If you buy a loaf from your local artisan baker or enjoy a pizza cooked in a wood fired oven, what is it that you appreciate the most? I’m guessing a really good crust is high on your list.
If you bake bread or pizzas at home, a good crust is one of the hardest things to achieve. As is the burst or oven spring in a loaf of bread. You slash the bread and in a true bread oven, the loaf will rise and the dough will almost erupt from the cuts to add light and airy-ness to your loaf.
At Richard Bertinet’s courses, students use both the bread oven and domestic cookers. In a bid to mimic the floor of a bread oven, Richard advocated the use of a granite slab in the domestic oven or purchased one from Bakery Bits. His diligent students headed off to their favourite DIY store after the class to buy a suitable slab and achieved results better than having no slab, but still rather frustrating. Some of us tried baking in a cast iron pan (with lid); others tried the La Cloche Bakery dome. This is ceramic bottom topped with a lid. Not the easiest thing to use. The granite slabs proved very heavy to move especially when hot.
So, all in all rather a status quo. We used whatever method worked best and got on to it.
Now to my new, favourite gadget. An Italian company Domital srl got in touch asking whether I’d like to try one of their range of products. I chose to try the Pepita fireclay plate. It arrived complete with a wooden paddle and a brief recipe guide.
It is super simple to use. For bread baking, you place it in the oven 45 minutes before you wish to use it and set the temperature. You then place the item directly on the plate, or as they suggest for easier cleaning on some baking parchment. It can be used on a gas ring, but so far I’ve not been quite brave enough to test it. You can use the wooden paddle to place your items or place individually. It is very light and even once pre-heated you can take it out of the oven to load up should you so wish.
I’ve baked bread and scones with really good results. They appear to bake much more evenly than by using other methods and the crust wonderful. The scones had a crispy exterior and a soft interior. I baked some cinnamon buns placing them on the baking parchment and again baking was even and retained the moisture.
Now the frustrating thing. At the moment, Domital srl do not have a British distributor for these plates. So why am I writing this? In the hope that someone will start stocking it (come on Bakery Bits or Lakeland), as I think it is such a good addition to our kitchens. The smaller size is 34 cm square, there is also a useful 60 cm wide version which would be ideal for larger ovens. It is possible to buy it via an Italian site at 38 euros plus postage which is 25 euros.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll like this scone recipe. You can of course use a standard baking tray for this!
- 200 gr plain flour
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 50 gr butter
- 25 gr sugar
- 1 egg (approx 50 ml) made up to 150 ml with plain yogurt
- pinch of salt
- Preheat your oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7. If you are using a Pepita fireclay plat, pre-heat for at least 30 minutes
- Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingertips as if you were making pastry.
- Add the sugar and salt.
- Add the egg and milk mixture. You will have a soft but not sticky dough. If it is very dry, add a very small amount of water.
- Bring the dough together and turn it out onto a floured surface. Press lightly - it should be no less than 1.5 cm thick.
- Cut the scones out with a 5 cm cutter. Gather the remainder of the dough together and cut further scones out.
- Place on a baking sheet or take the fireclay plate out of the oven with oven gloves, place a piece of baking parchment on top and then the scones.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until the scones are golden brown. Check after 10 minutes they may be ready earlier depending on your oven
- Cook a little before serving.
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