The Art of Baking Bread

I think most of us are by now fed up with tasteless, mass produced bread, stuffed with grease and preservatives to make it last longer. Finding a good, artisanal baker is about as likely nowadays as finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Is there no solution then?
YES – bake your own!

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All you need is a breadform, a good mixer (preferably one with a bowl attached) and an oven. Supermarket flour is ground to fine (and often mixed with things you don’t want) so the challenge wil be to find good, slightly coarse flour. It is frequently stocked by health stores, as is dried yeast. Once you’ve found it, use this recipe to begin with:
Ingredients:

  • 500 gr flour
  • 290 ml lukewarm water
  • 12 gr dried yeast
  • 10 gr sugar
  • 10 gr salt

Preparation:

  1. Mix the ingredients in the bowl and knead for 5 – 8 minutes;
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic cling foil and let the dough rise for about 30 mins;
  3. Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and firmly knead the dough for 3 minutes;
  4. Use a rolling-pin (if you don’t have one, a wine bottle will do) and flatten the dough intil you have a (more or less) square piece about 1/2 inch thick;
  5. Roll it up and put in a lightly greased bread-form, seam at the bottom;
  6. Put it in a draught-free place (I use the microwave) and let rise for 60 – 65 minutes;
  7. Pre-heat the oven  to 220c;
  8. Bake for 10 minutes at 220c, then reduce heat to 180c and bake for 30 minutes;
  9. Remove the bread from the form;
  10. Put it on a tray and bake for an additional 5 minutes (to harden the crust);
  11. Take it out of the oven, put it upside down and let it cool off before you cut it. (This is the hardest part!)

Once you’ve  tasted your own baked bread, you’re hooked. And you will soon get the hang of it and experiment with different kinds of flour, fillings, etc. And each and every time, your whole house will be perfumed by the wonderful smell of honest, freshly baked bread.

Smell is a powerful guide to the past. The smell of freshly baked bread always takes me back to my schoolboy days when each day, in the cold and dark of the early morning, I cycled past this bakery on my way to school. And each and every time I thought:

‘THIS IS HOW IT MUST SMELL IN HEAVEN’

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