RED PEPPER FOCACCIA  Picture: Chris Collingridge
RED PEPPER FOCACCIA Picture: Chris Collingridge
OLIVE FOUGASSE  Picture: Chris Collingridge
OLIVE FOUGASSE Picture: Chris Collingridge
APPLE AND CINNAMON TWI Picture: Chriss Collingridge
APPLE AND CINNAMON TWI Picture: Chriss Collingridge
PESTO LOAF  Picture: Chris Collingridge
PESTO LOAF Picture: Chris Collingridge

There are few things in life better than the aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread being taken out of the oven and eating it while fresh and warm. Banting be damned!! This is my biggest weakness in life.

One of the most therapeutic pastimes for stress relief is kneading dough. The feel and texture of the dough in your hands and the motion of pushing and kneading it is something everyone should try at least once in their life.

Even if you mix your dough in an electric mixer, you should always include a time of hand kneading as well.

These days it is hard to find fresh yeast and most recipes can be made using the instant dry yeast which is readily available in most supermarkets. The rule of thumb is that every 10g sachet of instant dry yeast is sufficient to raise up to 1kg of flour. If you use more flour, then add another sachet. If using less than 1kg still use the whole packet of yeast.

I have to admit that if I am in a hurry to get my bread dough risen, I often add two sachets of yeast and this definitely speeds up the process without affecting the taste or texture too much.

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RED PEPPER FOCACCIA

Makes 2

4x250ml cake flour

10ml salt

15ml castor sugar

10g sachet instant yeast

45ml olive oil

250ml warm water

FILLING

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

30ml olive oil

2 red onions, peeled and sliced

salt and pepper

15ml balsamic glaze

sea salt flakes

chopped rosemary

extra olive oil

Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the olive oil and enough warm water to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.

Knead well until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into an oiled plastic bag and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

FILLING: Cut the peppers into 3 slices, removing the pith and seeds.

Place on a baking tray and place under a heated grill until the skins are charred and blackened. Remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover with cling wrap to sweat.

When cool enough to handle, remove the charred skin from the peppers. Cut the peppers into strips.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until soft. Add the sliced peppers, balsamic glaze and seasoning to taste. Remove from the heat and cool.

Remove the dough from the plastic bag and knead gently. Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece into an oval shape about 30x15cm.

Spread each with half the pepper mixture. Then fold the dough over the filling.

Place on a baking tray and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.

Use the back of a wooden spoon to press the top of the dough to form indentations. Pour over extra olive oil, sprinkle with salt flakes and rosemary.

Bake at 200°C for 20-30 minutes until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from oven and put on a cooling rack.

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OLIVE FOUGASSE

Makes 2

750ml cake flour

10ml salt

10ml castor sugar

10g sachet instant yeast

45 olive oil

250ml warm water

100g black olives, pitted and chopped

45ml chopped fresh rosemary

Combine the flour, salt, castor sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix to combine.

Add the olive oil and enough warm water to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.

Knead well.

Remove the dough from the bowl on to a floured surface and mix-in the olives and rosemary.

Place the dough into an oiled plastic bag and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bag and knead gently.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a large oval about 30x40cm. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Cover and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Use a blunt knife to make incisions in the dough, opening up the incisions with your fingers to make a hole.

Brush the dough with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and chopped rosemary and bake at 200°C for 20-30 minutes until golden and baked through and the dough sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove and serve the bread warm.

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APPLE AND CINNAMON TWIST

Makes 2

DOUGH

750ml cake flour

60ml castor sugar

10ml salt

10g packet of instant yeast

60g butter, melted

5ml vanilla extract

250ml milk, warmed

1egg beaten

FILLING

3 green apples, grated

10ml ground cinnamon

125ml castor sugar

15ml lemon juice

60ml flour

125ml chopped pecan nuts

GLAZE

250ml icing sugar

3ml vanilla extract

water to mix

DOUGH: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Mix to combine.

In a jug, combine the butter, vanilla, milk and egg. With the machine running add enough liquid to the flour to make a dough that is soft but not sticky. Knead the dough well until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into an oiled plastic bag and set aside in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size.

FILLING: Combine all the ingredients and mix well.

Remove the dough from the bag and turn onto a floured surface. Knead gently. Divide the dough in half. Roll out the one half to a rectangle 25x 30cm.

Spread half the apple mixture over the dough. Roll up the dough to form a log. Place the log onto a baking tray lined with a silicone mat or non-stick baking paper.

Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise. Twist or braid the two pieces together, pinching the ends.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Cover the logs and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 180°C for 40-50 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Remove and cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to the cooling rack. Pour over the glaze and allow to cool.

GLAZE: Put the icing sugar in a bowl. Add the vanilla and enough water to make a thick glacé icing.

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PESTO LOAF

Makes 1 loaf

500ml cake flour

250ml wholewheat flour

10ml salt

15ml sugar

10g sachet instant yeast

125ml grated Parmesan cheese

60ml olive oil

300ml warm water

FILLING

125g prepared pesto

125ml grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the flours, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Stir in the grated Parmesan.

Add the olive oil and enough warm water to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.

Knead well until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into an oiled plastic bag and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bag and knead gently.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 30x40cm rectangle.

Spread the dough with the pesto and sprinkle with cheese.

Roll the dough up to form a log. Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise.

Twist the two strands of dough together and place the dough into a 15x30cm greased loaf pan. Cover and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 190°C for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove and turn the loaf onto a cooling rack.

Delicious served warm with butter.