Monday, May 7, 2012

Roast Chicken, Apricot and Brie on Ciabatta

It's time for the monthly cooking challenge again, with this month's challenge being a grilled cheese sandwhich. What on earth sort of a cooking challenge is that? To me a toasted sandwich is not really cooking at all so I was actually thinking of skipping this month's challenge. But then I decided to bend the rules and really make this my own. The point of the challenge is to use another blogger's recipe, and there are plenty of them out there because it turns out that grilled cheese sandwiches are really popular in America, so much so that April was their national grilled cheese month. However, when they say grill they don't actually mean what I do, I guess it's just one of those semantics issues that I run into so often with American recipes. For me, to grill something is to put it in the oven, on the top shelf, right beneath the hot element. So that is what I am going to do. I was thinking of doing NZ cheese rolls, because the world needs to be introduced to such an amazing but simple snack. But I also wanted to make my own bread for it and make a proper sandwich that I could really enjoy. Like this one:

I decided to do ciabatta bread and found a great recipe from a blog called Pease Pudding, which turns out to be a New Zealand food blog! So the first thing that I must say about this sandwich is - homemade ciabatta fresh out of the oven is the most amazing thing. Not to mention that this bread is incredibly easy to make. Next I had to actually find an awesome sandwich combination in blogland. I must admit that I didn't actually trawl through blogs till I saw something great - instead of decided what I wanted to make and found a recipe to fit it. What I wanted in my sandwich was chicken and spicy apricot sauce. I found something that came really close, on a blog called Good Life Eats, only it used fresh apricots instead of a sauce. What I love about this blog recipe is that it told me what cheese would go best with apricot, and it also came with a recipe for rosemary foccacia which I will definately be trying. For now, however, here is my awesome sandwich featuring ciabatta bread, spicy apricot sauce,  leftover roast chicken and stuffing and a thick slice of brie, grilled in the oven until it's golden.

Quick and Easy Ciabatta

500 grams strong flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons or 1 sachet instant dry yeast (the very fine granules)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
450 mL warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Just this last weekend I was buying yeast and flour and the man at the shop was asking me what sort of bread I was making; when I told  him ciabatta he seemed to think that it was a very difficult bread to make but it is not, it is so simple! Or at least, this recipe is. The bread that you see here has sundried tomatoes kneaded into it so be inventive!

Place all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Pour the warm water in and begin to mix it with one hand. this is a very liquid mixture and is not kneaded like normal bread dough - you mix it with a method that other people call beating. Basically, you grab at the mixture and stretch it up, then slap it back down. You keep doing this for about 5 minutes. The grabbing and stretching and dropping is to put lots of air into the mixture. Then you scrape it all off of your hand and scrape down the sides of the bowl too. Drizzle over the 1 tablespoon of olive oil so that it covers the mixture as evenly as possible, right to the very edges.

Let the dough rise for 30 minutes, until it is double in size. I do this in an oven that I have pre-heated and then let cool until it is just warm, but that is because my apartment is not very warm. When your dough is doubled in size you need to prepare a large tray by sprinkling it very liberally with flour. I put down baking paper first because I'm lazy and don't want to clean the tray later. When your tray is ready you need to pour the dough onto it and it really will be very gooey. You don't even attempt to knead it, you don't want to do anything to push the air out of the dough. Instead you have to try and fold it lengthways so that you have along paddle-shape.

Bake the dough at 200 degrees celsius for 40 minutes. You should start the oven heating about 15 minutes into the rising step, unless you are rising your bread in the oven. I simply switch the oven on when I take the dough out to shape the loaf and I don't worry that it is not fully hot when the bread goes back in. It turns out just fine for me.

When the bread is done you should really let it sit for half an hour so that it can dry out in the centre a little, otherwise it will be quite soft and gooey when you cut into it. It's amazing to eat when it is warm so I would recommend digging in as soon as your patience runs out (I don't usually make it to half an hour, about 10 minutes after the bread is out of the oven I am already cutting into it).

Spicy Apricot Sauce

200 grams dried apricots
1 cup boiling water
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A pinch of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Now, I made this up on the spot and it isn't exactly what I hoped it to be, but it was quite good nonetheless. If I had been in NZ I would simply have used Watties spicy apricot sauce but you don't seem to be able to get that sort of thing here. Instead I have made a very thick puree that is a bit spicy, but perhaps could do with a bit of added sweetness. It will do for now.

First, take some kitchen scissors and chop the apricots up into small pieces, then place them all in a small saucepan. Add water and some spice and get it to boiling. Then blend the chunky mixture with a hand-blender or a food processor until you have a thick paste. It is incredibly good on this sandwich and probably good with chicken or brie in general.

Now, on to the rest of the cooking challenge:



  1. saying hello from #63 wow homemade bread even you are a rock star

  2. What a great combination in flavors! This would make a tasty lunch!

  3. #67: Apricots are a great idea! I used a pear and some habanero jam :-)

  4. I love apricots and brie cheese, so this sandwich has got to be fantastic!

  5. Great sandwich! The bread looks amazing!

    Jen #40


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