My luck with baking has, on the whole, been good. By and large things that I try out don’t flop. Miserably that is. They may not turn out to be the best, but at least they are edible. Bread being the only exception(so far!). When I began baking, I was completely unfamiliar with bread making. Baking cakes was quite a common occurrence at home but no one had ever tried their hand at bread. So in terms of getting advice on what to do and how, I had precious little to begin with. I took me a while and a whole lot of wasted dough and numerous phone calls to Lakshmi to get my first loaf of edible bread.
One recipe that always works for me is the French bread rolls. I have experimented with other recipes as well, but somehow they never turn out as good as this one. Just yesterday I tried the potato bread from A mad tea party and messed it up. I think I have figured out what went wrong. I read somewhere that it is better to work with the same recipe multiple times that to try out multiple recipes (I think it was on A mad tea party, if I am not mistaken). I think I am going to be in the stage of trying variations of the bread roll recipe for some more time. I would love it if I would be able to experiment ceaselessly with other’s recipes and get fabulous results,better still, if I could come up with my own recipes, but I realise that will take some time…OK, a lot of time. That said, I also realise that even with one good recipe that works for you, you can do a hundred different things to get a hundred different flavours and shapes of bread. It is all about creativity… and good yeast! 😛
Monika’s experiments with bread making have been similar to what mine where a few months back. We discussed it over chat and I while I was making bread yesterday evening(that was attempt 2, after failing at the potato bread. I needed something for Monday’s breakfast, you see), I though of taking a step wise series of pictures. Sort of like a guide to help her, or anyone else who wants to get started with bread making. I tweaked the basic recipe to turn it into the expotic sounding Herbed cheese braided bread but its essentially the same recipe witha few add ons. Here’s what you’ll need-
- Maida –1C
- Wheat flour 1C
- Milk/ Water – 3/4 cup
- Yeast – 2 tsp
- Honey/ Sugar – 2 tsp
- Salt – 1/2 tsp
- Olive Oil – 2 tbsp
- Basil(dry)-2 tsp
- Chopped garlic-2 tsp
- Cheese cube (grated)-1
- Butter (optional) – to grease the top
The method of making this bread is fairly straightforward-
- Warm the water/milk. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Dissolve sugar. Add yeast and set aside for 10 minutes until yeast is activated.
- Add 2 cups of flour and the salt to the yeast and incorporate. Gradually add the rest of the flour and incorporate into a dough. Add the oil.
- Knead for 5 minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Transfer to a kneading surface if needed. Cover and let the dough rise to about double its size – about 1-2 hours.
- Deflate the dough.Divide into 3 parts. Incorporate the herb,,cheese and garlic into the three portions and roll into logs. Shape in a braid. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour. Place in preheated over. Bake at 200 C for 15-20 minutes or until golden in colour.
- Brush with butter after removing from oven.
And now for the pictorial guide..
1.Get your ingredients together. Measure and keep ready.
2. Heat water. Make sure the temperature is just right. Put in the measured quantity of yeast and allow to stand for 8-10 minutes. All the yeast shoudl dissolve.
dissolving yeast-stage 1
dissolving yeast-stage 2
dissolving yeast-stage 3
3. Add the flour to the yeast water. Add it in portions and mix well.
While using a spoon is a neater way to work, its not always the most practical! At some point you will have to make to kneading the dough with your hands. Its just quicker and more efficient to work that way. Instead of using a bowl, you can move your dough to the counter- you’ll have more space to work that way. Spend at least 5-7 minutes kneading the dough. Towards the end of the kneading process, the dough should collect together and should not be sticky.
The ready dough should look something like this-
4. Transfer to clean bowl and place in a warm, draft free place and allow the dough to rise to double its original volume. This should take about an hour.
5.Remove the risen dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured working counter and punch down. Divide into three equal portions.
Flatten each of the three portions and spread herbs,cheese and garlic. Fold in the sides and roll into three slim logs. Its easier to braid if the ends are thinner than the centre of the logs.
6. Pinching together the ends of the three,begin braiding the bread.
When you reach the end, pinch together the ends to seal. You can also make braids with 5 or 6 logs, but thats a little complicated for me, so I stick to 3 logs. You can look at youtube videos below to figure out the braiding.
7.Transfer to a greased baking try and bake till golden brown.
The final product
Here are some simple tips that might help you when you begin. I have made errors in practically all these categories at some or the other time!
- Measurements- Baking ,including baking bread, is all about measurements. If you have that wrong your whole recipe goes for a toss. Recipes will either mention ingredients in weight or by cup measurement depending on which country the recipe came from. Some websites allow you to move from cup measurements to the metric system and vice versa. It’s a good idea to invest in a set of measuring cups and spoons. For some reason I couldn’t find measuring cups easily here. I had to hunt for them like crazy but now that I have them, life is easier. J If you are using recipes that measure ingredients in the metric system, a kitchen scale will come in handy. But I have found the regular kitchen scales that we get aren’t precise so measuring small quantities can be a struggle.
- Yeast- This is what makes your bread rise so its important to get your hands on a good quality yeast. Fresh yeast gives infinitely better results but in my experience its hard to find a shop that sells it. If you can locate a shop that does, great, else stick to dry active yeast. Its easier to find in the market and has a better shelf life. In my experience yeast stays better if you keep in an airtight container after opening the packet and use it within a month or so (inspite of what the instructions on the packet may say). I don’t think there is one universal brand available across the country so you’ll just have to make do with whatever band you get in your city. We get a brand called Bluebird here. It makes the yuckiest custard power, but it’s yeast is pretty ok.
- Sugar- This is food for the yeast to feed on and multiple. You can easily substitute it with honey. If you have powered sugar handy, used that instead of granulated sugar. No great reason behind this, just that it dissolves faster in water!
- Water- is used as a medium to dissolve the yeast. Make sure you water is not too hot, else you will kill the yeast. The best test for temperature is to dip a finger. The water should be warm and you should be able to comfortable dip your finger in. If you are using wheat flour as a substitute for all or part of the all purpose flour in the recipe, you will require a higher quantity of water.
- All Purpose Flour- If you look at the recipes in the blogworld, you will find people mention all sorts of specifications about APF, protein content being the most common. If you know of such a sophisticated store that provides you maida with details of nutrient content, go ahead and buy it, if you like. I have always used regular maida that you get at all shop and got decent results.
- Wheat flour- is the healthier option than maida. You can substitute all or part of the maida with atta (and increase the proportion of water too). All wheat bread tend to be heavy and all maida breads are unhealthy. So in my view a 50-50 percentage works best. The resulting bread is light and nutritious.
- Patience- You cant make bread in a hurry. You have to allow it ample time to rise. If you are in a hurry and set the bread to bake prematurely, you;ll get a heavey bread. So begin the process of brad making only when you know you have sufficient time. Wheat breads take longer to rise than APF ones.