Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, there is one thing that I always order. ALWAYS. Bruschetta with tomato. Some are better than others, and I will pretty much boycott a restaurant that doesn’t do a good bruschetta. As you can see I take my Italian food seriously. Too seriously? Never.
I have been lucky enough to travel to Italy about five times in my life so far. I just love it. This beautiful country is so rich in culture, art and food. My favourite city is Florence, a small city in northern Italy. I cannot even explain how beautiful this place is, you don’t have to go to a museum or gallery to experience the art, because the city is the art. Everywhere you turn is another fresco or sculpture, each with its own history and story. It’s just magical.
In order to make this bruschetta just a little more special, we’re going to make our own bread. A good bruschetta really is the whole package. It’s the perfectly crispy bread, it’s the ripe tomatoes, the fresh garlic and the kick of basil. Making bread is so great and you should definitely try it if you haven’t before! The beauty of making bread is that most of it is “hands off” time. It needs time to rise. I let my bread rise in the oven (the oven is not on!) and I place a small bowl in the bottom filled with just boiled water from the kettle. The steam and the air tight environment of the oven creates the perfect place for dough to rise. Warm and moist with no drafts. Since I started proving my bread this way, it has turned out pretty perfectly every time.
Once the bread is made, the ripe tomatoes are mixed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic for ALL the flavours. All I need really is to be eating this in a Piazza and not in my apartment! The olive oil in the bread adds a depth and smoothness to the dough, making the texture light and moist without being heavy. It toasts particularly well, as the higher fat content from the oil really crisps up. That is exactly what we want with a bruschetta, and that extra crispness is the perfect compliment to the soft tomatoes.
This is a great recipe if you are hosting a dinner party and need a show-stopping starter that is easy and doesn’t take hours to prepare. Let me know if you try it and if it’s your first time making bread!
Italian Bruschetta with Homemade Olive Oil Bread
For the bread
450g Strong Plain White Flour (Bread Flour)
1 Level Tbsp Dried Yeast
1 Tsp Sea Salt
300ml Warm Water
6 Tbsp Olive Oil
For the Bruschetta
6-7 Ripe Plum Tomatoes
1 Clove of Garlic Minced
1 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Small Bunch of Fresh Basil
1. First make the bread. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast and salt and stir thoroughly to combine evenly.
2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the water and 5 Tbsp of the olive oil. Stir with a spoon until the dough comes together, then turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
3. Place the kneaded dough into a large bowl lightly greased with olive oil. Cover the bowl with cling film (also oil the side of the cling film facing the dough). Leave to prove for about 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size. I like to put the bowl in the oven (leave the oven off!) and place a small bowl filled with just boiled water from the kettle at the bottom of the oven. This creates a warm, damp environment with no drafts for the dough to rise.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out again onto a well floured surface. Knead again for a minute to knock out all the air. Shape the dough into an oval shaped loaf and place on a flat baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cover again with oiled cling film and place back into the oven to prove for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove from the oven and preheat it to 180 degrees Celsius. Run the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil on top of the loaf and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to fully cool.
5. While the bread is cooling, prepare 2 heatproof bowls, one filled with boiling water from the kettle and one filled with ice cold water. Prepare the tomatoes by cutting a cross into one end. Place into the hot water for 30 seconds, then transfer immediately into the icy water. I like to use a slotted spoon to do both as it avoids splashes and burns.
6. One the tomatoes have cooled fully in the icy water, the skins should easily peel off. Chop the flesh into small cubes, scooping out the seeds, and place into a bowl. Chop the basil into small strips and add to the tomatoes. Mince the garlic clove directly into the bowl and add the olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Mix thoroughly.
7. Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices and lightly toast. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of each slice and serve.