I think I got my bread baking mojo back. After a hiatus of 3 years, I am back in the game.
Baking bread is a time consuming affair and slightly complicated than just throwing in a few ingredients like we do while baking a cake. First it starts with buying or finding the right kind of yeast. Then adapting a recipe to the type of yeast you have, blooming of the yeast, mixing, kneading and first rise, shaping, the second rise and finally baking. So a simple loaf can take anywhere upto 5 hours from start to finish. When my baby was little, I couldn’t guarantee the loaf that I would come to shape it after its first rise, or I would be able to knead it for 5-10 mins without the baby requiring me on an urgent basis (with babies, it’s always very urgent). But now that he is over two, I am beginning to enjoy baking bread again. Its euphoric to see it rise. It is instinctive, scientific and artistic all in one go.
This here today is a simple loaf with cheese and some spices. I baked it twice on the weekend (it was that good), once with cheese and crushed black pepper and the second time with more cheese and a pizza spice mixture which I had at home – very similar to those Oregano spice packets which come with Dominoes Pizza. Its a fool-proof recipe, just follow the steps and the notes to bake your own bread.
This recipe is from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger is adapted to suit Indian flour and humidity conditions.
Eggless Bread Loaf with cheese and pepper
What you will need :
- 2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 cup lukewarm water
- 300 grams all purpose flour (maida)
- 50 grams whole wheat flour (aatta)
- 2 grams bread improver (see notes)
- 90 grams freshly shredded processed Cheddar (I used Amul)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or any other spice mixture (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 4 tablespoon butter (I use Amul salted)
- 3/4 cup cool water
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
What to do :
- In a big cup or a glass, warm 1/3 cup of water. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over this water and gently stir it. Keep it in the corner of your kitchen platform till it becomes foamy, about 10-15 mins.
- Meanwhile, in a big bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, bread improver, pepper and salt. Mix it with a whisk to ensure that bread improver is evenly incorporated.
- Add 4 tablespoons butter to this flour mixture.
- After the yeast mixture has become foamy, stir it with a spoon, and add the 3/4 cup cool water to it. Add the hot sauce to this mixture.
- Now with the dough hooks of a electric beater beating, add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture in a steady stream so that it all starts coming together to form a sticky soft dough.
- After the dough forms a soft elastic ball that clears the sides of the bowl, add the cheese and beat it for another minute so that all the cheese gets incorporated in it. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour by a tablespoon , if the dough is too dry, add a teaspoon of water. (See notes)
- Using a plastic dough scraper, transfer the dough onto a smooth floured surface. Knead it slightly with the plastic scraper. It will still be an extremely sticky dough, just keep flouring the surface and keep bringing the dough together with the scraper.
- Grease a big bowl with olive oil or butter and put the dough ball in it. Turn it once to grease all sides of the dough.
- Cover it with a plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature till it doubles in bulk, about one hour.
- Grease a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with butter.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean floured surface. Shape it into an oblong loaf and place it in the prepared pan. Cover it loosely with a plastic wrap. Let it rise again at room temperature until it reaches 1 inch above the top of the pan. Around 1 and 1/2 hours.
- Twenty minutes before baking, pre-heat oven to 170C. Using a sharp knife slash the loaf one-three times diagonal across top, no more than 1/2 inch deep.
- Place the pan on a rack in the centre (or bottom rack – see notes ) of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes till it is lightly browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with your finger.
- Transfer the loaf from the pan to a cooling rack. Let it cool before slicing.
- Adding bread improver to a bread recipe is optional, but I have found that since bread flour is not available in India, and there is no standardised flour type, it is better to add bread improver. Approximately 0.01% of the quantity of the flour and the results are remarkable. To know where to buy it, check this.
- Pepper is a strong spice so 1 and 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient. If you are replacing it with anything other spice mixture, you can use 2- 3 teaspoon easily.
- For point no. 6 : I have found that in hot and tropical climate like ours, generally the dough becomes very sticky and needs more flour. So you can add a little amount to the dough or generously flour the work surface so that it gets absorbed.
- Indian ovens like MR, Bajaj are smaller and hence it is prefarable to keep the pan on the lowest rack and bake. Because the pan is tall and dough has risen 1 inch above the pan. So if you keep it on middle rack, the top gets too browned or burnt. So keep it not he lowest rack, with both rods on. If you have a big commercial oven, use the middle rack.
- Do not let the loaf cool in the pan, or the bottom and sides will become moist. Always use a cooling rack to cool it.