― Richard Wright, Native Son
It’s not all that intimidating and you can usually complete a step and then focus your attention on something else for a couple of hours but I’m not going to be replacing store bought loaves with my own creations any time soon. For beginner bread bakers I thought this recipe would be useful. It’s for a basic loaf, which you can customize. I’ve added garlic, olive oil, some dried fruit and scallions to this loaf. You can put together whatever collection of flavours you want.
I’ve also added some portion of unrefined flour (aata) instead of using just plain maida. This will give you a nice, flavourful, dense, brown bread which pairs perfectly with soups and pastas. You can even use it in sandwiches or eat it plain. I was going to make some soup to go along with it but my and my borther polished off the loaf with just butter.
Adapted from Chef John Cooks
What you’ll need:
225 gms flour (you can try half maida and half atta)
120 ml luke warm water
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 tsp butter (melted) or olive oil
2 ½ tsp dry yeast
Foodnote: Add chopped garlic, grated cheese, herbs, olives, dried fruit or onions for flavor. Don’t worry about the quantity you’re putting in – the flour will absorb quite a bit. Use as much or as little for a flavor as strong or delicate as you like.
1. Warm up some water and put it into a bowl with the yeast and sugar. 3 – 4 tablespoons water is enough. Cover the dish with a wet cloth.
Note: The yeast will wake up with the warm water and feed on the sugar. Let the mixture sit for about 10 – 15 minutes. When you remove the cloth, you’ll find a frothy, smelly mixture. This means your yeast is now alive and waiting to raise bread.
2. Put the flour into a deep bowl and add the yeast mixture. Add salt and butter or olive oil and any other flavor you want to.
Foodnote: Add warm milk instead of water if you want the loaf to be softer.
3. Knead the dough. Add more warm water little by little so that the flour comes together. If you’re lucky and have a dough hook then put it to work for 10 minutes. If you don’t then get to work with your hands.
Foodnote: This is a lot of kneading. Pummeling dough with your bare hands for 10 – 15 minutes can be exhausting so don’t bother with this recipe if you’ve just got a manicure.
4. Knead in stretching motions to create gluten strands. You should have a slightly sticky dough by the end of it. Shape the dough into a ball and brush it down with butter or olive oil. Cover with a wet cloth and let it sit for a couple of hours or till the dough has doubled in size.
5. Take the puffed up dough and knead it down again. Roll the dough out and then fit it into a loaf pan. Tuck the sides in underneath so the top is nice and smooth.
6. Cover up the loaf pan and let it sit till the dough once again doubles in size.
7. Brush the top of the loaf with:
(a) a beaten egg if you want the loaf to be shiny;
(b) milk if you want the loaf to be soft; or
(c) water if you want the crust to be chewy.
8. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.
9. Unmould from the pan and bake for a little while longer so the sides are totally cooked. About 10 minutes.
10. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.