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Bread, sometimes referred to as The Staff of Life, is a staple food in all human societies and has been for thousands of years. Bread, in all its forms, is the most widely consumed food on the planet. Bread made with yeast was first documented in Ancient Egypt. So by now, we should know a lot about bread and how to make it. But it probably comes as no surprise to many that bread-making at home, in the West, has largely been forgotten in favour of buying it off the shelf in your local supermarket. Okay, nothing wrong with that and in a fast paced society it’s a convenience food that we have all bought and consumed by the ton.
But in these days of Coronavirus lockdown, some people have turned their back on buying their bread and have decided to make their own. In my local supermarket, yeast has been one of the first things to disappear off the shelves and in five weeks it hasn’t come back again. Luckily I had a supply I bought in weeks ago, because I make our bread rolls and bread buns rather than buy them. We prefer the taste of my buns and rolls because the local versions, here in Cyprus, are too crumbly for us. I also make our own fruit loaf and after this lockdown may even start to make my own sliced loaf for daily consumption, but that, dear reader, is another story for another day.
But back to my own bread making. I’ve made my own bread for years, on and off, and the basic skill set never varies. You mix your ingredients and form a dough.
Once you have your dough ready, you need to cover it, place it in a warm place and allow it to rise for about 90 minutes. Bear in mind that rising time is based on a certain recipe, not all times are the same. The same with 2nd rise time and the cooking time.
After the first rise, you need to knock-back your dough. This just means kneading again to remove the air and form it back into its original size. Form your basic bread, place it into the receptacle you are going to cook it in and allow for a second rise. This will be a shorter time, in my case it’s about an hour.
The odd looking metal trays with holes in, you can see above, is a baker’s couche. It’s designed for making French Baguettes, which I’m making next week (including a garlic bread version using my own home grown garlic) and I’ve adapted the idea for my rolls. Buns need to be made into balls, placed on a flat surface, then pressed down lightly to flatten. The should also be touching so that when you have finished cooking and they have cooled, you pull apart to reveal the soft white bread inside.
About 10 minutes before the 2nd rise is finished heat the oven. Mine is electric and I set it at to 220°C but obviously it again depends on the recipe and how much dough you have made. After the second rise place the dough in the oven and cook. I make my rolls and buns from 1kg of flour, so it takes about 18 minutes to cook. Again, this is also dependent on what form your dough takes, as rolls seem to take a little longer than buns.
And at the end you should have some rather nice bread to eat.
And again, this depends on how you cook and what flour you use. The local village flour here is yellow in colour because of the local grain. It never comes out the same as Allinsons Strong White flour, but in these strange times we make the best of what we have to hand.
If you fancy making your own bread, mine took about 4 to 5 hours and most of that is waiting for the rise and cooking time, then there are literally thousands of recipes for bread making on the web, so take a look and use something that suits you. I use my own variation of a recipe from The Hairy Bikers which you can see here. I also use a food mixer to create the dough, then knead for about 10 minutes. If you’re going to try it, good luck and don’t worry if it isn’t as good as you would have liked, it takes time to perfect your own version of any recipe.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2020
Living in Cyprus has taught me a lot, not least of which is expect the unexpected. You can download any of my books and clicking on the links below you get to read a few chapters first, for free.
This next book is edition 7 in the popular series, Living in Cyprus.