A brand new notebook, few multi-color pens and a resolution to make the coming year better! The next half hour was crucial as all the points were jotted down one after the other with the hope to meet all the promises. The first few months were always fruitful and few points would successfully get checked off. Then came the shower of homework, assignments and exams, not to forget the crushes followed by heartbreaks. Amongst all these, that multi-colored page of New Year resolutions always got lost. And irrespective of the failures, the vital half hour of jotting down resolution returned around the same time next year. Silly innocent days!
After a few back-to-back flops, thankfully, I grew up and realized that resolutions were not meant for me. Life was too random, unpredictable and my control freak nature, didn’t like the idea of not being able to check off all the points at the end.
Last couple of years, I made few goals, silently, without jotting down anywhere. No multicolor pen this time, it was all in my mind. I hoped to cook better, try new ingredients, cut down on processed food, eat fresh, go for hikes, learn photography; basically things that would make our life happier and healthier. A daily commitment, as I like to call it!
One of the goals that I had set last year was to bake more fresh breads. I was determined to understand yeast, the concept of kneading and prepare fresh breads for dinner as much possible. I didn’t join any courses but I read a lot, tried every other day and after few failures, success started showing up. Since most of the times I baked at night just before dinner, those breads hardly made their way out here.
This roasted garlic and cilantro bread from Nigella Lawson’s book was one of the first breads that came out perfect, spreading the warmth and making me so proud. The bread made it to the dinner table and what left were only crumbs.
The texture of this bread is a blend between naan and focaccia bread, puffed and pillow-y, easy to break with hands and rustic. It freezes well and stays good for a few days, if kept in an airtight container or wrapped in aluminum foil. Just warm it in the microwave and enjoy with soup or dip. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
for the bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon oil
for the topping
- 1 medium garlic head
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Mix warm water with sugar and yeast. Stir, cover and let it rest for about 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
- Once yeast is activated, add flour in the mixing bowl along with salt and oil. Give it a mix and make a well in the center. Pour the activated yeast into the well. Using a rubber spatula, give a mix to form rough dough. Now, if you are using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and knead at speed 2 for 12 minutes. If you kneading by hand, scrape the dough in a lightly floured countertop or wooden board and knead until it’s smooth and elastic. It should take about 12 minutes.
- Once the dough is ready, make a rough round ball and place it on either the same mixing bowl or a separate one that's lightly brushed with oil. Cover it with clear wrap/kitchen towel and keep it in a warm place. Give it a couple of hours to rise and double in size.
- In the mean time, preheat the oven to 375F. Trim the top of garlic head, place it on aluminum foil, drizzle some oil on top and wrap it loosely. Allow it to roast in the oven for about 45 minutes.
- One done, allow it to cool and squeeze the soft garlic cloves out of their skin. Keep aside in a bowl. In a food processor, add the roughly chopped cilantro along with the chili flakes and roasted garlic cloves and blend for about a minute. Next, add olive oil and run the processor again until it forms a smooth spreadable paste. Keep it aside to be rubbed on the bread before baking.
- Once the bread dough rises and doubles in size, scrape it carefully to a board. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the bread dough on it and roll it to a rectangular or oval shape. Cover it and let it sit for 30 more minutes to get it fluffy.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Once ready, poke your fingers all over the bread and brush the roasted garlic and cilantro mixture on top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until its golden brown on top.
- While serving, you can drizzle some more olive oil on top and salt. Serve warm.
- I have tried this bread with whole-wheat flour as well as a mix of whole wheat plus all-purpose flour. The texture remains fluffy. You might have to add a little bit more water in the dough if you use whole-wheat flour.
- The bread stays good for days if kept in the refrigerator covered tightly. Just microwave it to get the fluffy soft texture back.
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” –M.F.K. Fisher