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Friday 16 November 2018
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The soulfulness of bread

THE bread making process originated in ancient times. The basis of the operation was to mix flour with other ingredients, for example, water, fat, salt and some source of aeration followed by baking. As long ago as 2,000 BC the Egyptians knew how to make fermented bread. The practice was to use a little old dough, or leaven, to “start” the new dough. These two doughs were mixed together and allowed to ferment (rise) for some hours before baking. They made an astonishing 50 varieties of bread, paid wages with bread, and painted bread making scenes in their tombs.

Bread to me is simply a beautiful thing. It’s wondrous what one can create from three simple ingredients: flour, water, and yeast. The bread making process encompasses both art and science. Creating a loaf of bread from your grain of choice, applying the scientific techniques through the rising and shaping process and then the final baked product. Of course the best part is breaking bread and enjoying it!

Why then have we become so myopic in our view of bread in this country? Take a look around, our supermarkets are flooded with commercial factory made breads, sweet, yeasty and with a texture resembling cottonwood. This to the masses is bread. Yet they still complain about the bloaty and sour stomach syndrome they suffer from when they ingest that said bread they keep filling their grocery baskets with.

Discerning bread lovers appreciate the texture of the crumb of a well made whole grain bread, the chewiness of the crust of a ciabatta, the shattering of a great home made hops, the tender crumb of the perfect white loaf. Artisan breads are sweeping the world now, we are creating breads with much longer fermentation processes and we are being wacky-creative with naturally derived sourdough flavourings and colourings. Artisan breads are made from scratch, by hand, with real ingredients. A commercial bakery cannot turn out Artisan breads, because the process is too involved and lengthy.

Well made bread will not give you side effects, if you are gluten intolerant, then you can try different grains like bread made with spelt flour, this is an ancient grain with a more tolerable gluten, also great for diabetics, because it is a low glycemic index flour and also high in protein. Don’t go for bread that contains wheat and spelt because you won’t get the advantage of eating the wholegrain spelt and you will feel the effects of the wheat. If you are suffering from celiac disease then you simply must avoid all gluten.

Many persons think gluten is the culprit, so they switch out from wheat to gluten free bread in their quest to lose weight and gain that elusive flat belly. Watch out for so called gluten free items that are also flooding this market, those products are made with general gluten free flour that more than likely contain potato starch, cornstarch, rice flour, or sorghum flour.

If you are not suffering with celiac disease and are aiming to be healthier, gluten free is not necessarily the way to go, try whole grains, and get accustomed to the magic that a loaf of artisan whole grain bread delivers.

Make it yourself, mix and knead it by hand, taste and savour it, only then will you connect with the soulfulness of bread.

Hops

4 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tbs vegetable oil

1 cup water

Combine three cups flour with yeast and sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl or with an electric mixer. Combine milk with water and oil, add to flour and mix well, add the rest of the flour to knead to a soft smooth dough, knead for about 8 minutes. Lightly grease dough and cover with plastic. Let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down, divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a smooth ball. Place on a greased baking tray, let rise again until doubled in size about 45 to 60 minutes. Bake in a cool oven, do not preheat just turn the oven temperature to 375F and let the rolls begin baking in a cool oven. Bake for 25 minutes until dark golden.

Makes 8

Wholewheat rosemary foccacia

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup wholewheat flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

3 tsp instant yeast

2 tbs olive oil

2 cups warm water

2 tbs fresh rosemary chopped

8 leaves Spanish thyme

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt

Place flours, salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl, add yeast and stir, add 2 tbs olive oil and combine. Pour in enough water to make very soft dough, knead for a few minutes, brush with olive oil, cover and set aside for 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 450F. With oiled fingers punch down dough, and then stretch the dough into a nine inch circle using the heel of your hands, lifting and pulling the dough into shape. Place on an oiled baking tray sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rest for 30 minutes more. Now take your fingers and dimple the dough to make small, deep indentations. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and herbs. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Remove from oven serve hot.

Serves 4

 

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