I have been doing a lot of fun stuffs since the completion of my thesis draft. I cooked with different group of people and had a lot of fun out of it. I tried making new dishes but most of the time, I tried to improved those dishes that I was not satisfied in my previous attempts, for example, bread. I failed a few times in bread making especially in getting the right bread dough in the past. Once I decided I was not going to do anything with yeasts in the kitchen due to the memory of that muddy dough. However, I always have this strange spontaneity in cooking that I can’t really understand even until now.
On new year’s eve, L and I decided not to have our dinner with packed food in our working place separately again like what we did in the past few weeks for our project/thesis deadlines. We ended ‘earlier’ with work which was around 6pm. It was until almost 8pm we finally got ourselves seats in a restaurant. Over the dinner, I had this thought that I could not end my last day of 2013 with another failed experiment in the lab. I told L that I was going to make a bread after dinner for new year’s day breakfast and I never succeed in my bread making history. L was very calmed and supportive, strangely.
“We can buy a loaf of bread just to be safe. If I failed again we will still have our breakfast tomorrow.” I added at last. L burst out laughing in the restaurant.
I got the recipe from my elder sis-in-law and we went for bread flour and yeasts shopping after dinner. I started the bread dough at 9:30pm and baked the bread from 2013 to 2014. It was a really nice bread! I served the bread with Eggs in Purgatory on new year’s day and that was really one of the best ways to start a new year. Since then, I have been discussing bread making with my elder sis-in-law who is also quite into bread making lately. We tried to bake cranberries and black raisins bread which was quite successful except the strange bread shape… I realized the trick is to add the liquid gradually to the flour and be very patient in dough kneading. It definitely takes much longer for us to get the right dough than the time written on the recipes.
I am glad I had that crazy idea to try something ‘risky’ on new year’s eve when I should have chosen something with zero failure rate to prevent another failure. I guess that’s just me, a very stubborn girl who refuse to concede defeat even to a bread.
Warm the water in microwave at high heat for 20-30 seconds. Let it cool down if it is overheated as high temperature kills the yeast. Add the yeasts into the watering mix well.
Place the flour, salt and sugar into a big mixing bowl. Add half of the yeast mixture to the flour gradually and mix. Continue to add in the remaining yeast mixture gradually until you get all the flour together, forming a sticky dough and you are able to hold and transfer it as a whole.
Flour the table top and place the dough on top. Start kneading the dough by pulling, folding, rolling the dough over and over again until you get a non-sticky, elastic, smoother dough. (I took almost 20 minutes to get to that stage). The bread dough is good when it bounce back immediately when you press it gently with your finger.
Place the dough back into the mixing bowl. Flour on top of the dough and cover with cling wrap. Let the dough prove until it doubles in size. (To shorten the proving time, I put the dough into the microwave that used for heating the water earlier. Do not on the microwave, you just need a warm and moist environment for yeast activity).
Once the dough has doubled in size, place the dough on the table top again and punch the air out. Squash the dough for about 30 seconds. After that, shape the dough according to your preference as it will be the final shape of your bread. Cover the dough with cling wrap and let it prove for the second time until it has doubled in size.
Once the dough is getting to the correct size, preheat the oven to 180°C. Very gently transfer the bread dough to a floured baking tray and put in into the preheated oven. Do not to squash or press the dough as it will cause the air lost from your dough. Bake for 30-40 minutes. To check whether it is fully cooked, take out the bread from the oven and tap it at the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is done. Otherwise you need to bake it longer, check it time to time.
Put the cooked bread on a wire rack and allow it to cool for 30 minutes. Slice it and eat fresh or freeze it for breakfast in the next few days. All you need to do is thaw it for a few minutes at room temperature and toast it or heat it up.
This recipe gives a bread with a harder texture than the loaf we used to get from the market. It goes well with western soup or a thick gravy dish like Eggs in Purgatory as it doesn’t get soggy easily and strong enough to hold the bits.
If you want a softer texture, replace 500g bread flour with 400g of bread flour and 100g of plain flour.
Mix yeasts and sugar with the water. Let it sit for 5 minutes until the yeast gets frothy. Add the olive oil into the mixture and stir well.
Mix salt and flour in a big mixing bowl. Follow steps 2 to 4 of the Basic bread recipe. Once the dough has doubled in size, place the dough on the table top again and punch the sir out. Squash the dough for about 30 seconds. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, spread the cranberries and raisins evenly on the top. Fold the dough and repeat with the kneading motion again until the cranberries and raisins are evenly distributed (as even as possible) within the dough. Shape the dough for its final shape. Cover the dough with cling wrap and let it prove for the second time until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Follow step 6 from the recipe above and bake for 35-45 minutes. Leave the bread to cool after it is done.
This bread recipe gives a softer and more fluffy texture while olive oil gives a nice and pleasure fragrance to the bread. Cranberries and raisins add sweetness to the bread so it is perfectly great by just eating this bread alone!