Nostalgia, in the Form of Bread

Sure, it makes sense that curry makes me nostalgic for London, but bread? I know, it’s a tougher sell.

Invariably, though, the smell of baking bread reminds me of being in London for grad school. First, there was the smell of the baking rolls at Subway that assaulted me every time I went to the internet cafe upstairs. Quite often during my first days back in the country since it took far longer than necessary to have my own internet access set up.

Then, there’s this bread.

It was a staple in the bakery section of Waitrose, and after trying it once, there wasn’t a week I didn’t have some in my house. It was just that good. Sliced with vegetables between, it became a satisfying meal, although more often than not, I didn’t even bother with that much effort. Instead, I ate the bread as my entire meal.

When I returned to New York, it was one of the foods that I missed the most. But, while I thought about attempting to cook it, I was always a little intimidated. Mostly, I wasn’t quite sure where to start.

That is, until I saw this recipe on Serious Eats. A little tinkering later and, once again, there’s no reason for me to prepare actual meals. The jury’s out on whether this is a good thing.

Tomato Oregano Bread

Adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsps yeast
1 TBS sugar
2 1/2 cups (11 1/2 ounces) bread flour, divided
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBS tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces

extra flour and cornmeal for dusting.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, water, yeast, sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes, allowing the yeast to start foaming. Add one cup of the bread flour. Mix well and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the remaining flour, oregano, tomato paste, and salt. Knead with the dough hook until the dough cleans the side of the bowl and starts becoming elastic. Periodically scrape down the sides if necessary. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and is no longer sticky.

Add the sundried tomatoes and knead to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet.

Flour your work surface and knead the dough briefly before you form it into your preferred shape. Put it on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. While your dough is in its final rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

When the dough has risen, slash it as desired, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is nicely browned.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.


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