Friday 16 September 2011

Quick Artichoke, Feta and Lemon Bread, and another

Quick food and - yes - takeouts have been on the menu at Chez Scrumptious over the last month because I've been furiously busy on other work. My nose has worn to pitiful stump, so hard has it been pressed to the grindstone, so I haven't really been in the mood for making nourishing family meals. It's a good thing breakfast cereals are enriched, or all my children would be weak with scurvy.

Artichoke and Feta BreadI can't give guests takeouts or cereal, however, so recently I've been making flavoured breads that look as if I've spent the whole morning slaving over them.  Both these loaves can be  assembled in under ten minutes, using  bags of dough from the supermarket, and I promise your guests will clap their hands in delight when you bring them hot and fragrant to the table.

Industrial dough doesn't have much to recommend it by way of flavour or texture - it's a multi-purpose dough used for all manner of baked goods - but a few interesting fillings or toppings go a long way towards making up for any cotton-wool texture. The first bread is stuffed with a zingy filling of tinned artichokes, creamy feta, lemon zest and parsley, and the second topped with fennel, garlic, olive oil and vine tomatoes. (And here's third idea: my Puffy 'Focaccia' with Baby Sausages, Herbs, Feta, Garlic and Olive Oil.)

Most supermarkets in South Africa that have in-house bakeries (Spar and 7/11 spring to mind) will sell you ready-to-bake dough, for a pittance, but you do need to ask at the counter for it. You can also buy dough from any commercial bakery.

Artichoke and Feta BreadSupermarket dough rises to an impressive height. Because it's got so much va-va-voom, it's not suitable for making pizzas (unless you like a very thick, doughy crust). But it is ideal for all sorts of flat (or flattish) flavoured breads, and is very forgiving. In other words, you can punch and stretch it fairly energetically without worrying about it collapsing into a sad old biscuit. Do take the time to press it out quite thinly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. There is no need to wait for these breads to rise after flavouring them; the dough will be very puffy already when you take it out of its bag.  Supermarket dough keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Artichoke and Feta Bread
600 g fresh white-bread dough
three-quarters of a tin of artichokes, drained
2 wheels (about 160 g) feta, crumbled
5 T (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
the finely grated zest of a small lemon
flaky sea salt
milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 180º C. Place a piece of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and press the dough out to a rectangle about a centimetre thick, as shown in the picture above.

Artichoke and Feta Bread
Coarsely chop the artichokes, put them in a bowl and add the feta, olive oil, parsley and lemon zest. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Spread the mixture to within three centimetres of the edges of the dough then roll it up, as if you were making a Swiss roll. Stretch the dough slightly as you roll, tucking it firmly to enclose the filling. Turn the bread so the seam is underneath. Use a sharp knife to make diagonal slashes in the top of the loaf.  Mix 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of water with a teaspoon of salt, and lightly brush this mixture all over the bread.

Bake at 180º C for 40-50 minutes, or until done. Brush the bread with more salt water half-way through the cooking time. If you're not sure the bread is cooked, turn it over and rap your knuckles on its underside. If you produce a dry, hollow sound, the bread is ready. Slide onto a bread board and serve hot with some olive oil for dipping.

Makes 1 loaf of bread, or enough for 6 people.

Fennel and Tomato Bread

Tomato and Fennel Bread
600 g fresh white-bread dough
3 big cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
a large sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and coarsley chopped
the finely grated zest of a small lemon
2 bulbs baby fennel, finely sliced
12 ripe cherry tomatoes, on the vine if possible
a few extra small sprigs of rosemary
flaky sea salt, or coarsely ground Kosher salt
milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease a large baking tray and dust with a little flour. Press the dough (diagonally across the sheet) into an elongated oval. Take your time about this. You will find that that dough tends to creep back a bit, but persevere with pushing and stretching until the dough is about a centimetre thick all over. Using your bunched fingers, make deep indentations all over the dough.

 In a separate bowl, mix together the crushed garlic, olive oil, chopped rosemary and lemon zest. Pour three-quarters of this mixture over the dough surface and use your fingers to poke and prod it into the indentations. Scatter the sliced fennel and the cherry tomatoes over the bread and press them lightly into the dough. Drizzle the remaining quarter of flavoured olive oil all over the bread and tomatoes, and sprinkle the bread with plenty of salt and milled black pepper. Scatter the extra rosemary sprigs on top. Bake at 180ºC for 35-40 minutes, or until puffy, golden and cooked right through.

Makes 1 focaccia, or enough for 6 people.
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Koek! said...

Divine, JA... Loving the idea of buying dough instead of making it. I'm not lazy, but I do have a day job!

Maryon said...

Love this idea - I just wonder if dough can be bought from local bakeries/supermarkets here in UK.
I will let you know.
Glad to see you're active again - your absence in cyberspace has been noted and missed.

Maryon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amatullah said...

This looks so amazing!

Kit said...

Great ideas for fillings! I usually make my own dough, but never get around to doing anything fancy with it. Maybe I should buy from Spar occasionally and then get fancy with the time saved!

kathy said...


Good Day, Thank you for the great quality of your blog, each time i come here, i’m amazed.


polkadotcupcake said...

As usual, it's you to the rescue! A homemade bread, no matter how much you've cheated, will always appear wonderful to your friends, and these look like winners! Have seen dough for sale around and about, but I never knew you could keep it for so long! Can you freeze dough, d'you think? Homemade or only shop bought?

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks Kathy, Kit and Bella.

Dottie, I don't know if you can freeze dough, but now you've asked, I'll give it a try. I can't see any reason why not. Thanks for the comment.

Nina Timm said...

I cannot seem to get here from Facebook. This is such a treat Jane. Looks absolutely scrumptious!