Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Italian Tortano with ham & cheese

   Italian food. Ahhhhh. I can't think of anyone who doesn't like Italian food (maybe except my dad, who doesn't eat cheese, mushrooms, ham etc). To me, the best thing about Italian food is that you can easily cook it at home because once you have the commonly-used herbs in your cupboard, you're pretty much set up for any dish. I go through jars of oregano, basil and mixed italian herbs more than anybody else I know.

     This tortano is the result of a recipe that I chanced upon. I thought that it looked so pretty. Even though all the ingredients required for the recipe are items that I always have on hand, I didn't try making the tortano until 2 weeks after chancing upon the recipe. This is partly because I have a slight aversion to baking breads. I am no stranger to bread-making and used to make bagels regularly. However, I never seem to have success with baking simple fluffy white loafs. I am also sceptical of certain dry yeasts because I have bought packets of yeast that seemed useless. I woke up one morning and decided that I would finally give this a try. After some searching, I found packets of yeast in a Dutch supermarket. Hooray!

      I looked at the amount of flour needed for the recipe and wondered if I should halve the recipe. Something told me that I shouldn't. So I didn't. And, boy, am I glad I didn't! I cannot imagine the tortano turning out as well as it did if I had halved the recipe. So people, DON'T HALVE THE RECIPE. If you are cooking for 2 people like I was, just freeze the unsliced leftovers.

      So a tortano is a filled and rolled bread. You can fill it with mozzarella, olives, capers, prosciutto, cheese, mushrooms, ham etc. I guess you can fill it with most pizza topping-type ingredients. I opted for a simple ham and cheese filling.  This is a substantial loaf so I would suggest serving it with something light for a main meal or as a tapas for a party. I chose to serve my tortano with a simple tomato and basil soup. It takes some time to make this, as does most bread, but is not a whole lot of work.

Tortano with Ham & Cheese
makes enough for 4 to 6 people

7g instant yeast
300ml lukewarm water
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP salt
250g bread flour
180g wholemeal flour
4 large slices of ham (approx. 100g)
50 to 75g grated cheese (choose a strong cheese)

1. Combine the water, oil, honey and yeast in a cup/bowl. Stir to combine. Leave to sit for a few minutes.
2. Combine the flours in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flours and pour the water/oil/honey/yeast mixture in. 
3. Stir with a sturdy spoon until most of the flour is wet, then use your hands to continue the mixing process.
4. Keep kneading the dough to thoroughly combine the wet and dry ingredients.
5. Lightly flour a work surface and continue to knead the dough until it becomes elastic.
*This will take about 10 minutes of kneading. You might have to add more flour to the dough. If necessary, do so 1 TBSp at a time. You want an elastic dough, not a dry dough so don't add too much flour unless your dough is too wet.
6. Oil a clean glass bowl with olive oil and shape the bread dough into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place. 

*I put my microwave on for 1 minute then turn it off and quickly put the bowl in the warm microwave.
7. In about 45 minutes, the dough should have risen to double its size. You can now prepare your filling ingredients.
8. Put the dough ball on a well-floured surface and pull/stretch the dough to form a 1cm-thick rectangle, with the long edge (length) facing you. Resist the temptation to use a rolling pin or to knead the dough because that will knock too much air out of it.
9. Making sure to leave a border around the edges, arrange the ham slices on the dough and sprinkle the cheese.

10. Starting from the long edge closest to you, roll the dough Swiss-roll style as tightly as you can, pinching the dough to length when you have finished rolling.
11. Now bend the roll into a wreath, leaving a fist-sized hole in the middle and pinch the ends to seal them together.
12. Leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 250°C.

13. After the dough has risen for 30 minutes, knock the oven temperature down to 200°C and put the bread in the oven.
14. Bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool on a rack.
15. Slice as thick or thin as you want, then serve!

No comments:

Post a Comment