Focaccia with Blue Cheese & Parma Ham

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Happy New Year folks!

So here we are in January again, the month of starting new resolutions, adopting ‘out with the old, in with the new’ philosophies and commencing new eating and exercise regimes. So yes, privately this is my mantra, and I am enjoying fresh green juices in the morning. However, publicly, I am urging you to try this delicious Focaccia with Blue Cheese and Parma Ham. [Read more…]

Easy Cheese Soda Bread

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It has been a while, I know. A belated Happy New Year to you!

To get me back in my blogging rhythm I have decided to share something which is very easy, very quick and does not require a specific trip to the supermarket. This recipe consists of everyday baking goods that you would have in your cupboard, or fridge.

Yes. Soda bread has to be the easiest, and the quickest of all bread to make. No fancy bread flour is required, just regular plain; no yeast needed, so no proving times; no fancy mixers required, just a bowl and spoon (sure, go ahead and use your mixer if you choose) and no specific tins, just a regular baking tray. You don’t even need to get your hands dirty here.

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Traditionally, Irish Soda bread consists of just flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk. I have added an egg here, just to add to the flavour and crumbled blue cheese to complete the deliciousness. You can use any cheese you have, it will taste great. Also, don’t worry if you do not have buttermilk to hand. If I don’t have any, I improvise. I made this earlier in the week with a mixture of double cream and milk, in lieu of the buttermilk, but you could use natural yoghurt also. I had a great result with this substitute, so it works! Just ensure you have the correct overall volume.cheesesodabread-1-4

I, for one (in my mind, anyway), like to think that I am ‘watching what I eat’ now it is the New Year, so bread might not be on your ‘to bake’ list. However, what a great accompaniment this bread makes to some healthy, fresh, hot soup. Pretty good toasted with butter too. Something hearty for a cold, damp January weekend…

Enjoy.

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Easy Cheese Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour, extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 400ml buttermilk (or a combination of natural yoghurt/double cream and milk)
  • 1 egg
  • 180g blue cheese, crumbled (or cheese of your choice)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C, or Gas Mark 6.
  2. Into a large bowl, or freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Mix to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the buttermilk (or alternative) and combine well. Add to the flour mixture and mix slowly. When the dough has nearly come together, add the crumbled cheese. Mix further until a large ball of dough has formed.
  4. Line a baking tray with parchment. Tip the dough directly onto the lined tray. With your hands, form a ball and gently flatten the top. Dust with flour and with a sharp knife, score a cross over the top of the dough.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes until the bread is a rich, golden colour.
  6. Serve warm. Best eaten on the day of baking.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/easy-cheese-soda-bread/

Source: Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How To Bake’

 

 

 

Flatbreads with Feta Cheese and Olives

fetaflatbread-1These flatbreads are a ‘Friend Request’ of sorts…

Life seems to be so busy these days that catching up with life long friends, that do not necessarily live close by, is a real treat. When we do, we chat about our day-to-day, work, raising kids, long lost acquaintance ‘spots’ and since I have started writing this blog, FOOD!

I could chat all day about my baking passion and food so it is really interesting to hear about other people’s ideas, flavour preferences and their own baking challenges – what they would, or wouldn’t attempt to bake.

So I am offering up a ‘bread’ again and have adapted one of Paul Hollywood’s flatbread recipes. Indeed, I cannot recommend his recipes highly enough. They always work. I think these flatbreads are less of a daunting challenge if you are new to bread making.

I have chosen to use feta cheese and olives just because we like that flavour combination in our house. I see no reason why you couldn’t use a pesto or tapenade, with a goats cheese, or maybe a gorgonzola and finely chopped walnut?

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These flatbreads are great served as an accompaniment with drinks, as part of a tapas style lunch, with a salad or an after school snack.

Best served warm, it is a little labour intensive cooking when you have guests waiting. I would suggest cooking the whole batch in the pan and keeping them warm in an oven, or warming draw, or if cooked well ahead of time, reheat them from cold in a moderate oven for about 5 minutes until warmed through. They should still be puffy, crispy and completely delicious.

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Flatbreads with Feta Cheese and Olives

Makes 12 flatbreads

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 10g fast action yeast
  • 30g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 310ml water
  • 180g feta cheese
  • 160g olives, pitted, chopped (approximately 1 jar, drained)
  • Olive oil for cooking

Instructions

  1. Put the flour in the bowl of a freestanding mixer. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the fast action yeast to the other.
  2. Add the butter and three quarters of the water. Using the dough hook on the mixer, mix slowly incorporating all the ingredients. Slowly add the remaining water, a little at a time as need be, until the dough comes together.
  3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow to prove for 2-3 hours. The dough should have at least doubled in size.
  4. Once proved, tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Divide the dough into twelve equal portions. Take the first portion of dough, stretch it and fill with crumbled feta and chopped olives. Wrap the dough around the filling and form a ball. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a pancake-like flatbread.
  5. Heat the olive oil in the pan and cook the flatbread for 3 minutes on each side. Leave to cool slightly on a wire cooling rack. Repeat the filling, rolling and cooking process for the remaining flatbreads.
  6. Best served warm. Alternatively, once cooked, the flatbreads can be heated up in the oven for a few minutes, prior to serving.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/flatbreads-with-feta-cheese-and-olives/

Source:  Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake’

Blue Cheese and Spring Onion Scones

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Scones…

Unless eaten freshly baked, scones can often be dry, hard, and almost always need something to ‘jazz them up’ a bit; clotted cream and jam, melted butter, cheese. I find even the look of shop-bought scones unappetising; you know they will just stick to the roof of your mouth.

Indeed, there are lots of reasons not to make scones; the repeated rolling, cutting and re-rolling of the dough (one of my baking pet-hates); the quantities made are usually large and unless you are having a big gathering, many scones may go to waste as they are best eaten warm, or at best, on the day they are made.

So, having done some research and learning that none of these baking pitfalls are insurmountable, I am offering up these scones for some consideration.

Earlier in the year I treated myself to Sebastien Rouxel’s ‘Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery’ book. It is a stunning recipe book, both visually and content wise. It has bakes that the novice baker can get to grips with but also stretches those looking to improve their already competent skills. Indeed, it is beautiful book worthy of a place on anyone’s coffee table (as well as the recipe book shelf in the kitchen).

I have adapted this recipe from one of their scone recipes and believe the method solves some of our scone baking ‘issues’.

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Firstly, the dough is not rolled repeatedly. It is placed in a food wrap lined baking tray ( I used a Brownie tin, approximately 22cm x 30cm).  It is then chilled. Once firm, cut into shapes. Then you only bake the number of scones you want to bake/eat for a particular occasion. You can freeze the remainder of the ready cut scones and use them as and when. You will only need to brush with milk, or cream and sprinkle with cheese prior to baking and bake, from frozen, for a few additional minutes.

This method is wonderful. There is no rolling, no wastage and freshly baked scones available whenever the need arises. I see no reason why you couldn’t use this for other flavoured scone recipes.

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So when would you eat these scones? These Blue Cheese and Spring Onion scones are packed with flavour and incredibly light in texture. I have used a local Surrey blue cheese – Norbury Blue – but you could use any blue cheese or other cheese you have in the fridge. I think these scones work well at brunch, or lunch time, either with bacon, crispy pastrami or procuitto, or even a salad. At tea time they are divine just with melted butter.

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This method sounds long winded but it really isn’t. A bit of time invested ‘upfront’ with this bake will give you a number of fresh bakes as and when you want them.

Here is the method in a bit more visual detail…

Put the combined scone ingredients into a tin (in this case measuring approximately 22cm x 30cm) which is lined with food wrap. With the back of the spoon, spread the dough evenly throughout the tin ensuring it goes into all the corner and its fairly level overall.

sconesonion&cheese-1-3Cover the top of the mixture with the food wrap and ensure that the dough is a smooth block. Chill for about two hours or until firm.

sconesonion&cheese-1-4Remove the scone dough from the refrigerator, remove the food wrap and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the scones into the required shapes and sizes.

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Place the scones that you plan on freezing into a plastic airtight container, layering with parchment paper to prevent them from sticking. Store in the freezer. Bake straight from the freezer when you want to bake and eat these.

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For the scones that are ready to be baked, place on a lined baking tray. Brush with cream or milk and sprinkle with grated cheese.

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Blue Cheese and Spring Onion Scones

Makes 16 scones

Ingredients

  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 200g butter
  • 100g double cream
  • 140g crème fraiche
  • 80g spring onions, chopped (a bit less than a bunch)
  • 150g blue cheese
  • 10g chives, chopped
  • cream, or milk for brushing
  • Cheddar cheese, grated, for sprinkling (if baking the whole batch at once, you will need 100g)

Instructions

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in the bowl of a freestanding mixer. Combine.
  2. Add the cubed butter and mix slowly until well combined with the dry mixture.
  3. With the mixer still on low speed, add the double cream followed by the crème fraiche. Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Release the bowl from the mixer base and fold in the spring onions, crumbled blue cheese and the chives. Ensure that the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  5. Pour the dough mixture into the tin lined with food wrap. With the back of a spoon, push the dough to the sides and level the dough, so forming a 'block'. Cover with food wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for up to two hours, or until firm.
  6. Once firm, unwrap the dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the scones into equal portions, either triangles or squares.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 4.
  8. Place the scones on a baking tray lined with parchment. Brush the scones with some remaining cream, or milk and sprinkle with grated cheese.
  9. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.
  10. Best eaten the day of baking.
  11. Baking from frozen
  12. If you are freezing some of your scones, it is possible to bake them straight from the freezer. Place on prepared baking tray, brush with cream or milk and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for a further 3-5 minutes in addition to the original 25-30 minutes.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/blue-cheese-and-spring-onion-scones/

 Source: Adapted from Sebastien Rouxel’s ‘Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery’

Asparagus Quiche

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Until a few months ago, I would shy away from recipes with pastry. Making pastry was one challenge too far for me. In my mind, the potential for things to go wrong were too numerous; unsuccessfully rolling the dough, over handling, lifting the pastry into the pan cleanly, ensuring it is not too thick, or too thin, under baking, over baking…you get the idea.

Equally, I am not overly comfortable buying a ready-made pastry case or ready-to-roll pastry. It seems like too easy an option. So I decided, for me to expand my baking repertoire I really had to get to grips with a pastry making technique.

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So for this bake, I have used Paul Hollywood’s Shortcrust Pastry recipe. I have adapted the technique slightly for preparing the pastry case for one that works for me, in my kitchen and gives a successful result (see my method below).

So for this quiche, I wanted to make something savoury and seasonal. I couldn’t let the asparagus season go by without including this fabulous fresh green. I have also included a local cheese in this quiche . We went to our local agriculture show at the weekend and I bought a couple of cheeses from Surrey’s only cheese maker, Norbury Park Farm. I used Dirty Vicar in this dish which is described as ‘like a camembert on the outside and a crumbly Caerphilly on the inside’. It worked really well with the asparagus but you could use a camembert, brie or any hard cheese that you have in the fridge.

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If you try this quiche I think you will be satisfied on two counts; firstly for producing an ascetically pleasing dish and secondly, for enjoying a very flavoursome, seasonal lunch.

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Here are my tips for preparing the pastry case:-

1. Tip the dough straight from bowl straight onto a piece of plastic food wrap/cling film. Mould into a ball and flatten slightly with your hands. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for a minimum of 3 hours. Alternatively, you could place in a plastic bag and freeze it at this point.

2. Once the pastry has been chilled, remove from the fridge. Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Unwrap the dough onto the floured work surface and open up the wrap fully. Tear off a second piece of wrap and place on top of the dough.

3. With the rolling pin, gently roll the plastic wrap with the pastry underneath. ie. the rolling pin does not directly touch the dough. The least the pastry is handled, the better.  If the dough cracks at the sides whilst rolling, just tap the crack back with the end of the rolling pin.

4. Roll the dough to the required thickness. Don’t worry if the pastry rolls beyond the two layers of food wrap, the lightly floured work surface will prevent it from sticking.

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5. Check the size of the pastry against your baking tin, ensuring you have enough to fill the edges of the tin, plus a little overhang.

asparagusquiche-1-96. Now to lift the pastry into the tin. I roll the pastry over my rolling pin, leaving the base coat food wrap on the surface. Be careful that the pastry does slip on the rolling pin. Carefully place the pastry into the tin and manipulate as need be.

asparagusquiche-1-107. Gently push the pastry into all the corners and edges. You will be doing this with the top layer of food wrap in place. This way, you are still not directly touching the pastry. When you are happy everything is in place, remove the food wrap.

asparagusquiche-1-118. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and cover the base with some baking parchment. Be sure to really scrunch up the paper before you put it on the pastry. The more pliable the parchment, the less crease marks you will get on the pastry. Fill with baking/ceramic beans, ready for baking.

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Asparagus Quiche

Serving Size: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50ml of water
  • 1 beaten egg, for egg wash
  • For the filling
  • 275g fresh asparagus (typically a regular size bunch)
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml double cream
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 100g cheese or your choice

Instructions

  1. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a free standing mixer and combine. Add the butter and mix with a paddle attachment until the ingredients have a sandy/breadcrumb-like consistency.
  2. Add the egg yolks and mix. Then follow with the water. Mix until the dough comes together.
  3. Tip the dough onto a square of food wrap/cling film, on a work surface. Mould into a ball and flatten. Wrap in the plastic and put in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  5. Remove from the fridge and unwrap onto a lightly floured work surface, opening the wrap completely. Add a second layer of wrap on top of the dough.
  6. With a rolling pin, roll the wrapped dough gently until the desired size and thickness. Do not worry if the dough creeps out of the sides of the food wrap. The floured surface will prevent it from sticking.
  7. Carefully roll the dough over the rolling pin, leaving the bottom layer of wrap on the work surface. Carefully place the dough into the tin (9 inch diameter, 9 x 9 inch square) and manipulate into position. With the top layer of wrap still on the pastry, mould the pastry into the edges and corners of the tin, allow for a little overhang.
  8. With a fork, prick the base of the pastry case. Scrunch some baking parchment very tightly to make it as pliable as possible and overlay it on the pastry. Fill with baking/ceramic beads.
  9. Blind bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the beans and the parchment and brush the base of the pastry case with a beaten egg.
  10. Return to the oven and bake for another 8 minutes, until the base of the pastry case is dry.
  11. Remove from the oven and trim the edges of the pastry case with a sharp knife before it becomes too cool.
  12. Adjust oven setting to 180 degrees C whilst you prepare the filling.
  13. For the filling
  14. Prepare the asparagus by washing and cutting off an inch or so, off the bottom to get rid of the 'woody' pieces. Cut the tops of the asparagus and then slice the asparagus stalks at diagonal angles.
  15. Heat the butter in a pan and add the asparagus. Stir over the heat for a few minutes until the asparagus becomes slightly softened and the colour has become more vibrant. Season to taste and then take off the heat.
  16. Pour the asparagus into the prepared pastry case, evenly distributing the stems and tips.
  17. Beat together the eggs and double cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture carefully over the asparagus into the pastry case, taking care to get an even mixture throughout.
  18. Add your cheese of choice, either sliced or grated.
  19. Place the quiche in the oven at 180 degrees C and cook for approximately 35 minutes. Check frequently as all ovens vary. The quiche should be cooked once the middle feels firm when touched with a finger.
  20. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little in the pan before taking out (it is fiddly to remove when the pan is so hot).
  21. Serve warm.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/asparagus-quiche/

Source: Paul Hollywood’s Shortcrust Pastry in ‘How to Bake’. Method adapted.

 

Gluten-Free Pizza with Mozzarella and Basil Pesto

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This is my very first attempt at gluten-free baking and I thought I would go for something savoury.

I am accustomed to making homemade pizza on a regular basis, so it was a bit of a learning curve for me using the gluten (and wheat) free flour. ( I guess that’s one of the reasons I set out writing this blog, to broaden my knowledge!)

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My initial thoughts were that the flour is beautifully fine and white in colour (naturally, it would be, as its rice, potato and tapioca). It bound together well but rolling it out was a different matter! I like my pizzas to be thin and crispy so I was trying to achieve this here. The dough was very soft to roll and despite flouring the work surface, was quite sticky when removing and placing on the parchment paper for baking. I would suggest calling on all your dexterity skills at this time as I needed to roll the dough onto a rolling pin, while scraping the dough with a palate knife away from the work surface. The thought of re-enacting a tossing and spinning of this dough as often seen in pizzerias, would be impossible.

Anyway, I achieved my thin and crispy base and allowed for a second proving but could not visibly see too much change in the dough. I chose also to pre-bake the base a little before adding the toppings. I decided to keep it simple by adding mozzarella and a homemade basil pesto, the recipe of which I have posted below.

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I was quite pleased with the result and had two rather tasty pizzas sitting in my kitchen at lunchtime on a school day (that means only myself and my nearly two year old at home).

Very tempting just to keep eating…

* Note: I would just like to draw to your attention that the Fast Action Bread Yeast that I used did not contain gluten but was ‘packaged in a factory which handles wheat and gluten’. Please be sure to check the packaging of the yeast product you are using.

Gluten-Free Pizza with Mozzarella and Basil Pesto

Makes 2 8-10inch Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp fast action bread yeast
  • 300g gluten and wheat free white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 180ml water
  • 250g passata (I use one with added herbs)
  • Basil pesto (see homemade recipe below)
  • 125g buffalo mozzarella pearls or buffalo mozzarella, sliced
  • Grated mozzeralla cheese, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Place the flour, yeast, salt and olive oil into the bowl of a free standing mixer.
  2. Add all but 20ml of the water and mix with the dough hook until the mixture comes together.
  3. If the dough seems dry, add the remaining water and mix on a medium speed for about 5 minutes.
  4. Tip the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow to prove for about an hour.
  5. Heavily dust the work surface with gluten-free flour. Divide the dough into two and, one at a time, roll to form a thin pizza base. Be gentle as the dough will tear easily.
  6. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place on a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
  7. Allow to prove for a further half an hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
  9. Bake the pizza bases on the baking parchment paper only (not the trays) as this gives a crispier finish, for approximately 7 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
  11. Spread the passata of your choice onto the base, leaving a small crust around the edge. Top with mozzarella (pearls or slices) and pesto, to your liking.
  12. Sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese.
  13. Return to the oven (on parchment only) and a bake for approximately a further 15 minutes, depending on your oven and how crispy you like your pizza.
  14. Once cooked, slice and serve hot.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/gluten-free-pizza-with-mozzarella-and-basil-pesto/

Source: Pizza base quantities adapted from ‘Panasonic Automatic Breadmaker Instructions and Recipes’ 

Proscuitto and Gruyere Fougasse

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Well, my first post. It has been a long time coming and I am still a complete novice with my new camera but at long last I have ‘bitten the bullet’ so to speak and posted a bake! I had pondered long and hard over what I would choose to bake for my first post and had visions of something sweet, maybe something with chocolate, maybe a biscuit and for sure, a crowd pleaser.Proscuitto gruyere fougasse -3-2

As is often the case, circumstances often override situations and that’s what has happened here. With the sun starting to shine and al fresco dining beckoning I baked this Fougasse for tearing and sharing with friends. I have added prosciutto and gruyere to further enhance the continental feel of this bread. A major part of the appeal of making this bread is that the mixer does all the hard work for you, yet you get all the credit for producing a wonderful artisanal looking flat bread. A crowd pleaser after all…I hope you agree.Proscuitto gruyere fougasse -2

Proscuitto and Gruyere Fougasse

Ingredients

  • 250g Strong White Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 5g Salt
  • 5g Instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 190ml Cool Water
  • 5 slices / approximately 70g Procuitto ham, chopped
  • 40g Gruyere cheese, grated
  • Dried Oregano
  • Fine semolina for dusting (optional)

Instructions

  1. Oil a large plastic container with olive oil.
  2. Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the olive oil and three quarters of the water.
  3. Mix at a slow speed until the dough comes together and add remaining water if required.
  4. Add the chopped prosciutto ham to the dough and mix on a medium speed for about 8 minutes.
  5. Tip the dough into the greased container. Seal the lid and leave to rise until at least doubled in size. Usually, at least an hour.
  6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  7. Sprinkle some flour and semolina (if using) onto the baking paper and tray.
  8. Gently take the dough and place onto the tray, gently spreading it out, then turn it over so both sides have a dusting of flour.
  9. Spread the dough with your fingers into an oval shape and with a pizza cutter cut lines into the dough so forming a leaf structure. Separate the dough where it has been cut, creating holes in the dough.
  10. Place the tray in a clean plastic bag and allow to prove for a further 20 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C whilst the dough is proving.
  12. When ready to bake, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some oregano and finally sprinkle the grated gruyere cheese all over.
  13. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven or until it has a pale golden colour and is hollow underneath when it is tapped.
  14. Allow to cool.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/proscuitto-and-gruyere-fougasse/

Source: Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake’