Happy New Year! I know I am late by more than a month and half but this happens to be my first post of the year. I have been busy cooking some interesting stuff, just not managed to write about them. Hopefully I am going to be more regular over the next few months.
There have been many firsts since the year started. I baked my first bread loaf. The inspiration for the bread and several related dishes(watch this space for more) came from the " loaf tins" that my sister gifted me. These are non-stick, easy release trays so you get the entire loaf out in a jiffy. No more post baking stress of loosening the edges, turning the dish over, giving it a few gentle knocks, waiting for the familiar thump and hoping that you have managed to get all of it onto the plate. Now I just wait for the loaf to cool and pull it out-straight way up.
As soon as I got the trays I knew I just had to bake bread. There is something almost zen like about lightly buttered fresh baked bread. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of patience this dish requires and the sense of peace you experience when you take your first bite( this is no exaggeration, mind you) . While the ingredients are few and except for the yeast readily available at home the stages take time( no, there are no short cuts) and there are long waits in between. But it is well worth the wait my dears. And if you are clever and efficient as most homemakers are you would make good use of the waiting time to get the other accompaniments( soup/stew) ready. Or just curl up and watch your favorite TV show.
Serves: 6, Preparation and Cooking Time: 3 hours
Flour- 7 level cups
Yeast- 1 tbsp( I bought mine from Modern Bazaar, Gurgaon)
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Salt- 1 tbsp
Warm water- 2.5 cups
Butter- 1 stick( ideally unslated, if using regular salted butter reduce the quantity of salt to 3/4th of a tablespoon)
Olive oil/Vegetable oil- 1 tbsp
- Start by 'proofing'the yeast. In a large mixing bowl add 1 tbsp of yeast to 1/2 a cup of warm water and a tbsp of sugar( you could add honey instead). The sweetener helps the yeast to bubble up, expand and rise. Takes about 15 minutes or so.
- Next add two cups of warm water and about 3 1/2 cups of flour( one cup at a time) and mix together. Very soon the dough would start to look like a sticky mess but don't you give up. In good time it will start to take shape.
- At this stage you could add the salt, butter and remaining flour( 3 1/2 cups) . Keep adding the flour bit by bit.
- Dust some flour on your rolling board or kitchen counter and start kneading the dough. You may add more flour if required. Follow three easy steps of push-fold-push for about ten minutes till the dough is no longer sticky( for beginners this could take a little longer).
- Next, grease a bowl with some vegetable oil( this helps the dough rise easily) and place the dough in the bowl. Leave it undisturbed for about an hour.
- The dough will rise to the top of the bowl. Here comes my favorite part- punch the dough to let all the air out.
- Butter the loaf pans. Eyeball and make two equal halves of the dough. (if you want to be precise you can weigh them). Knead the dough a few more times. Flatten it out with your hands and fold from both sides(like a wrap), pinch the edges. Lift gently and place in the pan. Cover with a cling film( grease the side that touches the dough with a little bit of oil).
- Let the dough sit in the loaf pan for close to an hour. The dough will rise again.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven( 200 degrees) for about 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the tin and bake on the rack for another ten minutes. This ensures that the crust is a rich, golden brown.
- Allow the bread to cool.
- Knock on the bread- you should hear a hollow sound. That means your bread is done just right.
- Cut with a serrated knife, lightly butter it while it is still warm and eat.
Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!