I bake. It’s something that I do for fun because it gets me into a zen place where I can forget about the stresses of life for a while and then eat (and share) something delicious at the end as a reward. I’ve been doing this for some time, but today I pulled these braids of prosciutto, cheese, and garlic out of the oven and immediately brought them over to my husband to say “look at how beautiful these are.” He, of course, said, “OMG they’re beautiful, smell amazingly delicious, and make me love you exponentially more than I thought possible…” (I may be embellishing just a bit there) “…why don’t you have a blog for these creations?”
So here we are. I recognize that the internet is a place crowded with hobbyists of every stripe, and I have no illusions that I’m going to become the next Anthony Bourdain and parlay this into an awesome career of books and tv shows and getting paid to do what you love and would (and in my case, do) pay to do yourself. I just want to share recipes that turned out well, and warn people away from the ones that don’t.
Long-winded preamble aside, I want to give a big thank you to BBC Good Food for inspiring me to bake this and a few other recent experiments. Here’s the recipe (original in the link) as I modified it:
- 4 cups/500g white bread flour
- 2 1/4 tsp/1 packet of yeast
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp melted light (half-fat) butter
- 2 plump garlic cloves, crushed with ¼ tsp salt
- 3 slices prosciutto, 1 roughly chopped
- 3 oz of your choice of cheese
- 1 beaten egg
- Mix flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the butter, crushed garlic, and about 1 1/4/300ml hand warm (warm to the touch rather than hot) water. Then mix it all together (with a bit more water, if needed), in a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook on speed 2 or 3 for 8-10 minutes. The mixture should come together as a soft, not too sticky, dough. If you don’t have a mixer (I should note that I recommend getting one – it’s awesome to have it do the heavy work for you): Put the dough on to a very lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 mins until it feels smooth and elastic, only adding the minimum of extra flour if necessary to prevent the dough sticking.
- Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cover with an upturned, clean, large bowl and leave for 45 mins-1 hr or until doubled in size and feels light and springy. Timing will depend on the warmth of the room.
- Knock back the dough by lightly kneading just 3-4 times. You only want to knock out any large air bubbles, so too much handling now will lose the dough’s lightness. Shape into a ball. Cover with the bowl and leave for another 15 mins.
- Cut the ball into 6 even pieces. Roll each with your hands into a 30-35cm sausage shape that is plump in the middle and tapers off at each end. To make the braid, lay 2 dough sausages in front of you like an X, then lay the other piece length-ways down the middle of the X. Along the middle piece of dough for each loaf (you’ll end up with two), spread slices of cheese and one slice of prosciutto to cover the length of the dough in a single layer.
- Braid the three plaits of dough, starting from the center down, left over right, right over left, etc. When you reach each end, press the tapered ends together to seal. Repeat with the other braid. Then scatter a few half a piece of sliced prosciutto over each completed braid. Lay the two on a baking sheet lightly oiled or lined with baking parchment. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 40-45 mins, or until doubled in size.
- Put any oven-proof open container in the bottom of the oven 20 mins before ready to bake and heat oven to 445F/230C/210C fan/gas 8. Brush each loaf with beaten egg.
- Put the risen bread in the oven, carefully pour about 250ml cold water into the now hot container in the over (this will hiss and create a burst of steam to give you a crisp crust), then lower the heat to 425F/220C/200C fan/gas 7. Bake for 25 mins or until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack. If you tap the underneath of the loaf if should be firm and sound hollow.
I brought these to a party, and after people’s first reluctance to cut into them (because they were pretty) they were gone in a flash. The pieces with the filling right in the middle were especially popular, so if I made these again I’d try to maximize the amount of cheese and prosciutto running through the center of each braid. Yum!