarter of the peppers. Scale as appropriate
Take out the pickled chillies, shaking off the vinegar and place in a sieve or colander to drain
(You can re-use the pickling vinegar again once more, but only for short-term ‘fridge’ pickles. Do not reheat and use. For instance I have used it for a second batch of these peppers – then I’ve discarded it. If you are unsure, just discard)
If you are using a very runny cheese, it’s best to push it into a piping bag with a large nozzle and squirt the cheese into the pepper
If you are using a semi soft cheese, such as brie or taleggio or even a thicker cream cheese, scoop or cut teaspoon-sized portions of the cheese and push it into the peppers with the teaspoon
Place the stuffed peppers into a bowl and pour all the olive oil over them. make sure they are completely coated
You can now serve and eat straightaway – this is preferable
If you want to prep them a day in advance, pop the stuffed, oiled peppers into a new sterilised jar. Tip the oil left in the bottom of the bowl into the jar. Please note if you have a very cold fridge the olive oil can congeal – if this happens leave outside of the fridge for a couple of hours before eating
While you can use almost any ‘standard’ bread recipe with a glug of olive oil to make pizza or garlic bread, with a little extra effort you can create a pizza base that’s really special.
You may think that it’s a bit pointless to make a tasty pizza base, given that most people drown their pizzas in toppings. However, this makes awesome garlic bread and if you use restraint with your pizza toppings, making something more classic Italian than loaded American-style, you’ll definitely notice the difference.
So, while I use a little added sourdough starter in this to add a tang and help with the rise (as I reduce the amount of dried yeast used) you can just use all dried yeast if you do not maintain any wild yeast yourself. The wild yeast does, hand on heart, truly make a difference to the taste but its still quite a nice dough with just 100% fast acting dried yeast, and I’ll indicate the swap in the recipe.
For this recipe I have also produced a YouTube video, in which I go on to cook two garlic breads. I have included the additional garlic bread recipe below, after the dough recipe.
As ever, do please leave a comment if you’ve made this or ask me any questions about it – I’m happy to answer recipe and technique questions.
Video – the full recipe and instructions for this!
Makes two 12 inch pizza/garlic bread bases
If you can’t get hold of Italian tipo 00 flour use half plain flour (‘all purpose’ flour in the US) and half strong white bread flour.
If you don’t make sourdough bread and therefore don’t have a yeast starter culture, use 7g of dried fast acting yeast (instead of the wild yeast + dried yeast).
Don’t substitute dried herbs in this – fresh herbs make such a difference here and also look amazing through the dough.
If you have those pizza trays with the punched holes in, to crisp the base as it cooks, you will need to line them with baking paper first. I use these trays and you cannot rest the pizza dough for the second proof in them without a baking paper insert: the dough will sag through the holes, so do prepare them. Solid pizza trays, baking stones and baking trays will only need a light dusting of flour or semolina.
Equipment – for the dough
Large mixing bowl
Pizza trays or large baking trays
Scales, measuring cups and spoons, sharp knife
Something to cover the bowl (a shower cap, a clean tea towel, cling film etc)
Dough scraper or large knife
Equipment – for the garlic bread
A mandolin is useful, although not necessary
Small bowl, spoon
Ingredients – for the dough
435g of tipo 00 flour (see notes above)
4g of fast acting dried yeast
1 large teaspoon of wild yeast starter culture (see notes above)
10g fine salt
Handful of fresh herbs (I’ve used rosemary, flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, broad leaf thyme – but you can use whatever herb/s you like or have available)
1 tablespoon of good quality extra virgin olive oil – I’ve used Filippo Berio here
255ml of tepid water
A little extra of the olive oil for the kneaded dough
Ingredients – for the garlic breads
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature or lightly softened
Half a teaspoon of rock salt
Two tablespoons of fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil)
Half a ball of mozzarella, finely chopped
Two or three garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
One large waxy potato (such as Jersey Royal or Charlotte), very finely sliced
Mix the flour, dried yeast, wild yeast starter culture (if using), salt, olive oil, herbs and water into a rough scraggy mess in your large bowl
You can use a fork, a dough whisk or your fingers – make sure all the bits of dough stuck to fingers or implements are put back in the bowl
Cover the bowl – using a tea bowl, cling film, a shower cap etc
Leave for 20 to 30 minutes
Tip out the dough onto a clean surface and knead for about 6-8 minutes, until the dough becomes glossier and smoother. You should not require any additional flour for your surface (if you feel you must use some, please use as little as possible)
When the dough becomes glossy and smooth, oil your palms a little and work it into the dough for the last couple of kneading movements and for shaping the dough into a ball
A final little olive oil on the hands is required to rub the shaped dough, so that it does not stick when rising. Turn the dough back into your bowl, so the seam side is facing upwards
Cover again, and proof for up to 1 hour [30 minutes in very hot conditions, to 60 minutes for cooler]
Please note that because you are not using traditional bread dough, this dough does not rise much during either proofing stage
After the dough’s first proofing and resting stage, have your pizza trays ready – see notes above for preparation
Tip out the dough onto you clean surface and chop in half (you can weight it out exactly if you prefer)
Start shaping the dough with your hands and move on to using a rolling pin once you’ve stretched the dough out. Flip the dough over at least once to work the other side while shaping. Stretch and roll the dough to fit your pizza tray; as mentioned, this will make two 12 inch circular pizzas
It’s likely that you will not require any additional flour while shaping, not even for the rolling pin. However, should it really stick, use as minimal an amount of flour as possible on the table and rolling pin
Once each pizza base is prepared, lay them on your prepared pizza trays
Cover the dough and rest for 30 – 60 minutes (depending on how hot your environment is: 30 minutes for a very hot day, 45 for a typical home environment and 60 minutes if it’s cool)
Again, do note that the dough won’t have risen much due to the type of flour used
While the dough is proofing, heat your oven to 240 C fan or 260 C convention (top and bottom heat)
If you are making the garlic breads (or are going on to make pizzas), prepare your ingredients and toppings now. For the garlic breads:
Mix the herbs, salt, garlic and butter together. Chop the mozzarella up finely and slice the potato as thinly as you can (this is where a mandolin slicer would come in handy if you have one) – keep these separated
After this final proofing stage, slather half of the garlic butter on each dough base, leaving a 2cm/1 inch rim around the edge
On one dough base, layer over the sliced potato and on the other sprinkle over the chopped mozzarella
Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. The crust should be puffed up and brown and the garlic butter bubbling. On the potato garlic bread the sliced potatoes will be cooked and starting to crisp at the edges, on the cheesey garlic bread, the mozzarella will be fairly liquified but starting to brown
Serve immediately, although it can be eaten cooled
These are my gorgeous, tangy flatbreads but they do take some commitment as they are fully sourdough, with a pre-ferment stage.
I’ve been making sourdough since 2001… I was already making bread by hand for many, many years before this, but started as my twin baby sons began weaning. I was a little obsessed with making everything as naturally as possible for them; as they had been very premature I was trying to do my best nutritionally. I don’t often post sourdough recipes, despite how long I’ve been making bread with wild yeast starters. This is because there are plenty of resources out there and there are a few ‘formulas’ for sourdough that can be learnt and used repeatedly and then adapted at home, why add another to confuse people!? Where I have added a sourdough recipe it’s typically for something very unusual that I’ve started from scratch to create the end result I wanted, such as the sourdough pan d’oro I posted about four years ago. There is also my article on looking after and maintaining your starter: Sourdough for starters (or growing your own pet yeast) (which was written in early 2016).
What’s in a name?
If you are scratching your head at all the terms used for the different stages in sourdough making, don’t worry as you’re not alone! There are various terms for the different stages, yet most names appear interchangeable and it’s not clear if there is indeed any differentiation.
For instance, the wild yeast starter – that bubbling mix produced by nurturing just flour and water and naturally occurring yeast present in the air and the flour – has many names. It can be referred to as a starter, mother, chief, chef, head or leaven (and there’s possibly more), though starter and mother seem to be most common.
When making a sourdough bread, it’s typical to take part of that starter and, mixing it with a little flour and water, create an early fermentation stage before you go on to add the remaining full ingredients to make the bread dough ‘proper’ and let it ferment and prove (the wild yeast takes longer to make the bread rise and it’s also this length of time which creates the sour taste). See my article on The science of bread making: how yeast works.
This particular stage has confusing names – is it a biga, a sponge, a pre-ferment, a poolish, a pouliche? Have you come across any other terms in a recipe? They all mean this particular stage and are roughly interchangeable. Some places cite that a biga is firmer (ie with less liquid) than a poolish, but I’ve also read recipes where the hydration for a biga is quite wet and some dry for a poolish. Confuzzled? I’m not surprised.
Modernist Cuisine looked into this and found too that there “seemed to be no universally accepted hydration levels for each variety”. It conducted some experiments about whether it made a difference to have a wetter or dryer pre-ferment stage and concluded it really makes no difference – or any difference was very subtle. Please read the interesting Modernist Cuisine article “Are biga, Poolish and Sponge Interchangeable” here.
An easy conclusion to make then, is that these names are regional – certainly, biga is Italian and poolish is a French nod to immigrant Polish bakers, but again this isn’t a cut and dried answer. Before commercial yeast became available, it appears in the UK that this stage was ‘sponge’ (most commonly) but confusingly now a sponge seems to generally refer to this stage but only when commercial yeast (blocks of live yeast or dried yeast) is used, not a wild yeast starter.
I think then, what does it matter what it’s called? I don’t name my stages when I’m making my sourdough breads at home – I just get on with it the process of bread making. I’ve used “biga” here just because this recipe owes more to Italian cuisine through the use of olive oil and the accompaniments I ended up serving it with. Follow any sourdough recipe, enjoy the process and the delicious results and don’t waste any thinking time on what’s in a name in that particular recipe 🙂
To make this within a 24 hour period/same day in order to eat fresh with an evening meal, my suggested timings are:
Mix the biga about 6:00 [or do this the night before, leaving it in the fridge until the next stage]
Mix the dough ingredients into the biga and autolyze at 11:00 and then knead
Leave to ferment and rise until 17:00
At 17:00, divide and roll out the dough into flatbread rounds
At 18:00 fry off the flatbreads
Medium bowl (for the biga) plus something to cover it with (a shower cap, cling film or tea towel etc)
Large bowl and a cover
A dough hook or large fork if you want to use one (or just your hands)
A bench scraper or heavy knife
Frying pan or cast iron skillet
Spatula or tongs for turning the flatbreads whilst cooking
For the biga:
70g of a lively sourdough mother/starter
70g strong white bread flour
70g lukewarm water
Mix together the starter, flour and water
Cover and leave for about five hours or overnight in the fridge
For the dough (results in 75% hydration):
220g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
165g warm water
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Extra olive oil for the bowl and frying
Handful of fresh parsley (or mixed herbs), finely chopped
Mix and autolyze for 20 minutes
Knead for 10 minutes – it is a wet dough but will come together eventually. Only add a little more flour to your hands (not the table) if you are absolutely sure you need to
Smooth the dough into a ball using your hands and a bench scraper
Wipe a little olive oil into your bowl before placing your dough in and cover the bowl
Rest for four to five hours somewhere warm, but not very warm (flatbreads don’t need to rise that much so the dough does not need to be rested fully overnight). Alternatively if you want a very sour sourdough, leave up to eight hours
Take the dough and chop into eight equal pieces
Flour the surface you’re working on and your rolling pin
Take one of the pieces of dough and start to roll out, flipping it over as you need to
The dough will be able to be rolled out to about 16-18cm in diameter
When it’s rolled out, sprinkle over some of the chopped herbs, flip it over and sprinkle more on the other side. Pat down or lightly roll
Move this dough to the side (on a floured area, on a linen cloth/couche or a piece of greaseproof paper) and finish rolling out the other seven pieces of dough
Once they’re rolled out you can chill in the fridge, but you can cook these immediately
Heat some olive oil in a large frying or griddle pan over a medium to high heat
Once hot, lift up a flatbread carefully and place in the pan
It will sizzle – keeping an eye on it, leave it for about four to five minutes on one side. It will bubble up immensely. Lift up an edge and see if the flatbread has browned nicely – if so, flip over
Cook the flatbread for four to five minutes on the other side and then transfer to a plate or board and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm (alternatively pop on a plate in a very low oven)
Cook the remaining flatbreads as above
They’re best eaten warm and soft, but get a nice crunch to them when they are fully cold
If you want to use them as wraps after they have cooled, say the day after, just pop them in a microwave for a few seconds or warm up in a oven and they’ll soften again
I would welcome your comments, feedback and likes on this recipe (as with all my recipes). Did you make it? What did you pair it with? Did you use different herbs? Did the photography help you? Have you a question in regards to the recipe?
Delicious at any time of the year, but particularly fitting to make for Halloween, these pumpkin rolls don’t just look the part, they taste it too as they’re made from a roasted pumpkin (or squash) dough.
I’ve written out the instructions (with some images) how to make these rolls into pumpkin shapes, but they can also be made into ‘normal’, round dinner rolls too. The dough is also marvellous when baked into a full sized loaf (top with toasted pumpkin seeds for extra oomph).
It’s a bit tricky to cut up just the right amount of pumpkin/squash for this recipe, so I suggest using a whole, small pumpkin or butternut squash. Once roasted it’s easier to weigh out the correct amount and any that is surplus to the recipe can be used up elsewhere (freeze for later, turn into soup, add to a pasta dish, mix into mash potato for example).
You can skip the shaping instructions and just make round rolls if you prefer.
Do make sure you get rid of all the string before serving!
Linen tea towel
Two large baking trays
Sharp, large chef’s knife and potato peeler
Sieve (not fine gauge) and large spoon
Butchers/bakers string and scissors
Saucepan or microwavable bowl/jug (for warming the milk)
1 small pumpkin or squash (you will only need 120g once roasted, see notes above)
Strong white flour – 475g
Fresh yeast – 15g (or replace with fast action dried yeast – 7g)
Milk – 200g
Fine salt – 1 teaspoon (plus extra for the pumpkin)
Warm your oven to 180C fan / 200 conventional / 400F
Halve the pumpkin or squash and scoop out the seeds
Take the skin off the pumpkin and cut into large chunks (about 3-4cm)
Spread the pumpkin pieces out into your roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil, about three tablespoons’ worth and then sprinkle with some salt
Bake for about 25 minutes. The pumpkin pieces should be soft when pressed with a fork or spoon. If they are not ready, leave in for another 10 minute
When ready, leave the pumpkin pieces to cool a little until you can handle them
While the pumpkin is cooling, gently warm the milk in a microwave or a saucepan a little and stir in the yeast. Leave this to one side while you prep the pumpkin flesh
When the pumpkin flesh has cooled enough to handle (but is still warm), press the pumpkin through the sieve into the smaller bowl. It’s easiest to press it through wi th the back of a large spoon. This will remove any little crispy edges that you wouldn’t want in your bread and break down the fibres so that it incorporates into the dough more thoroughly
Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, mashed pumpkin, olive oil and the milk/yeast mixture in your large bowl
Once combined roughly, tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly because of the pumpkin flesh, so knead it for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl seam side down and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
Divide your dough in to eight equal pieces
Cut up eight pieces of the butcher’s string – each about a metre long
Taking one of the pieces of dough, shape into a ball
[See the images below for the following steps) Take the string and its centre point over the middle of the ball of dough, flip the dough over and make a loop round the dough and finish with a little twist of the string – your ball of dough should have a loop over it. Make sure you come back to the middle of the ball of dough and ensure the string is not tight or cutting into the dough
Twist the string and repeat another loop at 90 degrees to the first, so the ball of dough looks like a parcel
Repeat twice more, keeping the string between the first two loops – so that the ball of dough is eventually sectioned into eight wedge shapes. Tie off loosely and trim off the ends of the string
Place the dough ball on a floured baking tray
Repeat with the remaining seven balls of dough
Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 30 minutes, until the dough has started to rise through the string and created a pumpkin shape
While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 220C fan / 240F conventional / 475F
When the rolls are ready, place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 200C fan / 220C conventional / 400F
Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
Leave to cool and when cold, snip off the string from the underside of the roll and pull through the threads to ensure there is no string left before serving
I hesitated labelling this as schiacciata, even though that’s what I’ve always called this particular bake. Should I label it as focaccia as that’s more widely known? Focaccia or schiacciata: it’s mostly down to regional naming choice, with schiacciata being the term for this bread in Toscana. In fact, although these two Italian breads are incredibly well known (granted one more than the other), most Eurasian countries have a bread that’s very similar, even indistinguishable, to these. Investigate down to a regional level in Italy though and both focaccia and schiacciata have many specific variations due to the added ingredients such as schiacciatta all’uva, a famous Florentine sweet version with grapes (and absolutely delicious it is too).
From my cookbooks and from devouring plenty of Italian breads there’s no real, confirmed clarity on any differences between the two. As mentioned above there are some specific recipes, but these are down to the included ingredients. There’s just a confusing mix of some people saying they’re exactly the same base recipe (ie it’s just local naming) to those who think schiacciata is thinner and crispier on the outside or that focaccia is fluffier in the middle (or vice versa). One thing that seems more consistent is that many sources indicate that schiacciata only has salt on the top, not in the dough. There’s even a sheet cake from Veneto that’s called a schiacciata to add to the confusion. Some of the listed differences could actually just be down to the technique of the baker. Press down on the dough a bit more and you’ll get thinner and crispier, bake in a slightly hotter oven you’ll bake the outside first and the insides will be less ‘done’ by the time the exterior is cooked.
The only things that is a given is that schiaciatta comes from the verb schiacciata, to crush or press, indicating the way that fingers are used (on both focaccia and schiacciata) to press the dough down and create dimples for the oil to pool in before baking. I love it when food is named really basically by its description.
I expect I’ve made hundreds of focaccia and schiacciata over the years, as they’re one of our family’s favourites for sharing, dipping, turning into bruschetta, slicing sideways for sandwiches and just snacking on. And frankly these breads are fun to make and to swap ingredients and tastes around on.
All I know is they’re all lovely breads, tasty and versatile and that I use the same base bread recipe for either (though I do omit the salt from the dough if I am aiming to produce schiacciatta). The classic schiacciata is just topped with olive oil and salt, but this is a delicious and relatively common variation.
Makes one large schiacciata or you can make several small ones (if you want one each)
Can I add a plea here – if you’re making any Italian flatbread and are planning on using rosemary, please please don’t just throw it on the top: it’ll be a burnt crispy stalk of horror that you can’t eat. Either chop it up and knead it into the bread dough or sink any sprigs deep into the dough (so just a little is peeping out) and ensure they’re in one of the ‘dimples’ so that the olive oil pools around them and keeps them moist
If you can’t be bothered with having a layer of pesto inside the bread, you can just omit steps 15-20. Just press or roll out the dough to it’s final size before proofing and then the pesto and vine tomatoes on top and bake per the rest of the recipe
Large baking tray (approx 44cm x 30cm)
Small measuring jug
Clean tea towel
Rolling pin (not entirely necessary but does help)
Dough whisk (optional)
Wire cooling rack
Strong white bread flour – 300 g
Tepid water – 190 g/ml
Fast acting yeast – 1 level teaspoon
Caster sugar – 1 level teaspoon
Extra virgin olive oil, a rich and tasty variety is best – 1 ¼ tablespoons
Sea salt grinder (you’ll use about 1-2 teaspoons of salt in total)
Cherry or mini plum tomatoes on the vine – 1 large or two smaller ‘bunches’ of these vine tomatoes
Red pesto (I used Filippo Berio’s Grilled Vegetable Pesto here) – about 9-10 teaspoons
Additional olive oil for drizzling
Additional durum wheat flour (also called semola/semolina flour) if you have it for dusting or use bread flour
Mix in the sugar and yeast into the tepid water and leave for 10 minutes
In the large bowl, measure out your flour and make a well in the middle
Tip in your water, sugar and yeast and also the 1 ¼ tablespoons of olive oil
Mix the whole lot with your fingers, a large fork or a dough whisk into a rough, messy mix
Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 10 minutes (for the autolyse process to start, which will help gluten develop and make kneading easier)
Tip it all out onto your clean surface and knead for about 8 minutes. The dough will be a little sticky and messy but stick with it – it will quite quickly come together
When the dough is transformed into a glossy, smooth dough, spread a little oil all over the bowl using your hands (so they are also now a little oily which will transfer to the dough)
Round the dough off into a ball and pop back into the bowl and recover with the tea towel
Leave the dough to rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place. It won’t have quite “doubled” in size but will be noticeably risen
Tip the dough back out onto your working surface
Knock out the large air bubbles by giving it a brief knead (just two or three ‘kneads and folds’ will do)
Flick a palm-full amount of the durum flour (if you don’t have this, just use the bread flour!) on to the baking tray
Pre heat your oven to 220 C fan / 240 C conventional
On your work surface, press out the dough as thinly as you can – you should be able to stretch it to about 28 cm (11-12 inches) in width and almost twice as long – a large oval
If this is difficult by hand, you can use a rolling pin to squash out the dough
Dot over about 5 teaspoonfuls of the pesto onto ONE HALF only of the rolled/pressed out dough
Fold the plain half of the dough over on itself to sandwich the pesto in between
Roll or press out the dough to a neat oval shape, enlarging it slightly – the schiacciata should take up about 80% of a large baking tray: I get it to about 28cm width, 38cm in length, as you can see in the image further down
Lift it up carefully and place on the baking tray
Pinch the edges together on the three sides (other than the folded edge). I tuck the edges under, so that the ‘seam’ isn’t seen but it doesn’t really matter
Try to ensure that the edges are not thicker than the rest of the dough, flattening it out as necessary
Leave to proof again for about 20 – 30 mins, covered with a tea towel
When risen a little (it won’t rise that much as you’ve flattened it out) use your finger tips to make indentations across the top for the oil
Drizzle some olive oil all over the dough, moving it about with your fingers if there are conspicuously dry patches anywhere
Dot several more teaspoonfuls of the pesto over the top of the dough, dispersing it about a little with the back of the spoon (but don’t ‘spread’ it out as you did with the first layer)
Sprinkle or grind the sea salt all over the dough (remember there is none in the dough itself so you do need a little more than just a light seasoning)
Lay the vine tomatoes out on the dough and gently press in
Transfer the baking tray and schiacciata to the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 220 C / 240 C (as mentioned above)
After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 190 C fan / 210 C conventional and bake for a further 12 – 15 minutes
In the first part of this series on flavoured salt mixes, I explained a little about the types of salts available, where they come from, how they’re harvested, what gives tinted salts their colours and how to select salts for different uses. So, if you missed that post I do encourage you to read it first before continuing here as it gives the full background and a much better understanding. You can access flavoured salt mixes part one here.
In this second part I’ve included a couple of absolute classics – Italian and French herbs. However, the Italian mix does include the optional addition of adding dried tomato paste. This kicks the mix up a couple of notches if you can be bothered to try drying tomato paste – I recommend you do try. It’s also a great way of elongating the shelf life of an opened can, tube or jar of tomato paste as it can just be sprinkled into foods while cooking.
On a slightly madder theme I’ve included a “recipe” that involved DRIED MARMITE! Yes, I actually spent one afternoon inventing the perfect dried Marmite. I wanted to include that ultimate umami taste in a salt mix, but of course I couldn’t include it in its normal gooey state. This is an AWESOME mix – I use on tons of things. You’d never know that it is entirely vegetarian! It’s particularly great to give an intense BBQ flavour to vegetarian foods and it brings out an incredible flavour on chicken and steak in particular. There is a BBQ mix on the part one post, which is entirely lovely, but this one knocks your socks off.
Almost equally mad, but not because of an individual ingredient, rather the whole mix is the English Summer Sweet mix. Sweet and salt is not a new flavour combination, but it’s still rather unusual in this form and takes some getting used to. This is a beautiful looking mix, full of pinks, blues and yellows. The trick is to use it for taste but not waste it’s good looks buried inside a dish. It is lovely in a short pastry tart, sprinkled over the top of a pavlova or meringue kisses before they go in the oven or in an ice cream. It also goes nicely sprinkled on the top of a pasta ripiena/pasta in brodo dish or on tapas or similar.
Do you have any salt mixes that you have created yourself, or is there any that you think you’d like to see? Perhaps you use sme pre-made ones, such as those from the Cornish Salt Co, but are itching to have a go at creating your own. Please let me know in the comments below 💙
Anything you add to a salt needs to be dry – very dry! Although that comes with a caveat – in my English Summer Sweet mix below I’ve found that both calendula petals and lavender flowers are perfectly fine putting into a salt mix fresh – the only other thing I’ve found so far that will work fresh is chopped up rosemary leaves. Everything else needs to be dried. Either start with pre-dried herbs or dry out your own ingredients in your oven or de-humidifier. I’ve given the timings and temps for ingredients I use where I can
Buy a high quality base salt for these, as cheaper salts do tend to have added extra ingredients (mostly to enable the salt to stay free flowing) and are more processed, thus taking out or negating any beneficial additional minerals
I’ve given ingredients and ratios for a typical flavoured salt, but if you’re aiming to use a lot less salt in your cooking then don’t add quite so much as I’ve given
Think what you’ll use the flavoured salt for – most typically these will be as a last garnish to a dish. For most of these it will be best to buy a rock or crystal salt, but if you’re using the flavouring within the early stages of a recipe there’s less need for an expensive crystal salt as it will dissolve
You can store these in anything that will keep moisture out, such as a click lock plastic tub but they do look really gorgeous in tiny Kilner jars. However, if you’re leaving a salt out on the dining table as a pinch pot, then it really doesn’t matter what you store it in (an old cleaned out jam jar for instance), just present it in a nice little bowl on your table
For each ‘recipe’ you’ll need measuring spoons or a digital scale, a small bowl and a sterilised jam jar or Kilner jar. Most will need a pestle and mortar and some other ‘recipes’ need an extra item which will be explained in each method.
Sterilising glass jars
Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting
Be careful handling the hot jars out when done
NB: don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel
Drying the herbs
Dried herbs are easy to get hold of and it’s likely that a keen cook will have most of these in their cupboard already. For the unusual herbs that you’ve grown yourself, it’s best to let herbs dry naturally in a sunny, dry spot (I hang mine in my little green house or my kitchen window). However, you can dry them out in your oven enough for these salt mixes. Place a single layer of the herbs you need on a baking tray: that is, don’t overlap them and it doesn’t matter if there are different types of herbs in one go. Bake on the lowest setting for an hour and test to see how dry the herbs are – herbs will dry out at different rates. Leave any in for another hour that have not dried yet. Crush in a pestle and mortar or a quick whizz in a blender (both before adding to the salt).
Tip: if any herbs are proving difficult to crush, add a little of the rock salt or salt crystals to the pestle and mortar. The salt acts as an additional surface to tear the herbs more effectively. Don’t tip all the salt in though, or you will pound this to a fine dust along with the herbs, and you want to keep the integrity of the salt (otherwise you may as well use fine table salt).
“Recipes” – all are vegetarian
Rock salt or crystal sea salt – 2 tablespoons
oregano – 1 teaspoon
rosemary – 1 teaspoon
fennel or fennel seeds – 1/4 teaspoon
basil – 1 teaspoon
thyme – 1 teaspoon
lemon balm – 1/2 teaspoon
black pepper (freshly ground) – several turns of the grinder to taste
dried tomato puree – 1 teaspoon (optional but well worth the effort)
Method: Smooth two tablespoons of tomato puree as thinly as possible on a sheet of greaseproof paper and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven at 70C for 1 hour. If after this time there are still some ‘rubbery’ bits of tomato puree then put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes and try again. The tomato puree with crisp up and go almost black. When fully baked, leave to cool and then crush or chop finely.
When the herbs and the tomato puree are dried, mix them with the salt and place in your container.
Some uses: in bread baking, for savoury pastry, pasta dishes, risotto and its also a nice addition to most meats and casserole-style meals.
Umami / intense BBQ
Notes: There is a BBQ salt recipe on the part one post, but though that is good, this one is awesome, highly unusual and includes my unique mad-kitchen-scientist dried Marmite powder. It tastes very meaty and rich, but it’s entirely vegetarian (and as such I throw it copiously on any appropriate veggie meals I make).
smoked sea salt – 2 tablespoons
vegetable bouillon – 1 teaspoon
garlic granules – 1 teaspoon
onion granules – 1 teaspoon
smoked paprika – 1 teaspoon
soft brown sugar – 1 teaspoon
parsley – 1 teaspoon
dried Marmite – 1 teaspoon
smokey chipotle powder (optional) – 1 teaspoon
Method: spread two tablespoons of Marmite on to a sheet of baking paper and then place on a tray in the oven. Bake at 70ºC fan / 90ºC conventional for about 25 minutes. It will puff up and it’ll really smell (fine if you love Marmite!) – don’t panic: it’s fine! Leave to cool then crumble (with dry fingers) before mixing with the other herbs and spices and the stock cube in a pestle and mortar.
NB: With this salt mix it is better to have finer salt particles that match the other particles of the mix ingredients. I ground the smoked salt with a pestle and mortar. If you don’t have smoked salt, you may as well use normal table salt here, then you don’t have to grind or crush anyway.
Some uses: great as a dry rub, or with a little oil as a wet rub. Also lovely in a chilli, in jambalaya etc, for other Cajun dishes (especially those with prawns) or to brush over meats (mixed into oil) for the barbecue. Just on almost anything savoury and great for livening up vegetarian dishes… this is my total favourite salt mix.
Also – this one is fabulous when mixed in with cornmeal or polenta (ration about 10:1) and used as a crispy coating on chicken or for wedges!
Sea salt flakes/crystals or sel gris – 1 tablespoon
tarragon – 1/2 teaspoon
rosemary – 1 teaspoon
parsley – 1 teaspoon
thyme – 1 teaspoon
bay – 1/2 teaspoon
chives – 1 teaspoon
Method: Chop a dried bay leaf into tiny pieces (it won’t crush with a pestle and mortar well). The other dried herbs need crushing together (take the leaves off the woody stalks of the rosemary and thyme first) before adding to the salt. If you need to dry your herbs quickly see the note above.
Some uses: use in place of bouquet garni or Herbes de Provence. Also useful for fish, lamb and beef (especially steak) dishes.
English Summer Sweet
Notes: I’ve purposely kept the salt low in ratio as compared to the other ingredients, because of the uses of this mix. Dried borage flowers and rose petals are easily obtained from a Turkish or Middle-Eastern supermarket or online, if you don’t grow them yourself (they are also more tricky to dry successfully in an oven than other herbal ingredients – if you have a dehydrator this would not be an issue. If you don’t have much luck drying these yourself as they’re so tricky, do buy pre-dried).
Himalayan pink salt, fine sea salt flakes or a good quality table salt – 1 teaspoon
calendula petals (edible marigolds) (need not be dried first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
dried rose petals – 1 teaspoon
dried borage flowers – 1 teaspoon
lemon zest (need not be dried fully first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
lavender flowers (need not be dried first – see method) – 1/2 teaspoon
Method: the calendula petals and lavender flowers do not need to be dried in an oven, as they are dried by the salt in the pot. The lemon zest can be dried in a 50C oven for 30 minutes at least or just leave it overnight between two sheets of kitchen paper which you have weighed down with a book or other weight. The rose petals and borage flowers need to be oven dried as per the lemon zest (or bought pre-dried) as they are more delicate and are prone to either making the other ingredients wet or looking very dishevelled if you don’t dry them first. Mix all lightly together so as not to crush the delicate ingredients before potting up.
NB: This is another salt where it is better to have finer salt particles (the hit of crunching into a large piece of salt would be too overpowering in a sweet mix). I actually have a salt grinder with Himalayan salt in, so I just ground the right amount. Also you can use a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, use normal free-running table salt here.
Some uses: sparingly in things like ice cream or meringue. Sprinkle a little on fruit or desserts or use in sweet pastry baking, such as tart cases or shortbreads. Gives a twist to savoury dishes nd particularly good with pasta and fish or sprinkled over salads or tapas for a pretty finish.
You are welcome to use these recipes for your home cooking (that’s why I write these things up online so others can try!)
However, please do not recreate them as a recipe anywhere or pass them off as your own (specially relevant for commercial use eg chefs, cooks, Home Eds, food stylists, restaurants etc). If you show them anywhere on social media you must credit me @inksugarspice.
Parsnips are not native to south east Asia, but they are growing in popularity in Thailand, and are now both a farmed crop and an import product. I find it interesting that one foodstuff can be pedestrian and common place in one continent can be seen as an unusual treat in another. I wouldn’t go as far as saying anyone thinks a parsnip is exotic however… I’ve seen them on sale in Thai markets next to more traditional veggies like kale and galangal roots, so parsnips + Thai flavours is not as crazy a combination as it may first sound, and it is a really fabulous flavour pairing.
This is a delicious alternative to make as a change to a typical curried parsnip soup. Although I love curried parsnip soup when it’s done well (which, let’s face it isn’t that hard), sometimes it can be a disappointment in a cafe when it’s just plain old boiled-down parsnip with some curry powder lazily tossed in. I’ve combined some authentic Thai tastes here, but I’ve tried to balance it so that you get the Thai flavours without overwhelming the parsnip. It’s all to easy to pile on flavourings and mask the main ingredient when you’re making a veggie soup, but parsnips have a lovely sweet, warming flavour and are deserving of a more delicate touch on stronger spices.
If you’re not worried about keeping this vegetarian you can use chicken stock, rather than vegetable stock
Remember that not all chillies are created equal, even in the same variety the heat can vary between plants. Two chillies bought in the same batch could be very different, so judge how much chilli you are using if you don’t like it very hot. I can give you two tips on chilli heat: tip one is to cut the chilli and lightly rub it on your lip and see how tingly it is – if it’s going to really upset you, you’ll be able to judge this way. Tip two if you’re less terrified is to blend in only half a chilli at a time before tasting: you can always add all two (or even more chillies) eventually, but taking away heat is not so easy as adding a little more in!
Can’t get a fresh coconut? Then a box of coconut milk powder is an awesome thing to keep in your kitchen cabinet: I use this in a number of my recipes. You can buy these ‘fairly’ easily now in the world food aisle in your bigger local supermarket or find a Caribbean store or market stall (brand names I’ve used are Maggi and Tropical Sun – I tend to pick up mine via an awesome local Caribbean market stall). Alternatively, you can use a tin of coconut milk, but drain out the liquid and use this as part of (not in addition to) the 1 litre stock content.
Serves about eight portions (this is large, but I’ve given this amount so that you can batch freeze), takes about 45 minutes to prepare and cook
Large, deep saucepan with a lid (or cover with a plate)
Stick blender or stand blender
Parsnips – about 5 large parsnips / roughly about 900g
Vegetable (or chicken stock) – 1 litre
Banana shallot or red onion – 1
Garlic – 3 cloves
Fresh ginger – about a 1 cm piece, peeled
Red chillies – 2 (you need to adjust this according to your preferred heat level!)
Lemon grass – one fresh stalk
Oil, a plain olive oil or rapeseed oil – 1 tablespoon
Coconut, either freshly grated or use coconut milk powder – 1 cup/around 90g
Juice of ½ a lime
Salt – ½ teaspoon
Fresh ground pepper – ½ teaspoon
Ground turmeric – ½ teaspoon
Coriander or spring onions to garnish
Additional chillies to garnish
Chop the shallot/onion, the garlic and the (peeled) ginger – they don’t have to be finely chopped as, of course, they’re going to get blended later
Fry the shallot/onion, garlic and ginger in the oil over a low heat until they are starting to soften
Peel the parsnips and chop them into medium-sized chunks
Add the parsnips to the saucepan and turn up the heat to medium-hot and fry off for two-three minutes until the parsnips are nicely coated in the oil and vegetables
Pour in the stock, add the salt, pepper and turmeric and turn up the heat until it all starts to bubble gently
From the bulb end of the lemon grass stalk, make a long cut along its length but don’t cut it into half – so you’ve split it but it’s still joined by about 2cm at the thin end
Place the lemon grass stalk in the pan
Leave to simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, with the lid on
Chop the chillies
When the parsnips are soft (but before they’re mushy) add in both the coconut and the lime juice and stir until the coconut is melted in
Add in the chillies (or half of them if you want to test the heat level) and turn off the heat
Using a stick blender, whizz up the soup in the sauce pan, or decant into a stand blender
Taste test – add more chillies (or chilli powder) to your soup if it’s not hot enough for you
Serve hot, decorated with more chillies (if you love it hot as I do) and a chopped handful of coriander leaves or spring onions (or even both). other ingredients that are nice sprinkled over this soup are more coconut, crispy fried onions or toasted peanuts/cashews
Tapping fingernails on the table and looking wistfully through the window: I wondered what can I do with all those stubbornly-still-green tomatoes left on the vine in the greenhouse (or in the greengrocer’s) at this time of year?
They’re plump, juicy with a shiny skin but are just totally colour-change refuseniks. No matter how sunny your windowsill they just won’t budge their coloration now. You could fry them off or add to casseroles, but they’re a little too tart to eat like a fully scarlet tomato so I’ve turned my glut of green goodies into a gin-soaked unctuous and fruity chutney. Hence the mothers ruin title, and the gin does make it a rather delish yet not-so-ordinary relish.
So, here’s praise to autumn and the excuse for bottling and preserving all of nature’s generosity and a hearty Cheers! to green tomatoes. And that toast is not something you hear everyday when applying a dollop of chutney to a cracker!
You need to prep the fruits the day before and leave to soak overnight
Makes four full sized jam jars (typically these are between 330mml – 390ml)
I’ve stopped wanting to make huge volumes of chutneys, pickles, jellies and jams as I don’t sell them on. I think three to four jars of something is enough for us. This is one to open now, a couple to keep me going and one to give away. But then I don’t have an allotment so I’ve not got kilos and kilos of produce to use up, just a greenhouse and a few planters’ worth. This recipe does multiply up easily, so if you have that enormous allotment glut of tomatoes (and an outlet for the many jars you’ll produce) then do double, triple (or more) the quantities
You can use red tomatoes for this recipe, no problem at all
You can use any gin – but a fruity one is most suitable. I’ve used Brockman’s which has a considerable taste of blackberry to it
Sterilising glass jars
Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting
Be careful handling the hot jars out when done
NB: don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel
Large, heavy bottomed saucepan or pickling pan
Large wooden spoon
Knife, cutting board
Cling film or plastic bag
Four clean, sterilised jam jars (see notes above)
Shallow, large container or dish
Green tomatoes – 600 – 630g
Fine salt – 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
Red onion, large – 1
Celery – 1 stick
Sultanas or golden raisins – 100g
Dates, chopped – 70g
Sharp eating apples, 2 (such as Granny Smith or use 1 x cooking apple)
Brown sugar – 150g
Ground ginger – 1 teaspoon
Allspice – 1/2 teaspoon
Chilli flakes – 1 teaspoon
Black onion seeds – 1 teaspoon
Cider vinegar – 225ml
Gin – about 60ml
Douse the sultanas and dates with the gin in a small bowl the day before making the chutney. Cover with cling film and leave to soak up the gin overnight
Wash and chop the tomatoes, place them in a shallow container and scatter over the tablespoon of salt and mix in lightly. Leave to one side for at least an hour
After an hour or so, rinse the tomatoes of the salt and pat dry in a clean tea towel
Chop all the ingredients into little cubes/pieces (or use a food processor if you have one but chop the ingredients in batches or you’ll process them too finely).
Do not throw away any gin that was not soaked up by the fruit – you can pour this straight into the large saucepan for the next stage while you chop the ingredients
Put everything in the large saucepan, give it a good stir and bring to a boil
Boil for a couple of minutes and strain off any scum
Turn down to a simmer and let it simmer away for 90 minutes, stirring and checking on it regularly (though you don’t need to stand guard for the whole 90 minutes, please don’t leave it for more than a few minutes at a time as it will catch on the bottom of the pan)
It should reduce to a moist but not soggy chutney. If the ingredient pieces are too big for your liking, you can use a stick blender to chop them further, but do use this by pulsing it rather than having it on constantly or you’ll have a pulpy preserve, rather than one with nice chunks of fruit and veggies in
While still hot, carefully decant into the pre-sterilised jars