Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Baking: Mint and Halloumi Bread

I bought Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads few months ago when I was in a serious bread-baking mood. I had used his recipe for the Greek and Cypriot Easter bread Tsoureki during the Orthodox Easter this May, though back then I didn’t manage to find mahlepi (sour cherry pits) nor mastic (gum resin from mastic tree) anywhere in Edinburgh. I’ve since then managed to buy some in a small Greek shop in London, Bayswater* and am looking forward to baking with these unusual spices (Hollywood has recipes for Cypriot village bread koulouri, and Cypriot Laganes Bread, and I’m also looking forward to trying tsoureki again, this time with all the seasonings; I’ve found several recipes using mahlepi and mastic in Susanna Hoffman's The Olive and The Caper, and Claudia Roden mentions these as well).

Paul Hollywood’s book is alright, with quite a few interesting looking and unusual bread recipes that I’m tempted to try. It has a short introductory chapter about the history of bread and some useful breadbaking hints and tips, but it’s a book for wide rather than specialist audience. I suspect lots of the recipes have been simplified, which is good, especially if you’re looking something easy to bake on a spur of the moment late at night. However, I have a feeling that recipes have not always been properly tested and the editing is poor as well. Think of the above mentioned mastic and mahlepi. On page 78 Hollywood specifies that ‘mastika and mechlebe are spices and seeds used in many Greek/Cypriot dishes. They have a similar flavour to fennel or aniseed, which you can use to replace them. However, most good health food shops will stock them’. But in the Index of the book there are entries for ‘meclebe’ and ‘methlepi’!?!? How did they get the spelling wrong twice and didn’t it occur to them that ‘meclebe’ and ‘methlepi’ are the same thing and should actually be spelt ‘mechlebi’, as it was in the recipes? Or maybe mahlepi, as it is usually spelt in English.

Incorrect spelling and amounts aside, the recipes are tempting. The first recipe I tried was Halloumi and Mint Bread (p 80). I quite enjoyed the recipe, though again, I think the recipe wasn’t correct. Trying to mix 2 packets – that’s 500 grams – of chopped halloumi cheese into a dough made with 500 grams of flour is ambitious. I also think that 20 grams of dried mint (that’s 4 commercial glass spice pots!!!) is outrageous, especially as on the accompanying photo the bread is anything but full of mint (I simply omitted the ‘0’ from the recipe). I’ve also more than halved the amount of salt in the recipe, as cheese is quite salty already**. I suspect that Paul Hollywood’s recipe was originally for more than 1 loaf and while reducing the amount of flour, amounts for some of the other ingredients have remained unchanged. But the bread itself is easy and tasty, soft and dense at the same time and duly recommended. I think I’ve got the amounts correct here.

Halloumi and Mint Bread
Adapted from Paul Hollywood's book 100 Great Breads

500 g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
30 g fresh yeast
2-3 dl warm water
250 g halloumi cheese cut into small pieces
a generous tbsp of dried mint

Mix flour, salt, olive oil and yeast in a big bowl, adding water gradually (you may need less, as you’re just trying to bring the ingredients together). Knead for about 8 minutes (or 5, if you are using a mixer). Cover the bowl with a clean towel or clingfilm and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Add the cheese and dried mint to the dough and shape into a longish loaf. Lift to the baking tray and leave to rise for another hour.
Dust the top of the loaf with some flour and bake in a preheated 220˚C/425˚F oven for 25-30 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and crisp on the top.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and cover with a kitchen towel if you want just slightly softer top.

Here’s a version I made in early June – with 2 packets of halloumi cheese trying to escape the bread :)
And here’s a slightly modified version I made yesterday – using mint as well as some Greek oregano, 1 packet of halloumi cheese (that proved to be more than enough) and some pitted Greek style black olives that I had in my cupboard after making my entry for the Paper Chef # 8 (therefore the dark speckles that you may have mistaken for burnt cheese):

And finally a close-up of the bread – note the salty white dots of halloumi cheese:

It's almost time for lunch now, so I'm going to have some of the halloumi, olive, mint and oregano bread with some tea..

* Athenian Grocery, Greek-Cyprus & Continental Specialities, Wines and Spirits, 16a Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 7AX, Telephone 020 7229 6280
** I also had to modify his recipe for Tsoureki considerably, as I was reluctant to use 30 grams of _dried_ yeast and 15 grams of salt per half a kilo of flour again:)


Joycelyn said...

hi pille, love the sounds and looks of that halloumi bread - adore halloumi, especially grilled or panfried and tossed into a salad...hmm...cheers,j

Nic said...

Good adaptation of that recipe. I'm a big fan of Paul Hollywood. Watching him on TV was how I finally got a good technique for kneading dough. Before that, I think it was rather embarassing to have anyone watch me!

Michèle said...

Hi Pille,
The bread looks great. It would have been a disaster if I had been using that cookbook, my bread would have been green and runny with all the mint and cheese I would have thrown in there. :) But your end result looks wonderful!

Pille said...

J - I'm a recent convert to halloumi as well. At first I found it far too rubbery, but now I like the way the cheese retains some bite after baking/grilling/frying.

nic - thanks! As I said, the recipes in the book look tempting, so I'll be trying many more of them (and blog-share the final results with you). I'll just be stingy with salt and yeast:)

Michele - I guess few years ago I would have tried much harder to knead all 500 grams of cheese and 20 grams of mint into the dough, as I was more strict in following recipe instructions. But you learn to be slightly sceptical as you become more confident. Especially with cheese the previous time it just seemed so obviously too much - there wasn't just enough dough, and I kept eating the halloumi pieces that wouldn't fit in:) Thank you for your kind words.

puffin-hunting in Southern Norway

Anonymous said...

Hello Pille,

today I wrote an entry of a loaf (farl) from Paul Holywood's "100 Great Breads". While googling I stumbled upon the bread you baked. It really looks good! I also find the amount of salt way to much (normally I use 2% - baker's percent) and will reduce it in my next tries.

Happy baking :-)

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for a while for a good halloumi bread recipe, and I think this is a really good one, so the search is off!

However, what do you mean by 2/3 "DL" warm water??

The results were great - I divided the dough mixture into three smaller loafs, and baked for 20 mins which seemed to work well. I also grated half of the halloumi and diced the other half, so the cheese flavour is distributed a bit more.

If anything no salt is needed, as the halloumi is very salty in itself.

Thank you!

Pille said...

Anon. - it's 2-3 dl aka decilitres or 200-300 ml or just under or over a cup (250 ml). I LOVE the idea of grating half of the cheese, thank you!!

Will try it again soon - and use less salt!

Anonymous said...

Pille - thank you. By the way, I was very reassured when I read your comment about the quantities in Paul Hollywood's recipe not being quite right. Having followed that recipe to the letter, I thought I had made a mistake somewhere! Your blog is great.