Ala kazam, ala kajink
Make this bread purple-y pink!
Last year when I interviewed the lovely Ruth Pretty for work she showed me her prized collection of Time-Life 'Foods of the World' cookbooks and recommended that I look out for them. I think she cast a good spell over me, because I went through a particularly good period of finding gems in charity shops or on Trade Me immediately afterwards. One was a Time-Life Bread book, sadly not from the same edition as Ruth's, but edited by Richard Olney and absolutely loaded with amazing recipes and bread knowledge. There's a recipe dating from 1654 in the book that uses pumpkin, which inspired me to try beetroot. The 1654 recipe uses a lot of yeast and lets the bread rise for hours - I just adapted my normal recipe and it worked out fine. This makes a very springy, soft loaf. The beetroot taste is discernable, but not as shocking as the colour might suggest. A tablespoon of fennel seeds would be a nice addition, especially if you're going to eat the bread with salmon and cream cheese.
500g beetroot, topped, tailed and halved
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
60-90ml warm water
Prepare the beetroot first. Boil it for 20-30 minutes, until easily pierced with a knife. Drain, then puree in a food processor or with a stick blender. Set aside to cool. You can do this well in advance, but the puree should be at room temperature when it comes to making the bread.
Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl, then stir in the beetroot. Mix well, adding a little water, until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil the worksurface, then tip the dough out onto it. Pick up one side of the dough, stretch it up, then bring it down again on top of itself. Repeat from the opposite corner. Do this another three times, then scrape the dough from your hands and walk away. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes, then come back and repeat the pick up and stretch process again. Then leave it again for 10 minutes. Do this process once more, then scoop the dough into a well-oiled large bowl. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for about 45 minutes, until nearly doubled.
Heat the oven to 200C. Tip the dough out onto the bench and knock back gently, pressing it out into a rectangle. Roll this up into a large baguette-sort of shape, or shape to fit a large loaf tin. Leave on a lined tray (or in an oiled tin) for 25 minutes, then bake for 30-35 minutes. Tip onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.