Bacon sausage bread
If you like a bacon sandwich and/or a sausage sandwich what better idea than combining the two in a bread as Niamh Shields has done in her Bacon: The Cookbook. Stroke of genius!
"Bacon is as intrinsic to Irish food culture as potatoes, black pudding and Irish stew" writes Niamh, who blogs as Eat Like a Girl. "Traditionally, an Irish family would have a pig that they would raise for the year. That pig would then provide meat for the following year. In Ireland, a whole pig could be and was cured as bacon so that it could be preserved for longer. This is less typical now, but joints of bacon for boiling and roasting, bacon chops and bacon ribs are still common and Bacon and Cabbage is a core national dish that everyone loves. Bacon is so much more than a rasher, or streaky bacon. Although we love those too.
"This is one of my favourite recipes in the book and you absolutely need to make it. A soft bread dough, butter or lard and egg enriched with a little milk, so like a porky brioche but not as sweet and rich. You can use butter or lard, and if you have some bacon fat to hand, absolutely mix that in.
The bread is made in a more or less typical way, and proved twice. The second time you prove it is after you shape it as a sausage-and-bacon braid. Brushed with egg wash before baking, it gets a lovely bronze sheen.
For special occasions, double up the amounts and shape it into a circle. During the festive season you can fashion a bow of crisp-fried sage leaves and redcurrant berries and you have a Bacon Sausage Bread Wreath.
Bacon Sausage Bread
Makes: 8 slices
For the bread dough:
330g (11½ oz) bread flour
100g (3½ oz) room temperature butter or lard
7g (¼ oz) fast-action yeast
3 large eggs
50ml (2fl oz) milk
For the bacon and sausage filling:
15g (½ oz)/1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
400g (14 oz) sausage meat (or the equivalent in sausages with the meat removed from the skins)
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
6 slices smoked streaky bacon
1 egg for egg wash
sage leaves, to serve (optional – they look great and are very tasty too)
1. Start by preparing your bread dough, using either a dough hook or by hand. It is important that your lard or butter is at room temperature, and therefore soft and easy to work with. This makes it much easier to mix.
USING A MIXER WITH A DOUGH HOOK: Put all of the ingredients for the bread dough in your mixing bowl and mix at a low speed until it has formed a dough. If it feels sticky add a little more flour, a tablespoon should do it, but add more if you need to, slowly and mixing well every time. When it is no longer sticky but before it is dry and flaky, it is good. If it feels too dry, add a tablespoon of milk at a time (flours vary so both of these things can happen). Continue to knead with the dough hook for 5–6 minutes until the texture is no longer rough and it has an elastic quality.
BY HAND: the same as above but it takes longer to knead (approximately 10 minutes).
2. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to double in size in the warmest part of your kitchen or in your airing cupboard. This will be faster in the summer and slow in the winter; I usually put it near a radiator in the winter to help push it along. This proving stage usually takes an hour to an hour and a half.
3. Prepare your bacon and sausage filling. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat and gently sauté the finely chopped red onion in it for about 10–15 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool and combine with the sausage meat and sage and mix well with your hands.
4. When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back by punching the air out of it and allow it to settle for 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl to a floured board and divide into three equal amounts. Roll into sausage shapes roughly twice the length of one of your smoked streaky bacon strips and just as wide. Flatten each log so that the width doubles and lay two strips of bacon on each so that the surface is covered with bacon from top to bottom. Now divide the sausage meat mixture into 3 and place the sausage meat on top of the bacon in a strip. Pull the dough up around the bacon and sausage meat gently and press it closed as best as you can and lay the three strips next to each other. Bread dough can take it, don't worry.
5. Join the three strips of dough together at the top and pinch them together so that they all originate in the same place. Tuck the ends underneath what will become your loaf, and again, press them firmly underneath, without squashing the top, aiming to hide the messy bits and secure the braid. Braid the three strips by pulling the outside strand over the centre one, and repeating with the other side until you have a braid. These look best if done a little tightly. Join the ends as neatly as you can, and tuck underneath, just as you did the start. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and allow to sit at room temperature while you preheat the oven.
6. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180° Fan (400°F). Beat the egg and gently brush the surface of the braided bread with it. Bake your bread for approximately 25 minutes until golden brown. Best eaten warm and the leftovers (if any!) make a terrific French toast.
What to drink: Got to be a good strong cup of breakfast tea IMO!
All content copyright Niamh Shields from Bacon the Cookbook
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