Kaye and Geoff's Recipes - Bread


General Breadmaking (1 loaf or 6-8 buns)

There are three parts to good breadmaking - the sponge; the mix; the flour. Essentially, the sponge gets the yeast working, the mix gives character to the bread, and the flour gives texture and substance.

THE SPONGE

0.5 cup tepid water		1 sachet dried yeast
drop of honey			0.5 cup of flour

Judge the temperature of the water by your finger - it should feel absolutely neutral in temperature - neither warm nor cool. Pour the water into a large bowl, stir in a drop of honey (or some sugar, maple syrup, etc - any sweetener), and sprinkle over the yeast. Mix the yeast into the water, and let the mixture stand for 5-10 minutes. This will be sufficient time to see if the yeast is active - it should have some signs of life - a few bubbles will suffice.

Add the flour to the yeast mixture, and whisk it in until well blended. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for 30-60 minutes to rise (this depends on the ambient temperature).

THE MIX

0.75 cup (approx!) of any liquid mixture

This is where you get to use your imagination - use whatever you want to give flavour and interest to the bread. In general, I make sure that whatever is in the mix it contains some salt and some oil. I usually include yogurt as part of the mix. Typical mixtures may be:

Blend the mix well, then add it to the risen sponge, making sure that the resultant mixture is well integrated.

THE FLOUR

2 to 2.5 cups of flour			nuts, seeds, grains.....

This is the other interesting bit. You decide on the mix of flour to use - white, wholegrain, rye, corn - whatever you like. In addition to the flour, you might choose to throw in some additional texture - anything from 0.25 to one cup of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc can be added to the sponge. Some suggestions are walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; mixed herbs and poppy seeds; dried pears and hazelnuts; sultanas and cinnamon.

Mix the flour into the sponge in small bits, and only mix in enough to make the dough difficult to stir with a spoon. Spread some of the remaining flour thickly onto your working surface, and turn the dough out onto it. sprinkle more flour on top of the dough, coat your hands with flour, and start to work the flour into the dough by hand. Add more flour as you progress, and work the dough until it is no longer sticky - it should be kneaded until it has the silky texture of your earlobe! Don't add more flour than necessary - it should be a pleasure to work the dough, not a chore.

Coat your hands with oil or butter and form the dough into a smooth ball - this coats the dough with oil at the same time, to prevent drying. Put the ball of dough into a bowl and cover with a damp cloth to rise - it is ready when it has doubled its bulk (approx one hour).

Punch down the dough in the bowl, then turn it out onto the work surface and knead it again - treat it like you are manipulating it into shape - don't pound it, just push and fold repeatedly. The aim is for a smooth, uniform, non-sticky dough. If it is still sticky, add more flour, a little at a time, kneading well each time.

Form the dough into a loaf; if you are using a pan, you might like to make two half-loaves, or you may make a round or oval loaf, or rolls. Grease the pan or tray generously. You may want to sprinkle in/on some poppy seeds or sesame seeds to coat the outside of the loaf. Cover with a damp cloth, and put the bread aside to rise until doubled (approx 30 minutes). Don't over-rise it.

Pre-heat your oven to 190°C (220°C for rolls). Brush the risen bread with:


and bake it for 35-40 minutes (about 20 minutes for rolls). The bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped. If you take it out and it doesn't sound right - put it back for more cooking.

Remove the bread from the pan immediately and cool it on a rack. It will slice better when cool.