Puff ball rolls with tomato Caesar salad

Warm, homemade rolls and crisp Caesar salad make a Saturday lunch fit for company.

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For the puff ball bread rolls

  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g/½oz salt
  • 10g/½oz fresh yeast
  • 350ml/12fl oz cold water
  • strong plain white flour, for dusting

For the salad

For the dressing


  1. Preheat the oven to 250C/475F/Gas 9. Place a baking stone or an upturned heavy baking tray in the oven to heat.

  2. For the puff ball bread rolls, place the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the yeast and water and mix to a soft dough.

  3. Dust the work surface with lots of flour. Place the dough onto the surface and knead..

  4. Continue kneading for five minutes until smooth and elastic.

  5. Place in a bowl and cover, then leave to prove for 20 minutes.

  6. Use the rounded end of a plastic scraper or spatula to scoop the dough from the bowl and use the flat edge to divide it into equal pieces - about 80g/3oz each.

  7. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for a further five minutes.

  8. Make sure there are no tiny pieces of dried dough on your work surface or rolling pin, as any particles that get into the dough will stop it from puffing up. Dust your work surface with some flour - sieve it first, for the same reason.

  9. Roll out each piece of dough into a disc, turning it over a few times, and flouring well as you go. Continue rolling until the dough is very thin (1-2mm thick).

  10. You will need to bake the puff ball rolls one or two at a time, depending on the size of your oven, so slide the first one or two onto a flat-edged baking tray, and use this to transfer the dough onto the baking stone or upturned tray in the preheated oven.

  11. Bake for about 5-8 minutes - the puff ball rolls should inflate very quickly and are ready when they are completely puffed up, golden-brown and sound hollow if you tap them (very!) gently with your finger.

  12. Carefully remove each one from the oven and cool on a wire rack. The puff ball rolls are at their best about 3-4 hours after baking, but can be kept for a couple of days in an airtight tin. Don't store in a plastic bag or they will soften.

  13. For the salad, preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 1.

  14. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a roasting tray. Sprinkle with the thyme, salt, pepper and the olive oil.

  15. Place in the oven and cook for 1-2 hours until the moisture has mostly evaporated and the tomatoes have dried. Remove and cool.

  16. Turn the oven up to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

  17. Place the Serrano ham onto a baking tray and place in the oven for five minutes until crisp. Remove and tear into large pieces, then cool.

  18. For the dressing, place the garlic and wine into a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for five minutes until softened.

  19. Place into a blender along with the egg yolks, anchovies, parmesan and mustard. Blend to a paste then add the olive oil in a steady stream - not too quickly - until thickened and emulsified. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  20. To serve, mix the salad leaves with the tomatoes, torn Serrano ham and the anchovies. Brush a small circle on the base of each puff ball roll with water to soften the crust. Carefully cut out the softened disc. Just before serving, push a good quantity of salad gently into each puff ball. Let everyone break the tops with a spoon and the salad will spring out. Pour the dressing into a jug and serve separately.

How-to videos

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How to knead bread dough