To borrow Mr. Spock’s apocryphal turn of phrase: it’s baguette, Jim, but not as we know it. Tapalapa, from the Gambia, is shaped like baguette, but there the resemblance ends: where the centre of a baguette is soft, aerated and, let’s admit it, relatively tasteless (the flavour is all in the crust), tapalapa is a heavier bread with a dense crumb and a strong, distinctive taste…
…which means, dear reader, that this is a bread that splits the crowds. One of my family members loved it and one hated it. I’m in the middle: I really enjoyed tapalapa when eaten with the right things (hummous was ideal) but there a lot of European foods I wouldn’t eat it with – don’t under any circumstances try it for teatime bread and jam.
What makes tapalapa special is the combination of flours: a mixture of wheat flour, millet flour, cornflour and what’s called “cowpea flour” (in the UK, this translates as ground black-eyed beans). I used a recipe from the ever-reliable 196flavors.com – with the proviso that with my particular dried yeast on a decidedly chilly English summer’s day, the rise times were many times as long as Mike suggests in the recipe.
Millet flour and cowpea flour are hard to find in the UK, but it’s easy enough to get millet and black-eyed peas: a coffee grinder turns them into flour with no difficulty.
Yellow cornflour is available from specialist Mexican grocers. I’m going to guess that standard cornflour would have been fine.
- 160 g bread flour
- 70 g millet flour
- 160 g yellow cornflour
- 60 g cowpea flour
- 12g dried yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 350ml lukewarm water (around 40℃)
- Put the flours, yeast and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and stir until blended. Add the water and mix until you have a smooth dough.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for around 5-7 minutes.
- Form the dough into a ball, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. The recipe suggests that this might take an hour: for whatever the reason, it took around three hours in my kitchen.
- Split the dough into two and form each half into a baguette shape. I happen to have a specially shaped tin for baguettes, but you can probably get away with just putting them on a greased baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 220℃ fan
- Leave to rise for another hour or so.
- Slash a shallow gash down the middle of each stick.
- Bake until golden brown and dry on the inside: this should take around 15-20 minutes