I’m indebted to Paul Hollywood, the English baker and celebrity chef, for this recipe. These bacon and cheddar loaves make a great lunch or snack and are enjoyed by all the family.
I have played about with his quantities of ingredients, though. The recipe in his book “How to Bake” recommends that 500g, or just over a pound, of flour will provide 4 servings. Perhaps he has a bigger appetite than I do, but that’s equivalent to a quarter of a large loaf in each serving. And I feel that the bacon and cheddar gets a bit lost in all the bread.
My adapted recipe below halves the quantity of bread and increases the proportion of bacon and cheese. Perhaps you’d like to try different amounts and let me know how you get on?
Baking bread is not difficult if you follow this 3-step process. Each step involves a ‘wait period’ during which you can get on with something else. For more information about the technique I use, here’s a link to my page on Breadmaking.
Pour the flours into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add most of the water and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or a plastic dough scraper. If some flour is left in the bottom, add the remainder of the water. It may not need it all. Just make sure that all the flour has been taken up.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to stand for 20–30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare for the next step by weighing out the salt, yeast, and butter.
At the end of the 20–30 minutes, melt the butter and add it with the salt and yeast to the mixture, making sure that the yeast doesn’t come into contact with a wodge of salt, and mix well.
Cover the bowl with the tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil your hands and the work surface, and tip the dough out. Take the edge of the dough that’s furthest away from you and fold it towards you to meet the near edge. Push it into the dough with your fingers or the heel of your hand, stretching it gently away from you. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this 8 to 10 times, then rotate the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl.
Cover with the tea towel again, leave for 10 minutes, and repeat the fold and stretch.
Cover again and leave for 10 minutes. While waiting, lightly oil another large bowl for the dough to rise in. Then fold and stretch the dough for a third time.
The dough should now be smooth and silky. Tip it out and shape it into a ball. Put it into the lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.
While waiting, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and add the bacon, cooking gently on both sides until just cooked. Set aside to cool and then chop into small squares.
Then prepare a couple of baking trays. Line them with baking parchment.
Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. It should feel smooth. Add the bacon pieces and grated cheese to it, and knead until well mixed. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into a smooth oval, tapering the ends into points. Place 2 loaves on each tray, dust with flour and slash the tops along their lengths.
Cover with tea towels, or place each tray inside a clean plastic bag, and leave to prove for about an hour. You can tell when they're ready when they've doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.
Before the end of the hour, heat your oven to 220°C/425°F (gas mark 7).
Sprinkle with a little olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Eat warm.
Many recipes recommend using warm water to make the yeast work more quickly. However, the flavour is improved if the process takes place more slowly. I use water at room temperature or even a little cooler.
* Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.
Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute less than recommended on the packet of the brand you are using. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, pour the milk into a pan and add the bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until there is a smooth paste (a roux).
Remove the bay leaves from the milk, then gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring constantly, until blended and smooth. Simmer to thicken to a double/whipping cream consistency. Remove from the heat.
Grill the bacon until just crispy. Let it cool a little then cut into small pieces.
Stir the pasta, bacon, cheddar and mustard into the sauce and add the pepper.
Spoon into the ovenproof dish. No need to smooth the top.
Toss the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together. Scatter over the top, completely covering the macaroni cheese mixture. Bake for 40 minutes until the top starts to brown.
The traditional shepherd’s pie can be quite bland and my basic Shepherd’s Pie recipe has extra seasonings to liven it up. This one brings a touch of Italian using a Napoletana sauce and with grated Parmesan on the top.
1 fresh rosemary sprig (or a large pinch of dried)
225ml/8 fl oz red wine
500g/17 fl oz Napoletana pasta sauce (or similar)
900g/2 lb potatoes (floury)
50g/2 oz butter
50g/2 oz Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
Brown the lamb in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently to break up any lumps, about 7 minutes. It should be really well browned. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan with the rosemary and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. There should be enough fat left from browning the meat not to require adding any oil.
Return the lamb to the pan and stir in the wine. Loosen any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan, then leave the wine to bubble gently until roughly half of it has evaporated. Stir in the pasta sauce, then simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into large chunks. Put in a pan of water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the hot pan to dry off any excess moisture. Mash with the butter and half the Parmesan.
Preheat the grill to high.
Spoon the meat sauce into a medium-sized ovenproof dish. Top with the potatoes, no need to smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Brown under the grill for about 3 minutes.
Serve with seasonal vegetables.
The dish can be prepared ahead of time up to the grill stage. Cover the dish then refrigerate for up to two days. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook the pie for 25–30 minutes until heated through and golden on top.