By Heleen Meyer
Warm, homemade bread with butter melting into it and a dollop of chunky apricot jam always bring back delightful memories. There is something comforting about freshly baked bread, which is sometimes difficult to describe. To bake your own bread, is not difficult, there are just a few basic guidelines that one should follow and understand. A well-tested recipe, with the correct ratio of ingredients is a good start. There are many ways to bake bread, but one with yeast that needs some kneading is a matter of a love for baking and actually quite therapeutic. A bread with yeast has a texture that is not easily achieved when baking bread with baking powder or with a mix and stir version. It may be more time consuming, but exciting to see how the bread ‘develops’ and it’s so rewarding to bake your own bread.
Stoneground flour gives the bread a coarser, yet lovely texture and almost creamy colour. It’s healthier than ordinary cake flour, as it is not so refined and more natural. If you do swap cake flour for stoneground flour in a recipe, you may need more liquid, as the stone ground flour is coarser.
Bread baking tips
1. Shape the dough into different forms for other bread and rolls. Bake it in different containers, such as empty tins of different sizes, small terracotta pots or mini loaf tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes before opening the oven and remember that the size will determine the baking time. The dough can also be used to make roosterkoeke.
2. The dough freezes well, so if you don’t feel like baking two breads at once, freeze the rest for another time. Thaw the dough in the fridge and then continue the recipe from step 5. If the dough is still cold, the first rising may take a little longer.
3. Rye or wholewheat bread: make 1 x Basic homemade white bread dough, but substitute half of the flour with rye or wholewheat flour and use 125 ml (½ cup) extra water or as necessary.
4. Pizza dough: prepare the dough as above but only up to the end of step 6. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock down. Divide into four or eight equal parts. If you only want to prepare four pizzas, use half the dough and freeze the rest immediately before it continues to rise. Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Sprinkle flour onto two large baking trays. Roll each piece of dough into a circle or oval shape of approximately 0,5 cm thick. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. Brush each piece of dough with a little oil and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until almost cooked, but not golden brown, for an extra crispy end result. Top to your preference and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cooked and the cheese has melted.
5. Other seasonings can be added to the Basic homemade white bread, rye or wholewheat bread dough. Robust herbs like chopped rosemary or thyme work. You can even knead ingredients such as pesto, olives, cheese, caramelised onions or sun-dried tomatoes into the dough before rising in the pan. Take care not to add too many ingredients, as it can prevent the dough from rising. Sprinkle any of the breads with seeds if you like.
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