Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou......

I am not about to start home brewing but I decided to have a go at baking bread. I bake lots of bread but it is usually whole-wheat and the kind that is mixed and baked without kneading (or with a bread machine which gives a great result but is curiously unsatisfying).  I have tried various yeast-based things in the past – without success: the doughnuts looked more like gingernuts.

Having invested in “fast-action yeast” all the recipes seemed to use instant yeast (where you find fresh yeast in London goodness knows). However, I found this recipe online Handbaked traditional white bread and set to work.
The first thing to hit me was the smell. I was instantly transported back to the kitchen of my childhood where our cook (who came from what was then Portuguese East Africa and is now Maputo) used to make white bread, rolls and sometimes bagels several times a week. The recipe was the same and, although I never realised it, it was the recipe for challah – the only difference being that it was plaited in the traditional way for Friday night.

Who knows what the recipe was – he never used a written recipe but cooked by touch and taste. I did learn how to make the thinnest crepes by watching him and certainly licked the bowl when chocolate cake was being made but never thought of writing anything down, and how would you calculate the measures as he measured by handfuls.

What is also quite curious – I have never kneaded bread before but I seemed to know how – some sort of folk memory or just watching chefs on TV! Yes, it was very soothing and the smell of the fermenting yeast, the dough and the baking bread was déjà vu all over again!

I still think I prefer the whole-wheat kind and can only aspire to the giant challah my sister makes for her Friday night dinner but it was a satisfying day and the result was OK as well.

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