Throughout his chef career, Jack was always fascinated with the unknown, intrigued by the mysterious and bread for a while was one of those things. It's something that not a lot of chefs actually make and he really wanted to crack it. Find out more about Jack’s journey and have a go at his Rosemary and sea salt Focaccia from his new cookbook, Bake with Jack.
BAKE WITH JACK
Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to love baking?
I practiced and practiced baking, and enjoyed the craft and seeming simplicity of it all but it wasn't until I started teaching when I really fell in love. I used to host cookery classes for adult learning, and it was always the weekend bread class where I saw the BIGGEST results; people who'd never baked a loaf in their lives OR had tried many times and failed were pulling tall and proud fresh loaves from the oven and LOVING it! It was their joy, their reaction that really got me hooked on the power of homemade bread.
What's your favourite cookbook at the moment and why?
I've actually quite recently discovered Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat which I am really loving, it's PROPERLY thick and full of insight into the properties of food and what it does to your tongue! A great manual on combining flavours and a little nostalgic for me; re-acquainting me with some old ingredients I'd forgotten about from my kitchen days.
You use Falcon enamelware in and around your kitchen and within your new cookbook, Bread Every Day. What’s your favourite product and what do you use it for?
Quite often I find inspiration of what to bake in the thing used to bake them in! I LOVE the look of enamelware and use round pie tins LOADS for things like focaccias and cinnamon buns, they are so practical for proving bread in a moving things around to dodge hot spots in the oven, not to mention that classic beautiful look. The Pigeon grey baking set is also such a beauty as well as the loaf tin, slightly longer than a traditional tin; it's a nice excuse to try some new shaping techniques.
What's the biggest misconception about baking bread?
There is a lot of "fear" around making bread, and anything yeasted for that matter. Like it is unpredictable, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and that it fails for no reason at all sometimes and I get it, when it does fail it's heartbreaking! But the truth is that once you understand what is going on inside your dough and the principles of homemade bread, then you'll easily turn your hand to any kind of bread with some practice. Even sourdough! Bread needs time to rest and PUFF UP, if it's kneaded well with ZERO flour and kept nicely at room temperature that will happen. Sometimes the less we do the better; dough does what it does and we are simply here to encourage it to become the best it can be. With time and practice you WILL crack it, and once you've done it once you'll do it again and again and again...
Do you have a favourite recipe from Bread Every Day?
Ahh yes I do! And funnily enough it's a hot chocolate recipe! Every single bread recipe in the book has a few "other" recipes to go with it, like a focaccia paired with a minted ricotta and green bean salad for example. And my no knead baguette recipe has a few to go with it including... hot chocolate. It holds powerful memories for me as a kid on a school trip to France where in the school lunch hall we were given steaming bowls of hot chocolate, fresh baguettes and cold salted butter. After a few moments we all buttered our baguettes and dunked them into the hot chocolate and it was SO DELICIOUS! Crusty bread, salty butter and sweet hot chocolate. I discovered memories just like these while writing the book and tried to include as many little stories as possible.
Are there any local companies you'd like to shoutabout? Where do you usually eat, drink, and source ingredients in your local area?
Here in Surrey there are loads of people doing cool things with food and drink! CRUMBS Brewing makes amazing beer out of old, unsold loaves of bread. Albury Vineyard makes delicious sparkling wine right here in the surrey hills and Norbury Blue cheese is delicious with... bread. Those guys ROCK.
Rosemary and sea salt Focaccia
EASY BUT PERHAPS A LITTLE STICKY TO MAKE, EASY TO BAKE
TOTAL TIME: 4–4 3/4 HOURS
You’ll need: a high-sided baking tray about 30 x 40cm (12 x 16in) for making one large focaccia or 4 x 22cm (81⁄2in) round enamel pie tins for 4 small focaccias (I prefer the latter because these are quicker to bake with less risk of toasting the toppings and losing their flavour, plus they look wicked!)
190g (63⁄4oz) room- temperature milk
190g (63⁄4oz) room- temperature water
12g (1⁄2oz) fresh yeast, crumbled, or 7g (1⁄4oz) fast-action dried yeast
500g (1lb 2oz) strong white bread flour
8g (1⁄4oz) salt
20g (3⁄4oz) olive oil, plus extra for oiling
For the topping
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
sea salt flakes
Making the dough: 5–10 minutes
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the milk, water and yeast until the yeast has dissolved.
- Add the flour and salt, then mix with a dough scraper until the mixture starts to come together. Add the olive oil and mix again into a dough – as we are not kneading this one, it’s really important that it comes together into a cohesive mass with no lumps or dry or oily patches.
Resting: 30 minutes
- Cover the bowl with an upturned bowl and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
First fold: 5 minutes
- Oil an area of clean work surface. Oil the surface of your dough and turn it out upside down onto the oily patch. For this first fold, we are the most thorough. Grasp a bit of the dough edge, stretch it out and then fold it over onto the dough. Repeat all the way round the dough, making about 10–12 folds, until you have a ball.
Resting: 45 minutes
- Turn the dough over, smooth side up, and place it back in the bowl. Cover as before and rest for 45 minutes.
Second fold: 2 minutes
- Oil your work surface again, then turn the dough out upside down onto it. Repeat the first fold process BUT this time make only 6 to 8 folds.
Resting: 45 minutes
- Turn the dough smooth side up and place it back in the bowl. Cover and rest as before.
Third fold: 2 minutes
- Repeat the second fold process as before.
Resting: 30 minutes
- Turn the dough smooth side up and place it back in the bowl. Cover as before BUT this time rest for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make your topping. Pick your rosemary leaves and place them in a bowl and add 4–5 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix together and set aside.
Dividing, shaping and topping: 5–10 minutes
- If you’re making one large focaccia, line your high-sided baking tray with baking parchment. Drizzle with a little olive oil and slide the whole dough pillow out of the bowl and into the tray.
- If making 4 small focaccias, line and oil your pie tins as above. Slide the dough onto the work surface, smooth side up, cut it into 4 pieces with your dough scraper and carefully transfer each piece into a prepared tin. Be gentle with your dough to keep as much gas inside it as possible.
- Press your puffy dough all over with your fingertips, right down to the tray, to create dimples and to spread the dough out naturally – don’t try to stretch your dough sideways to make it fit the tray, as it will only ping back and go crinkly! And be careful not to flatten the dough and lose too much gas. Pour the rosemary oil over the top and dimple the dough again with your fingertips.
Resting: 45 minutes–1 hour
- Let the focaccia rest, uncovered, for a final 45 minutes–1 hour until risen and delicate to the touch.
- Towards the end of resting, preheat your oven to 200°C fan/425°F/Gas Mark 7 with a shelf in the middle, or 2 if using pie tins, and a deep roasting tray on the oven floor. Half fill a kettle.
Baking: 25–40 minutes
- Boil the kettle.
- Sprinkle a little sea salt evenly over the top of your focaccia. Place your baking tray or tins on the oven shelf or shelves and carefully pour the hot water into the tray below. Bake for 30–40 minutes for the large tray or
25–30 minutes for the pie tins. Slide a knife underneath the bread, lift it and take a peep. If it’s golden all over the underside, it’s ready, but if it’s still a little pale in the centre, bake for another 5 minutes and check again.
- Drizzle once again with olive oil, then remove the focaccia from the tray or tins as soon as it’s cool enough to handle and let the focaccia cool completely on a wire rack.
A focaccia can be a blank canvas for so many good things as long as you follow a few simple rules:
You need olive oil to stop the rosemary or other toppings from drying up and burning in the oven, and to allow its flavour to penetrate down into the bread. So, whatever topping you choose, mix it first with a generous amount of olive oil. Don’t choose ingredients that will make the dough too wet. For example, halved cherry tomatoes with the juice squeezed out are great but chopped-up beef toms will make everything soggy! Woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage work better than fine soft herbs, like parsley, chervil and chives, which will dry out and lose their flavour if you bake them on the top of your bread, although feel free to add them AFTER baking.