Like panettone, this is another bread that I should have done at Christmas. I came across the recipe when delving into my “Random recipes” folder, on a quest for something that used spelt flour. The flavours in this bread may be rather Christmasy but I like them, so what the heck!
This one starts with a sponge. And I really wish my memory, or attention span, or ability to read, or... whatever issue it is at the moment that means I can’t follow instructions, would just fix itself. I’d got it into my head that this sponge only needed overnight. So, on an evening when I thought “yeah, I’ve got time to do this one tomorrow morning”, I started the sponge off; flour, water and yeast, kneaded for “6 mins” (a very exact but slightly random number...), the bunged in a bowl, covered and put in the fridge. I checked the recipe again. Pants. The sponge wanted 24 hours. Ok, it probably could have had less, I imagine the step was part of developing flavours, but I didn’t want to chance it. I mentally shifted about my plans. It could probably be done the following evening... probably...
I did what preparation I could in the morning. This involved finely chopping a red onion, roughly chopping 200g chestnuts and 6 sage leaves (I felt a bit mean taking these from mum’s new sage plant... I know it’s for using but it felt a tad like I was stripping the poor thing). This went in a tupperware in the fridge. The lid didn’t stop the onion stinking out the fridge.
Later in the day, I managed to hop out of where I was early, in time enough to finish this bread before bedtime. More flour, some salt, more yeast and more water went in with the sponge and the whole lot worked together, then turned out and worked for 5 minutes. I then spread this out on the worktop, sprinkled on a third of the chestnuts, onion and sage, folded the dough over to encase the mix and worked it in, then repeated twice more. Dough ready!
Now, the recipe said put this into a circular, spring-form cake tin. I didn’t think my biggest tin was going to be quite big enough so it went into the tin that I usually use for focaccia. It got spread out in the very well-greased tin, dimpled and then decorated with sage leaves... fewer than the recipe suggested, but I was still fearing for the welfare of the sage plant. Covered, it went to prove for about an hour until doubled in size. The oven got preheated to 230°C and the dough bunged in for 20 minutes, before being turned and getting another 15 minutes.
Now, to get it out of the tin. And this was when I discovered why the recipe suggested a springform cake tin. I gave it a bit of encouragement around the edge, turned it over... whacked the bottom... had a little peak to see if there was movement... hit it some more... did a bit more waggling around with the knife... more hitting... You get the idea. It decided to come out eventually, but it did leave a bit of the base stuck to the tin, which I peeled off and stuck back in place... it was on the bottom... no one would ever know. The top got glazed with a bit of olive. And it was done.
Time to sample. Because it’s made of spelt flour, it had the crumpety texture that the Roman style loaf that I did a while ago had. The recipe didn’t feature much salt which was noticeable in the taste, but the flavours from the sage, onions and chestnuts more than made up for this, especially the sweet chestnuts.
I’ve been snacking on this one since but I’m now looking forward to it dunked in some soup.
For the sponge
300g wholegrain spelt flour
10g fresh yeast
1. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and rub in the yeast
2. Add the water and bring together into a dough. Turn out onto a work surface and work for “6 min until you have a nice smooth dough”
3. Place back in the bowl, cover and leave in the fridge for 24 hours
For the final dough
600g wholegrain spelt flour
1 finely chopped red onion
200g roughly chopped cooked chestnuts
6 chopped sage leaves, plus extra to decorate
Olive oil, to grease and to glaze
1. In another large mixing bowl, rub the yeast into the flour, then add the salt
2. Add the flour to the sponge mixture, then add the water. Combine until everything comes back together as a dough, then turn out onto a work surface and work for 5 minutes until smooth
3. Spread the dough out and cover with the onion, chestnuts and sage leaves. Fold the dough over the top, then knead gently to until fully incorporated (you may need to split the mix up and do this step in a few stages)
4. Grease a large baking tin (the original recipe suggests a 10 inch round tin; if you don’t have one, use a baking tray with high sides. But you’ll be doing yourself a favour if you make it a springform one because this bread is a pain to get out of the tin)
5. Put the dough in the tin and push it with your fingers to reach the corners, then dimple the top with your fingers. Decorate the top with whole sage leaves. Cover and leave in a warm place to double in size (about an hour)
6. Preheat your oven to 230°C (450°F or gas mark 8)
7. Bake your loaf in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn it round and bake for a further 15 minutes
8. Once out of the oven, glaze with olive oil and leave to cool before slicing