ON THE

In her new book, Silvia Col­loca of­fers a be­gin­ner’s class in bread-mak­ing along with sweet and savoury takes on Aus­tralian and Ital­ian clas­sics, writes AN­THONY HUCKSTEP. We’re look­ing at you, pizza Margherita.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - On Sunday - By Silvia Col­loca See an ex­tract from in the Novem­ber is­sue of and for recipes from Silvia head to de­li­cious.com.au.

It’s hard to think of a more al­lur­ing aroma than freshly baked bread, yet bread-mak­ing at home is of­ten put in the too-hard bas­ket. But ac­cord­ing to cook, au­thor and de­li­cious. con­trib­u­tor Silvia Col­loca, bak­ing bread is eas­ier than you think. The key is not to be too am­bi­tious at first.

“If you’ve never baked bread be­fore I wouldn’t start by cre­at­ing a sour­dough cul­ture be­cause I think what is im­por­tant is to have some in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, and that will feed the pas­sion,” she says.

“Start with bread mixes that re­quire no knead­ing be­cause they’ll still yield a fairly de­cent re­sult,” she says. “You’ll still get a crusty bread and, more im­por­tantly, you’ll get con­fi­dence.”

Col­loca’s new cook­book, Love, Laugh, Bake!, which is pub­lished this week, is a good place to start. It’s de­signed for the home baker, with spe­cial at­ten­tion given to bread – it’s the fo­cus of the open­ing chap­ter, the long­est in the book, which then segues into a chap­ter on piz­zas, foc­ca­cia and en­riched breads. It has some­thing for be­gin­ners and more con­fi­dent bak­ers alike.

“It caters for ev­ery­one. There are recipes for the nerdy bak­ers where you cre­ate your own cul­ture and build your bread in stages, and there are also recipes for the novice baker that don’t re­quire knead­ing too much, and also some gluten-free recipes us­ing potato or buck­wheat flour.”

Col­loca be­lieves the cur­rent ap­petite for ‘de­signer’ bread is at the core of the cur­rent DIY rev­o­lu­tion.

“A lot of peo­ple are start­ing to bake bread, maybe for the same rea­sons that I did,” she says.

For her, it started with a de­sire to have the best bread with­out hav­ing to pay a for­tune and it has be­come a re­ward­ing part of her culi­nary life.

Grow­ing up in Italy, she was spoilt with good bread, a huge part of an Ital­ian diet, and she took it for granted un­til she moved to Aus­tralia. “It was just a given that we go to the baker every day and it costs very lit­tle be­cause, af­ter all, it’s just flour and wa­ter.”

But here she found good bread was hard to come by. Even­tu­ally more qual­ity bak­eries started pop­ping up, but while de­cent bread was eas­ier to come by she found it ex­pen­sive.

“I started think­ing, the amount of bread that our fam­ily goes through in a week, we can’t re­ally af­ford to buy de­signer bread every other day. So I started bak­ing it, and I think once you do it, it’s quite ad­dic­tive.

“It be­comes a ri­tual, the prov­ing and an­tic­i­pa­tion of the baked good at the end, and then when it comes out of the oven wait­ing for it to cool down so you can en­joy it.”

Al­though Col­loca has long held a pas­sion for bak­ing, she’s grate­ful she didn’t pub­lish a bak­ing book un­til now.

“When I started writ­ing about food I didn’t have the right bak­ing skills to be hon­est. I thought I was so good, but I wasn’t,” she laughs.

Whether or not she’s be­ing hard on her­self, that she found time to hone her bak­ing skills is an achieve­ment in it­self. The 41-year-old ac­tress and mez­zoso­prano jug­gles act­ing and opera gigs with rais­ing her three chil­dren with hus­band Richard Roxburgh, writ­ing cook­books and film­ing tele­vi­sion shows.

As a self-taught baker, Col­loca has had her share of mis­steps so she’s ide­ally placed to help the home cook nav­i­gate the pit­falls.

“I’ve had so many fail­ures – and it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber them,” she says.

“If you think you’ve fol­lowed a recipe to the let­ter, and it doesn’t turn out right, then what is it that you can do to avoid that? Well, I have a whole list of trou­ble-shoot­ing so­lu­tions to help counter this.”

While bak­ing is a sci­ence that’s un­like any other form of cook­ery, she says, you need a bit of luck, too.

“There are so many vari­ables. The cli­mate you’re in – is it too cold, too hot or too dry? Oven tem­per­a­tures are al­ways dif­fer­ent ev­ery­where,” she says.

“Some­times it’s just re­ally an­noy­ing be­cause you can’t change the tem­per­a­ture of your oven. There are things you can do – you can prove your bread in the fridge if it’s too hot out­side. You can cre­ate a prov­ing en­vi­ron­ment in the laun­dry next to the dryer if you have it on.”

The book dishes up more than 120 recipes cov­er­ing tarts, pies, cook­ies, cakes as well as piz­zas, fo­cac­cia and bread. Her tip is to take the recipes as a guide and un­leash your own bak­ing cre­ativ­ity.

“Even those trusted recipes that you think you know so well and that al­ways work, you can al­ways fine-tune them and if you do that there’s al­ways some­thing new that’s quite ex­cit­ing in a nerdy way,” she says.

“That’s what hap­pens when you catch the bak­ing bug, you can use the book as an in­spi­ra­tion, but then you can just do your own thing.” Love, Laugh, Bake!

de­li­cious.

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