Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fresh from the Oven: Pancetta, Sage and Potato Bread

There are certain events in most people's lives that are significant, and, as such, always remembered.

First day at school perhaps. Leaving home. Feeling oh-so-rich as you spend your first paypacket. That first date. The discovery of pre-cut (!) parchment paper. 

March 5th 2011 is one such date for us.

We tasted possibly the best soup we have ever had. 

It was a revelation. No soup has tasted the same since. 

The soup in question? Heston Blumenthal's pea and ham hock soup. Bray. The Hind's Head. 

I never thought I'd attempt it myself. What fool would attempt to recreate perfection?

Ahem... this fool.

You see, we were challenged by Sally from My Custard Pie to make a bread containing a vegetable for this month's Fresh From the Oven bread bake. Sally herself was inspired by the courgette bounty her garden had produced this year. And the bread I had in mind to bake was a Pancetta, Potato and Sage bread. It was a foregone conclusion that this mighty loaf needing to be dunked in a mighty soup. There was only one mighty soup that could deliver. 

One trip to the butchers, a purchase of a ham hock and four hours of cooking later and Heston's Ham Hock and Pea soup was right there infront of us. The recipe, which I followed word for word can be found right here.

As for the mighty bread, the recipe is taken from The Women's Institute 'Bread', my go-to bread book.

And the recipe goes exactly like this:

175g (6oz) floury potatoes, peeled
350g (12oz) very strong white bread flour
Three qaurters of a teaspoon fast acting dried yeast
freshly gorund pepper
175ml hand-hot water
105g (3 and a half oz) smoked pancetta slices, snipped
15g fresh sage, chopped plus leaves to decorate
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Put the potatoes in pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender
2. Drain well and mash until smooth. Then place a piece of clingfilm over the mash to prevent the potato drying out
3. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Season with pepper
4. Rub in the potato. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Mix to a soft dough
5. Turn out onto an unfloured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth
6. Oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in it and cover with a damp tea towel
7. Prove in a warm place until doubled in size
8. Heat a saucepan and cook the pancetta for two minutes until the pancetta becomes crispy and any fat runs out. Stir in the sage and cook for a further thirty seconds. Set aside to cool
9. Grease a baking sheet
10. Knead the pancetta and sage into a dough and form the dough into a circular shape and place on the prepared baking sheet
11. Cover the dough and prove until in doubled in size
12. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220C/425F
13. Dip each sage leaf in oil and arrange a pattern on top of the loaf. Drizzle the remaining oil over the surface of the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack

Baker's notes...
  • The dough can be very very sticky, but bear with it, it'll be worth it. I promise.
  • The bread tastes best on the day it is baked, but will last for up to 72 hours in an airtight container
  • As for the soup? A's verdict: 'Can we have this for tea every day please!?'


  1. BOTH recipes saved thanks Kate, because as luck would have it, I have just taken a gammon joint out of the freezer for Sunday!
    GREAT combo and I am totally smitten!

  2. Two for the price of one, I like it! Especially seeing as I have been a very bad FFTO baker recently, you have put me to shame Kate (and not before time either!) I shall be baking along with you next month, you have inspired me with your post!

  3. Wow, both the bread and the soup sound wonderful. Thanks for a wonderful pairing. I do love soup and bread (or soup and salad) for dinner. :)

  4. Looks like gorgeous bread - I like the idea of adding potatoes to bread, I vaguely remember doing it in the past to good effect.

    Soup looks great - it's a fantastic colour.

  5. That sounds like a very special meal! Your bread sounds amazing - perfect for the challenge. And I am very impressed that you followed a heston recipe!

  6. So glad you joined the challenge and I must admit to not thinking of potatoes as an alternative vegetable in bread before. The recipe sounds divine.

  7. Very inventive, and looks really lovely (though dont do ham myself, but the bread is beautifully risen and has such a lovely texture. I have just joined the group so am lookign forward to taking part in some of these challenges

  8. both dishes look heavenly - love the idea of putting pancetta and sage into the bread

  9. Bread looks fab and a brilliant accompaniment to the soup (if only I didnt have such an aversion to peas!)

  10. Um mm both the soup and bread sound delicious. Pea and ham soup is a favourite so I'll be trying out both recipes.

  11. I love the sound of both the soup and the bread. Such great flavour combinations

  12. Wow great job on re-creating Heston's soup. Love the sound of the bread - I could do with some right now!

  13. Thank you all so much for your lovely, lovely comments. I was a little nervous of trying a Heston recipe (what, no molecular gastronomy involved? Phew!). And, yep, I think I'm getting some practice in for some winter baking with the bread 'n' soup ... much more on the way!

  14. I'm so impressed that you made a Heston recipe, I've never even dared buy any of his books. I completely forgot about potato as a common bread ingredient.


Thank you very much for your comment- I appreciate every single one of them!