After coming down hard on poor Mary Berry a couple of weeks ago for her tray bake, you may assume I will give James Martin a drubbing for similar reasons, but you would be wrong. You can say I have double standards if you like but in my eyes there is a big difference. Mary Berry extols the virtues of the ease of home baking, she is the queen of cakes, so for her to make a packet mix feels like a kind of betrayal. James Martin on the other hand presents Saturday Kitchen and drives fast cars, James Martin was invented to create celebrity endorsed products, if he didn’t we’d all be asking why. As an aside I bought a James Martin cooks knife from TK Maxx once – it is very good.
Baking bread is a nortoriously tricksy thing, the precision required and my slapdash way are at odds with each other, so having a packet mix for bread is an attractive option. Having mentioned precision, the first instruction is mix the contents of the packet, 1tbsp olive oil and 230-250ml of luke warm water. 230-250ml -what am I meant to do with that info James, is it 230 or 250? I hope he realises that if this all goes wrong I’ll blame him for not being more accurate. I put in 240ml as that seemed the most sensible option.
The next instruction says knead the dough for 10 mins or use an electric mixer for 5 mins. I went for my electric mixer as 10mins kneading sounded boring and I had never used the dough hook on my mixer before. After 5 mins I had a lovely sticky dough, it proved for 45 mins, got another quick knead (by hand this time, so satisfying). I shaped it into a rough focaccia shape, gave it a second prove for 15 mins and then to the penultimate instruction… ‘Make dimple effects in the top of the dough and drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the surface of the dough.’ This is almost impossible, the dough I have created is like spongy glue, if I try and make a dimple before pouring on olive oil I get the opposite effect: my finger goes in OK but when I pull it out the dough is well and truly stuck so I end up with huge peaks rather than dimples. The solution is to oil my fingers and we have a win.
15 mins later the focaccia comes out and it looks great. I swell with pride feeling like a master baker. I couldn’t wait to try it so I cut a slice off while it was still warm. The bread inside looked perfect, it had big airy holes just like a proper focaccia and it tasted divine. It was warm and soft and salty, the rosemary flavour bursting through vindicating the naysayers regarding dried herbs, however I struggled to get a garlic kick. It was so good I went back for a second slice which was equally good, but when I went for my third it started going downhill. As I got to the centre of the bread it became doughy and undercooked with a soggy bottom. If I had left it baking for much longer it would have burnt so it is hard to know how I could have struck a happy medium.
When the loaf had cooled down I cut another slice, the base was still an issue but the rest was very good. Well done me, well done James Martin.
James Martin Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia Bread Mix £0.98