During the colder months when my cottage is toasty warm from the central heating I just love to make (and eat) fresh bread. For some reason I never really feel like making loaves in the Summer and favour flat breads and pittas but when it's chilly outside filling my home with the smell of baking  bread is my favourite thing to do, plus it makes my husband very very happy as he is a true bread fiend! 

I always seem to make olive oil enriched breads and this is no exception - it's basically my favourite foccacia recipe baked into a loaf with added layers of deliciousness that make it a meal in its own right. Because it's a soft and slightly sticky dough it can seem a bit of a faff to stretch it out to make the three layers but it's honestly worth it and feel free to experiment with your fillings, I'm a bit addicted to the smoked shredded beetroot that Tesco have started selling so I always use that, also because it removes the need for me to grate the 'troots myself which I hate doing. The subtle vinegariness also works wonderfully with the creamy soft cheese and my husband loves to eat the finished loaf with wafer thin slices of parma ham. I like it as is served as part of a picking board with olives and marinated veg like artichoke hearts and roasted pepper slices, a big bunch of fresh fresh basil leaves and a selection of salamis and cured meats.

Beetroot and Cream Cheese Bread
Makes one large loaf

420ml warm water (not hot or boiling)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (I use Saf Levure)
1 tbsp sugar
600g plain flour
1 tbsp salt
120ml olive oil
150g grated cooked beetroot with the juice squeezed out (I use this smoked shredded stuff)
150g cream cheese at room temperature
1 tsp garlic granules
black pepper

I use my stand mixer to make bread but there's no reason you can't do it by hand.  Put your warm water into a bowl and add the year and sugar, then set aside for ten minutes for the yeast to activate - you'll know it has because it will start to foam. If you're yeast doesn't start to foam after ten minutes it likely means that it is old and so you need a new tub.

While the yeast is activating mix the flour and salt and make a well in the middle, then when the yeasty water is nice and foamy add it to the flour along with the olive oil and mix until combined. Now turn up the speed on your mixer (if using one) and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until its soft and smooth.

Lightly oil another bowl then form your dough into a ball and drop into the oiled bowl, turning over so both sides have an oily coating. Cover the bowl with cling and place somewhere warm to rise until it has doubled in size - the warmer the place you put it the quicker it will rise. Near the end of your rising time put the cream cheese into a small bowl and stir in the garlic granules and a few grinds of black pepper, then pop to one side and oil your loaf tin - mine is 12" x 4.5" in size.

Gently punch down the risen dough and divide into three. Put a third of the dough into your oiled tin and press out with your finger tips top cover the base of the tin, then spoon over half of the cream cheese and spread it over the dough and finish by evenly sprinkling over half the grated beetroot. Stretch out another third of the dough a little and put on into the tin, again spreading out to the edges of the tin and repeat the cream cheese spreading and beetroot sprinkling before covering with the final third of the dough. Cover with cling film and put back in a warm spot to rise for another hour while preheating your oven to 220 C / gas 7.

When the prepared loaf has rested and risen for another hour take off the cling film and drizzle a little more olive oil over the top along with a sprinkle of sea salt flakes, then bake in the preheated oven or 30-40 minutes until golden on top and cooked all the way through. It will sound a hollowish when you tap the underside, although not as hollow as a plain loaf as it has the baked in filling.

Allow to cool and serve in thick slices, drizzling with a little olive oil and sprinkling with chopped chives if you so desire.

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