There are very few kitchen gadgets and appliances that I don't own, but one thing missing from my life was a panini press.
So on Thursday I bought a panini press. I'm so glad that I did. Look how shiny it is.
And while Sainsbury's ciabatta rolls are perfectly nice, I was sure I could do better. So I dug out my copy of Ursula Ferrigno's The New Family Bread Book which I was lucky enough to win last year on Let Her Bake Cake, found a recipe, and set to work.
Ciabatta is a long drawn out process, which you need to start the night before you actually want some bread, and it's best if you do it on a day when you're mostly at home as there are a few stages of knocking back and proving.
Here's the recipe (slightly adapted):
Make the biga the night before: Dissolve 1tsp dried yeast in 150ml warm water. Add to 250g strong plain flour and mix it to a loose, sticky dough. Knead for a few minutes, cover and leave overnight.
Next day, dissolve another 1tsp dried yeast into 300ml warm water. Add this to the biga and mix together. Add 250g strong flour and beat with a wooden spoon, your hand or the dough hook of an electric mixer for a few minutes. Cover and leave somewhere warm to double in size. (This took about 2 hours.)
Next add 2 tsp Maldon or other sea salt, or 1 1/2 tsp 'normal' salt, and 4tsp olive oil (extra virgin is nice, but normal is fine) to the dough, and add another 250g strong flour. Knead with your hands or a machine till the dough is smooth - it will be very sticky but this is normal. Cover and leave to double in size again. Turn on the oven to 200ºC.
Now throw lots of flour onto your work surface, knock the dough back and shape it into twelve little turd-like shapes (sorry, but look at the photo below to see what I mean!).
Sprinkle a bit of semolina onto two baking trays, divide the rolls between the baking trays, sprinkle the tops with lots more semolina (it gives the finished rolls a lovely texture), cover with clean tea towels and leave to prove for another half an hour or so.
Bake for 15-20 minutes till they are golden and crisp, and cool on a wire rack.
Now I know this all sounds like a bit of a faff, but believe me it is worth it - these little rolls are much nicer than anything you can buy in the shops.
So what I did was split two in half (they're small, and I was hungry, alright?), spread pesto on one half, sprinkled on some grated mozzarella, toasted them in the panini press and scoffed them with a bit of rocket salad. Yummy.
Incidentally, if you like baking bread, get yourself a dough scraper like the one below. If my house was on fire, this would be one of the things I'd grab (along with the Kenwood Chef and the pressure cooker). It's one of the most useful things in any baker's kitchen.