Cape Town - The staff of life. Bread is such an important culinary item in most of our lives, and makes the base of many meals, yet baking bread is an exercise that many shy away from.
This applies mostly to recipes using yeast, probably because this important ingredient has a life of its own. But, once conquered, your kitchen will be filled with the irresistible aroma of freshly baked loaves, and it will become ever more difficult to rely on shop-baked bread. The bread-baking bug, once bitten, is addictive and family and friends will turn up their noses at anything less.
If you enjoy baking picnic and braai breads using self-raising flour or bicarb, it’s a small step up to using instant yeast. Once added to the dry ingredients, you need warm liquid to activate the yeast, which works quickly, and most recipes do not need more than one kneading. One 10g sachet of instant dry yeast is sufficient to raise 1kg of flour, or 500g of flour that has been enriched with other ingredients.
I would recommend staying proudly patriotic and buying South African yeast: read the labels to check that it has been produced in this country, not just packaged. We found that some of the instant yeast imported from the Far East to be deficient in quality and to have an unpleasant odour.
White, brown and wholewheat bread takes happily to many shapes and forms, while South Africans also relish traditional treats like mosbolletjies and trendy breads such as focaccia and Middle Eastern flatbreads.
Three recently released cookbooks from local publisher Struik Lifestyle are the source of this week’s four recipes.
Easy Cooking from Nina’s Kitchen is a culinary collection that many will treasure, as Nina Timm is one of South Africa’s most popular food bloggers, who also has a weekly radio show on RSG. The Afrikaans version is called Maklike Maaltye uit Nina se Kombuis.
The Ultimate Snowflake Collection by Heilie Pienaar, published last year, is a comprehensive baking tool to have on your bookshelf, and Simple, Fabulous Lunchbox Ideas by Leanne Katzenellenbogen is a wonderful companion for frazzled mothers wanting to pack school and office lunches that are healthy, delicious and easily prepared.
Heilie’s olive and herb bread
This makes a great accompaniment to a piping hot bowl of minestrone.
750ml (420g) Snowflake white bread or cake flour
10g (1 sachet) instant dry yeast
125ml lukewarm milk
60ml olive oil
50g pitted black or green olives, coarsely chopped
45ml chopped fresh mixed herbs or 15ml dried
extra flour for dusting
Sift flour and salt together. Add sugar, mix and add yeast.
Whisk lukewarm milk, oil and water together.
Add to dry ingredients, cut in with a knife and knead lightly to a soft dough.
Turn out dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about five minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Knock down dough on a lightly floured surface, add olives and herbs and knead lightly until smooth.
Shape into an oval bread, cut a cross on top, cover and leave to rise for about 20 minutes or until doubled in size. Dust with extra flour.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes, or until light brown. Serve warm with butter.
Makes one loaf.
Banana and strawberry bread
Throughout her cookbook, which is filled with ideas for lunchboxes, Leanne Katzenellenbogen has modified standard recipes to make them lower in fat and GI and higher in fibre.
Half cup extra-lite margarine,
1 cup brown sugar,
2 extra-large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence,
¾ cup mashed banana,
½ cup puréed strawberries,
2 cups cake flour,
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
1 tsp baking powder,
½ tsp salt,
about one third cup diced strawberries,
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Cream the margarine and sugar.
Add the eggs one by one and mix well. Add the vanilla essence.
Combine the banana and puréed strawberries and add to the creamed mixture, mixing well.
Spray a loaf tin 25x15cm with nonstick cooking spray.
In a separate bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together.
Combine the two mixtures and mix well.
Add the strawberries and stir until well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Makes about 20 slices.
Nina’s breakfast roll with fruit and nuts
Nina says: “If you want to invite friends around for breakfast, there’s no need to wreck the budget. A loaf of fresh bread, a piece of cheese and a bit of jam can be a meal fit for a king. Add a good cup of coffee and your guests will remember their visit.”
750g cake flour
1x10ml packet yeast
500ml lukewarm milk
100ml chopped nuts,choose from almonds,walnuts or pecans
100ml golden sultanas, raisins or currants
50ml melted butter
50ml honey or golden syrup
Grease a round cake pan or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor and, while mixing, gradually add the milk until it comes together in a smooth dough.
Knead on a lightly floured surface, or in a food processor using a k-blade, to a stiffish dough.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until it has doubled.
On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough, knock it down and roll it into a long sausage, about 4cm thick.
Roll this into a spiral and place in the cake pan.
Leave to rise again until it has doubled. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
For the topping, sprinkle the nuts and sultanas over and press lightly into the dough.
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
When the bread is done (a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean), mix the butter and honey together and pour over the bread. Serve warm with farm butter and coffee.
Nina’s pan bread pudding
Nina says: “Bread pudding has always fascinated me. The fact that you can cobble together a feather-light pudding from stale bread, milk, eggs and sugar is nothing short of a miracle to me. Of course, the pudding can become very fancy if you replace the milk with cream, and the sugar with vanilla-castor sugar, but the basic principles remain the same. The French put the proverbial cherry on top with their pain perdu, which is just a different incarnation of bread pudding. I like individual portions, so I prefer to make my bread pudding in a pan. I give this recipe a true South African flavour by using mosbolletjie (must-bun) bread. If you have trouble finding mosbolletjie bread, you can use day-old raisin bread.
Instead of fresh berries, preserved figs or ginger can be served with the bread pudding.”
5ml ground cinnamon
2ml freshly grated nutmeg
125ml castor sugar
1 vanilla pod, sliced open and seeds scraped out
8 slices day-old mosbolletjie bread
cinnamon sugar or syrup for serving
fresh berries for serving
Beat the eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and vanilla seeds together in a bowl. Arrange the slices of bread in a flat, rectangular, ovenproof dish and pour the egg mixture over. Set aside for at least 30 minutes until it has absorbed all the liquid. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the butter in a pan. Remove the bread from the egg mixture and shake off the excess. Fry each slice until golden-brown on both sides. Keep the fried bread hot in the oven. Serve on plates or in individual pans with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar or syrup and garnished with fresh berries. Serves 8.