Sundried Tomato and Pesto Crusty Cob Loaf. A family sized cob loaf that uses the benefits of cast iron to create a faster rise and a crusty bake. This tasty loaf with Mediterranean flavours can be made into sandwiches, served with spring soups and braises or torn into chunks as part of a mezze meal.
Preparation and Making time: 30-35 minutes + 60-80 minutes rising time
Cooking time: 35-40 minutes in the oven
600g strong flour + extra for mixing if required and dusting
350ml warm water
½ teaspoon white sugar
2 teaspoons of dried yeast
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons pesto
100g sundried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped
2 tablespoon light olive oil for kneading & greasing the casserole
2-3 tablespoons of semolina flour dusting
1 baking tray + water
Set the oven to the lowest setting 50-70 °C, below ¼ for Gas, place in the empty casserole with the lid and leave to warm.
Sieve the flour with the salt into a mixing bowl.
Measure 350ml of warm water into a jug, stir in the sugar and the yeast. Leave for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate and the mixture to become frothy.
Tip- Warm water will help to activate the yeast ,the water needs to be warm to the touch but not hot as this can retard the yeast.
Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the pepper, pesto, sundried tomatoes and pour in the frothy liquid. Combine the ingredients together bringing all the flour away from the edges of the bowl to make a soft but not sticky dough, add a little of the extra flour if needed.
Tip-Using a strong large spatula for this stage bring the dough together easily and will keep your hands clean.
Lightly grease the work surface and your hands with some of the olive oil and turn out the dough. Knead the dough using the heel of your hand, folding and turning for 5-6 minutes until it has become elastic.
Remove the warmed casserole and lid from the oven; oil the inside of the base lightly with some of the olive oil. Place in the dough, put on the warmed lid and leave for 30-40 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Tip- The casserole will hold its warmth and create a draft free environment to promote a speedier rise.
Dust a clean work surface and your hands with some of the extra flour and turn out the risen dough.
Place the casserole and lid back into the oven to re warm.
Knock the air out of the dough by kneading a few times and shape the dough into a round loaf shape.
Remove the warmed casserole from the oven and dust the interior liberally with the semolina flour.
Place in the shaped dough and press gently flat to fit the casserole base, put on the lid and leave to rise for a second time for 30-40 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Half way through the rising time increase the oven temperature to: 220°C / 425°F/ Gas Mark 7, for fan assisted ovens reduce the temperature by 10-20°C
Place the baking tray onto the lowest oven shelf and fill with water.
Tip- The steam generated by the water bath will create a crusty loaf
Once the dough has doubled in size remove the casserole lid, dust the top of the dough with some more semolina flour and make cuts into the surface to create in a diamond pattern.
Place the casserole into the oven without the lid and bake for 35-40 minutes until well risen and evenly golden in colour.
Once cooked tip the loaf out of the casserole on to a wire rack to cool.
Tip- To test the loaf is done it should sound hollow when tapped on the base.
The mixing and kneading of the dough can be done in a suitable electric mixer with a dough hook fitting and following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Getting to know your oven is one of the keys to successful baking it is worth the making a small investment in a simple oven thermometer which can be placed on the baking shelf.
Semolina flour can be substituted for polenta flour .