I’m excited to announce the very first guest post on the blog. Joe Hughes, aka the Village Baker, is an expert in techniques suited to home cooking, and especially baking. His website, http://village-bakery.com provides the latest home-style cooking news, techniques, tricks, and recipes. I hope his article proves handy to all you bread bakers out there. Happy baking!
A few additions of veggies and fruits can go a long way in adding additional taste to your food.
You can learn to make bread rise faster in your bread machine to accelerate the baking process, too. The great news is that you can start baking healthy veggies into your bread to make it healthier and tastier.
Today’s post on whole wheat flatbread is inspired by the ‘green lady’. I see her almost every Saturday at our local food market. She’s often brushing away truant grains of soil dusting the table under bunches of beetroot; their darkly glistening, purple-veined leaves nudging fat cucumbers jostling for space with fire engine-red peppadews, jars of fresh horseradish, chilli oil and trays of speckled quail eggs. A ready smile rounds off her robust Russian accent as she greets us and extols the freshness of her 100 percent organic vegetables and eggs. I love digging through the big boxes beside her table for spinach and Tuscan kale, crisp and shiny with health, and also for coriander, dill, parsley, rosemary and thyme, herbaceous and passionately aromatic, tied in neat little bunches. A Rolodex of recipes goes off in my brain and as always, there’s no getting away without buying some. Like invisible, secret spells, these little leaves add lift and nuance to any dish.
It has been a month now of baking my own bread and it’s time for a healthy but festive cinnamon raisin bread No more store-bought stuff if I can help it. This means that I have to get myself organised before the day of the baking. I find that early morning is a good time to start because it allows the dough 2 or 3 unhurried proofings, goes into the oven by late afternoon and by sunset it’s sitting on my kitchen counter, spreading its comforting aroma in my home (Nothing like cinnamon raisin bread to fill the air with cheer). Last week on my bread-baking day, a mirthless wind prowled outside, bringing the chill and gloom of winter lurking around the corner. “What better day to bake bread”, I thought. My home and hearth needed a warm hug. The kind of hug that would make my boys feel fuzzy and loved when they got home at the end of the day. It called for a cinnamon raisin bread, a bold and bright contrast to the cold outside. I had this picture in my head of a dollop of butter gently melting on a slice of cinnamon bread….yum! It is entirely possible that the thought of my home redolent with cinnamony scents was the single biggest motivation behind my choice of bread. This recipe is from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. I have adjusted the quantities and part of the process for what I felt would help me get a better result.
Baking a good loaf of bread, much less a baguette is a challenge at which I’ve failed more than I have succeeded. It is a science, an art and an instinct (I think) that has to be cultivated patiently with hours of practice. It is actually just simple chemistry between flour and yeast but the weather, the quality and consistency of the flour (which varies across brands and countries), the temperature temperaments of ovens and even the altitude of the place decide the character of bread. For me, baking bread is a bit like solving a cryptic crossword. I lick my chops at the thought of filling those blank boxes when I open the morning paper and on a good day, you’ll catch me walking around with a smug smile stuck on my face. With bread my experience is similar. The challenge and anticipation of watching the dough rise, listening for that hollow knock, and beholding that mounded crust crowning a loaf fill me with a sense of achievement like very few other things do. At that moment, all is forgiven – the iffy yeast, the reluctant rises, the dense blocks of brick bread….everything.
Sanding down chairs last week, I discovered exquisitely-grained wood beneath layers of paint and decided to keep them unpainted. I also chose to retain weather-beaten wooden beams instead of plastic beams (masquerading as wood), that promised to give my garden benches a low-maintenance makeover. The contractor was disappointed with my choices but thinking about them later, it struck me that in both cases, I chose the wood for its honesty.
Grasses stand tall and cosmos congregate alongside our car, waving summer farewell. On the road, we drive past farm stalls beckoning us with their green roofs and white porches. Crates of avocado, mango and squash conspire with homemade honey and fresh cheese to lure us in. Not surprisingly, I succumb. And loaded up with a couple of golden butternut squash, a boxful of avos and a block of cheese, continue the rest of my journey conjuring delicious daydreams.
Bread and wine, cheese and fruit, a picnic under the trees, bare feet, lush grass, eyes squinting at the sun, a slow and happy drowsiness spreading through me as I see the world with new, hopeful and mellow eyes. Sometimes I manage to slip away, other times I inhabit my daydreams and often when the real world gets heavy, cooking the food to suit my reveries is escape enough.
Baking is therapy. It cures heartbreak, stress, loneliness, homesickness and many more blue-hued maladies. Like Panadol for your heart, its quick, foolproof and offers deliciousness as a welcome side-effect. Right from choosing a recipe to measuring the ingredients, mixing them, waiting for their transformation in the oven, the satisfaction of beholding and finally tasting the results, is a simple yet effective process that helps lift my sagging spirits whenever I need it.
It even drives my experiments in the kitchen and many, in fact, most of my food-related ideas are born from it. I’m always seeking to discover unlikely ingredients that work magic together and bring out the best in the other. My attempts at baking bread are a part of this journey. I have been baking bread on and off for some years now and I admit my failures outnumber my successes. Yet I keep compulsively coming back to it in the hope that one day I will bake a loaf that not only rises (pun totally intended) but surpasses my expectations. All my attempts have been unplanned and spontaneous – when I’ve experienced a strong inner craving to bake bread. And spontaneity does not look at schedules. So there have been crazy days when my baking has gone well into the night because I began only in the evening. But I suggest that when you bake bread, begin in the morning so that you have enough time to allow your dough at least a double rise (patience is a big part of making bread and believe me, it pays off).
Yes it’s true, everything that celebrity chefs say on TV, and all the superlatives penned in cookbooks on the satisfaction of baking the perfect loaf of bread. After suffering many failed attempts at making bread, and ending up with stodgy blocks that could only be used in the construction of a building, I need a new dictionary of words to describe the warm glow of achievement that spread through my pores when my bread came out right. I wanted to do cartwheels, light a lamp for Ganesha, hijack the airwaves with breaking news,do my version of a celebratory samba, sign autographs for random people…. all at once. But I contented myself with a fist pump and