Solving summer surfeits – Courgette cluster bread
For all the advantages of growing your own fruit and vegetables, the downside is that everything comes at once. You long for the first season’s strawberries and then you are overwhelmed, having to pick them daily before the birds get them. Summer pudding was designed especially to use up a soft fruit glut. Courgettes (or zucchini if you like) are the same and if you grow your own, there comes a time where you have to scale a small courgette mountain. I know this from childhood memories rather than having my own garden (as I’ve lived for over 16 years in a desert land) but local courgettes are available cheaply and plentiful all year round here. I can’t imagine anyone picking this slightly bland and watery vegetable as their ‘top of the crops’ but I’m always on the look out for recipes that might use them in a different way (instead of stuffed, fried or in ratatouille or caponata).
It was up to me to choose a bread recipe for all the Fresh From the Oven food bloggers to cook this month and I thought this would be just right for the UK where I am right now or back in Dubai.
I’ve been cooking a new bread recipe every month as part of this group for a year and a half and it has made a me a more adventurous and confident baker. I’ve got to ‘meet’ some lovely people along the way too. There are so many food blogs and not enough time to read so I tend to gravitate to a handful of favourites; people I feel a connection with. It’s really odd how strongly this is conveyed online (even in the 140 characters of Twitter).
All the Fresh From the Oven group seem to be a lovely lot – maybe there is something about making your own bread that brings out the best in people. Breaking bread together is such an honest and unpretentious way of eating with friends.
These cluster rolls are light, fluffy but substantial and best friends with cheese and tomatoes. The courgette keeps it fresh for a few days – and it got me wondering about other vegetable combinations in bread. You have carrot cake, so why not wholemeal carrot bread and how about beetroot and rye? Would it work? Take a look at what all the other FFTO bakers came up with here.
By the way, I bake a fair amount of bread and KP said that this was the best I had ever made! Praise indeed.
Courgette Cluster Bread – adapted from a recipe in House and Garden magazine by Roz Denny
Makes 8 rolls or clusters
450g courgettes, grated coarsely
Salt (for degorging and for the dough)
675g strong white bread flour
2 sachets of easy-blend/fast-action yeast or 14g instant dried yeast
3 tablespoons parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Tepid water – about 200ml
Milk, to glaze
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Place the courgettes in a colander, sprinkle lightly with salt. Allow the juices to drain for about half-an-hour, then rinse well in cold water and pat dry.
If using instant yeast whisk it into 90 ml of the water until frothy and dissolved. Mix the flour, yeast, parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper together in a bowl, then stir in the olive oil and courgettes. Add some more water until the mixture comes together as a firm, soft dough. I did this and the kneading in my KitchenAid with the dough hook.
If kneading by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board or work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into rise, covered with cling film or a cloth, for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough in the bowl (punch the air out of it) and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead again briefly until smooth.
Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and roll to shape into even balls. Lightly grease and line the base of a 23 cm cake tin with baking parchment. Place one ball of dough in the middle and all the others around it.
Brush the tops of rolls with milk and sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Cover again with oiled cling film or a cloth and leave to prove until doubled in size and the balls touch each other – about 30 minutes.
Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes until golden brown and cooked. Cool on a wire rack. Tear each roll off to eat as a bun.