Thursday, 24 July 2014

Waterford Blaa

I love a yieldingly soft bread roll to eat with a homemade burger or my latest fave food; pulled pork! I do love brioche rolls where the slight sweetness and the richness of the bread makes it perfect for stuffing with a variety of fillings whether it be meat burgers, cold meats or salads. So many of the bread rolls available to buy in supermarkets, even those which have in-store bakeries, are tasteless, texturally pappy and although commonly inexpensive enough to buy are ultimately so disappointing. So, yes… brioche is great, but here in Ireland, we have a bread that I also think is absolutely prefect - Waterford Blaa!
 
The blaa is a very soft (but this shouldn’t mean undercooked), slightly chewy white bread roll which is dredged in white flour prior to baking. This results in a crust that is also beautifully soft in texture like the interior of the rolls. It is this softness that makes the blaa perfect for pairing with burgers or hot meats as the juices of the meat are soaked up by the bread making for a truly tasty eating experience. Blaas are sometimes mistaken for baps and whilst there are similarities blaa purists will throw up their hands in horror at the suggestion that the two are interchangeable.

After a concerted campaign by local producers the Waterford Blaa was awarded Protected Geographical Indication Status by the European Commission, which means that only blaas made in a specific area are entitled to be called blaa. Historically the breads were made in Waterford, Wexford and parts of Kilkenny, but now they are primarily associated with Waterford - hence the name.
 
I think that it’s great that the quality of so many traditional foods is being recognised and championed. In many ways our culinary heritage says so much about who we are as a nation. It’s all too easy to be clichéd and think that Irish food begins and ends with the potato. Yes, the old spud had a key part to play in our history, but our dairy products are second to none; our beef is unbeatable (to mention just a couple of examples) and thankfully, we now seem to be developing a truly vibrant modern food culture which is very much rooted in local communities using locally sourced ingredients and produce.
 

Ingredients:

500g strong white flour
10g active dried fast-action yeast (I used Doves Farm)
10g caster sugar
10g salt (preferably fine sea-salt)
300ml lukewarm water
Extra flour for dredging
 

Method:

1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the yeast and caster sugar to one side and the slat to the other. Make a well in the centre and add the water gradually mixing with your hands to form a soft dough which comes together easily.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when poked. Place into a lightly oiled clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm to rise for 60 minutes until doubled in size.
3. Remove the dough from the bowl and knock back to remove the air from the dough. Divide the dough into 8 pieced and form each one into a ball. Place the balls onto a baking tray dusted with flour and dredge with some flour. Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 210C/Fan Oven 190 C/Gas Mark 6.5. Just before placing in the oven, dredge the blaas with some more flour. Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes.

Serves 4.