The next bread from my recipe-by-recipe bake through of the River Cottage Bread Book was ciabatta. It's a bit of a palaver to make but the results are well worth it.
It's a really wet dough involving a mix of flour and semolina and you ferment it for three hours. Every half an hour or so you add a slug of olive oil and fold the dough up, lovingly, like a big soft blanket. This gives you a silky soft dough which is pretty impossible to handle. The only way to deal with it is with prodigious quantities of semolina to stop it sticking to your hands, the work surface and the dog. Daniel Stevens talks of bake stones, linen cloths and the like but when I tried that last time I lost all of the air from the dough transferring it between them. This time I proved it on the tins and it was more successful.
The result is six lovely little loaves, delightfully crispy on the outside and pillowy soft within. We ate the first ones hot from the oven, torn open, drizzled with a little olive oil and stuffed with grated mature cheddar and sliced home grown cucumber. The next meal we had them sliced into fat fingers, dipped into extra virgin olive oil and then into home made dukka. Divine. If I wasn't baking my way through this book recipe by recipe I'd make more ciabatta but I have an agenda and next on it is breadsticks.
The Delfland Nurseries Organic winter plants arrived on Tuesday all neatly snuggled into two brown cardboard boxes. They consisted of the winter vegetable selection (nine star broccoli, spring cabbages Duncan and spring hero, calabrese pacifica, perpetual spinach, bright lights chard, giant red mustard) and the winter salad selection (winter purslane, corn salad, land cress, lettuces winter density and Arctic King and wild rocket). Today with children out and husband working late I dodged biblical rain and headed into the polytunnel for a planting session.
After a bit of determined dibbing we now have neat rows of winter food - brassicas at the back, little salads at the front - all lined up like soldiers in the new big polytunnel and ready for the worst winter can throw at it. A polytunnel is quite coddling for some of these varieties but past experience has taught me that they hate the wet we get here no matter how good they are at surviving the cold.
My mini cucumbers are still going strong - astonishingly considering it's almost November - I think they like the new polytunnel too.