It's a crusty, chewy country bread that has a hit of salt from the bacon and cheese, and a hint of zing from the herbs and flaked red pepper. I adapted the recipe from Jim Lahey's book My Bread (of Sullivan Street Bakery and New York Times' Mark Bittman no-knead bread recipe fame). His recipe is itself inspired by traditional Italian lard/ciccioli bread. (Lard might sound scary, but it really makes for a lighter crumb and richer bread, similar as to the use of lard in pie crusts.)
This strong-tasting bread goes well with beers or ales. Recommended with North Coast Pranqster (a Belgian-style golden ale) or Baird Beer Numazu Lager.
Side note: Both of these beers were at the beer tasting I attended, and if you're in Hong Kong, you can get these beers and more through Hop Leaf, the new craft beer distributor that I'm involved in. (end promo!)
A few people have asked me for the recipe for this bread - I guess the combination of bacon and cheese is always a winner. If you're vegetarian (but not vegan), simply omit the bacon to make an equally delicious cheese bread. In the same vein, if you're lactose-intolerant, you can omit the cheese and keep the bacon.
Here's the recipe. It sounds a bit convoluted and troublesome, but if you break it down into steps, it's actually extremely simple and there's very little actual work involved. Mostly it's just waiting, as it uses the long-rise/no-knead method.
Recipe (adapted from the Pancetta Bread recipe in "My Bread" by Jim Lahey)
Ingredients (US/cup measurements are approximate, I recommend you weigh out the ingredients instead, but since bread is relatively forgiving, it should still work OK if you don't have a scale.)
- Bread flour (high gluten) - 300 g / 2 1/3 cups*
- Cool filtered water - 350 g / 1 1/2 cups*
- Instant or active dry yeast - 1g / 1/4 tsp*
- Table salt - 3g / 1/2 tsp
*Or replace some of the bread flour, water and yeast with a starter, which is what I did. I'm not sure how big of a difference it really makes, but I think that using a starter instead of ready yeast gives you a richer-tasting bread as the yeast has fermented for longer.
- 100g sourdough starter
- 250g bread flour
- 300g water / 1 1/3 cup
Mix-ins (mix and match, all are optional, add in whatever you like. Also, there's no need to be 100% exact in the proportions of bacon, herbs and spices - adjust to personal taste. Just don't put too much cheese as it can make the bread too wet. Otherwise, feel free to go wild here!)
- Cooked and crumbled bacon - 300 g / 2 1/3 cups
- Bacon fat (reserved from cooking the bacon) - 1 tbsp
- Red pepper flakes - a pinch (1/2 tsp)
- Shredded firm/dry cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino (don't use wet cheese such as Cheddar or Mozzarella as it will spread too much and make the bread wet) - 50-100g / or a not-too generous handful
- Herbs and spices - 1 tsp of whatever you like. (I used a mix of rosemary and Parisienne herb mix from Penzey's Spices [chives, dill weed, French basil, French tarragon, chervil and white pepper] but simple ground black pepper would work well with the red pepper flakes.
- Stir together all the ingredients (except bacon fat and water). Add the water and bacon fat. Mix for about 1 minute until combined with your hands or a wooden spoon.
- Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature until you see bubbles on the surface and the dough has doubled in size. This dough is less watery and is firmer than the dough in the original no-knead recipe printed in the New York Times. The dough should hold its shape somewhat. This first rise should take about 12 to 18 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. I like to prep these long-rise breads the evening before, so that they're ready for baking the next day. As you can infer, making these no-knead breads are usually a weekend activity!
- Once the first rise is complete, tip the dough out onto a floured work surface. Gently punch the dough and shape it into a round shape.
- Put back in bowl (or leave on the work surface) and cover. Leave in warm place until doubled in size again (1 to 2 hours). The dough is ready when it doesn't spring back if you poke it gently with your finger.
- Heat your oven to 250 C / 475 F.
- Gently transfer the dough to your work surface.
- Shape into one / two large loaves, or do as I did and make multiple little bread rolls (I got about a dozen smallish ones out of this amount). It all depends on the crust-crumb ratio that you prefer, or if you are making them for yourself or for a party and want some bite-size rolls. These are quite crusty so if you want a softer roll then make them larger.
- Place on baking tray and bake in oven for about 40 minutes.
- Take out and let cool. (Or eat right away if the smell of bacon made you crazy while waiting for the bread to bake!)
- Keeps 1-2 days. Reheat in toaster oven or microwave before serving. They would also be mind-blowingly awesome as burger buns for sliders.