Beetroot. One of the most versatile vegetables that I know. I juice one every morning with some ginger, orange, apple and carrot. Its earthiness balances the sweetness of the fruit. What’s more, it is high in beta-carotene and folic acid. Excellent for cleansing the liver and can assist in lowering incidences of heart disease. Last autumn I pickled a batch in a sweet Japanese vinegar brine which brought a whole new dimension to my sandwiches.
Roast a beet until it starts to caramelise and it becomes this wonderful sweet savoury thing that retains much of its texture, unlike a potato that just turns to mush (mash?). This attribute of the roasted beetroot is why I think it is a great addition to a loaf of bread. You see, it doesn’t get lost in the dough. On the contrary, it holds its shape and stands out ruby red and proud.
In this recipe the beets are cut into wedges and roasted with lots of garlic, thyme and cumin seed. Don’t be put off by the large amount of garlic. By roasting it in its skins it caramelises and becomes sweet, losing most of its vampire scaring abilities. Along with the thyme and cumin, these flavours go beetifully together. Yes, it is a bit more of a faff than just chucking it all together and voila, you have a loaf. But you can easily do the roasting a day or more in advance. In fact, that will give the beets more time to absorb the wonderful accompanying flavours.
Watch the video at the bottom to see how easy it is to make!
Firstly, you need to roast the beetroot. Do this by cutting the beets in half and then cut each half into 3-4 wedges. Place these in a bowl and add the cumin and cloves of ½ a garlic bulb. Leave the skin on as this will prevent the garlic from burning. Add the thyme and drizzle over the olive oil. Give it all a good mix then spread it evenly over a baking tray and roast in the oven (preheated to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5) for 40 minutes until the beets are cooked but still retain a little bite. Once cooled, slip the skins off the garlic and break the flesh into little pieces adding it back to the beetroot. Take the thyme sprigs and pick off the leaves, adding these to the beetroot, and discard the stems.
Now prepare the dough. Take a mixing bowl and add the yeast and the water. Stir until dissolved.
Add the 2 flours and the salt. Use a dough scraper to combine the mix and then knead the dough for 10 minutes.
Now flatten the dough into a rectangle and tip the roasted beetroots into the centre.
Fold over the edges and gently squash/knead the dough so that the beets are evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
Shape into a ball, place back into the mixing bowl and cover. Leave to prove for an hour until doubled in size.
Once risen nicely, tip the dough out and gently flatten it with your fingertip. Now shape into a tight ball and place seam-side up into a floured 1 kg banneton.
Cover and leave to prove for an hour until doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 250°C/fan 230°C/gas 8 along with a baking tray placed on the middle shelf.
Take a peel or an upturned baking tray and dust with flour. Tip the loaf out of the banneton onto it.
Make a few slashes into the dough with a grignette. Slide the dough into the hot oven onto the preheated baking tray.
Spray a few squirts of water into the oven to create steam and quickly shut the door. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Other products used in this video: