There’s something about a slice of freshly baked, home-made bread, served with a thick pat of butter, that creates a feeling of comfort and cosiness. And the very act of making something with your hands can improve your mental health! So get baking. We’ve found some easy recipes to get you started.
Sarah Graham’s seed bread
A lovely loaf that’s gluten-free and Banting-friendly.
1 cup mixed seeds/ nuts; 1 cup almond flour; 1 cup coconut flour; 2 cups water (start with 1½ cups and add more as necessary); 3 Tblsps psyllium husks (available at Clicks and health stores); 1 tsp bicarb of soda; ½ cup coconut oil (warmed until liquid); ¼ cup natural yoghurt (or coconut milk/ extra water); 2 tsp honey (or alternative healthy natural sweetener); ½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180°C and grease and line a small/medium-sized loaf tin.
Mix all ingredients together – if it seems very dry add another ¼ cup water. It will not be like usual bread, it will seem quite crumbly and have the texture of beach sand, which is fine.
Transfer mixture to loaf tin, gently smooth out the surface using the back of a spoon and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden.
A great tip is to leave the loaf to cool to room temperature, remove from the tin, slice, then freeze in slices and remove a slice at a time to thaw or toast just before eating. It’s a great snack with mashed avo or scrambled egg.
Garlic, cheddar, bacon & beer bread
Garlic. Cheddar. Bacon. Beer. What more could you possibly want? Great to serve at your next braai.
3 cups self-raising flour; ½ cup sugar; 340ml beer; 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese; ½ cup bacon (chopped); 1 Tblsp garlic powder; 1 tsp parsley; ¼ cup melted butter
Preheat the oven to 190°C. In a large bowl, gently stir together the flour, sugar and beer until combined. Then gently stir in the cheese, bacon, garlic powder and parsley. Pour the resulting batter into a greased loaf tin, then pour the melted butter on top of the batter. Cook for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the bread comes out clean. Let the bread cool for at least five minutes before serving.
No muscles? No problem. Here’s a no-knead bread that’s easy and delicious.
1 ½ tsp honey; 1 ½ tsp active dry yeast; 1 ¾ cups warm water, divided; 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided; 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
Combine honey, yeast, and a ½ cup of the water in a small bowl and stir lightly. Let stand for 5 minutes. Keep 1½ Tblsps of the flour for later. Place remaining flour in a large bowl – add salt, whisk to combine, then form a well in the centre. Add yeast mixture and remaining 1¼ cups water into well and stir until combined. Remove dough from sides of the bowl and form a ball in the bottom centre of the bowl (dough will be very sticky and wet). Sprinkle top with reserved flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area. Let rise for two hours.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Remove half the dough and place in a loaf shape on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, and place five to seven centimetres apart on the same prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden and toasted and a hollow sound is heard when tapped – about 22 to 25 minutes. Let stand for five minutes before serving.
Farmhouse white bread
(Makes two loaves)
5 cups bread flour; 10g instant yeast; 2 tsp salt; 3 tsp sugar; 1 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil; 2 cups lukewarm water
Place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and begin mixing on low speed.
Add the oil to the warm water and slowly add to the flour mixture until well combined. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes on low speed until the dough is smooth, elastic and not sticky to the touch. Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, loosely covered with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Using your fist, punch down the dough to expel the air. Lightly knead by hand for a minute or two until the dough is smooth again. Divide the dough equally in two. Shape each half into a log and place into two lightly greased loaf tins. Once again, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for 30 – 40 minutes until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly brush loaves with egg wash (one egg whisked with a dash of milk and a pinch of salt) and place in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes or until beautifully risen, golden and sounds hollow when gently tapped underneath. Remove from tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
TIP: If you don’t allow your bread enough time to rise, it will be dense and chewy after you bake it. Just be sure to give it plenty of time to get the lift it needs. You can tell if the bread has risen enough when you poke a knuckle into the dough and the indentation slowly springs back.
A great addition to your kitchen library…
In 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood, you can discover the nostalgic smell of milk loaf and rye bread, how to master baguettes and croissants, and try your hand at some inspiring bakes, including Pane Toscano with Dolcelatte and Cypriot Easter Bread, as well as sweet treats such as Honey & Saffron Loaf and Chocolate & Sour Cherry Bread. R389, Yuppiechef.com
Invest in this: The Pa Casola has 13 pre-set functions and a 13-hour programmable timer. Simply add your bread batter before you go to bed and tuck into delicious, warm home-made bread when you wake up. It even allows you to select your crust setting from light to medium or dark. Taurus Pa Casola bread maker, 850W, R2 999, @Home.
Baking tips from the pro
Amori Burger, chef at the Van Der Linde restaurant, tells us what to watch out for…
- Adding too much flour to the bread – some bread doughs call for a ‘gloopy’ dough but you feel it might be too sticky and add more flour. Trust the fermentation magic to do what it needs to do.
- Using a stand mixer – if you’re just baking at home, use your hands. When you touch the dough you’ll understand when the recipe talks about ‘the feel’ and this is how you learn and get better. You’ll know after baking what different doughs feel like and you can tweak them into getting the desired crumb and crust etc.
- Too hot or too cold when fermenting – the temperature of the fermentation is very important. Too hot and it will proof too quickly and the gluten will not develop the way it’s supposed to. Too cold and you’ll get a different kind of loaf. Optimal temperature is 25°C to 28°C.
- Being impatient – when the recipe asks for 12 – 18 hours of fermentation, do 18 hours. You will be rewarded.
- Not baking the bread enough – there’s a fine line between baked perfectly and burnt. This is a skill that comes with practice and there’s no easy way, unfortunately. The French call it ‘bien cuit pas trop cuff’ – ‘well baked, but not overdone’. When perfectly baked, the crust will have layers of flavours that are complex and make the difference between good bread and great bread.
Text: Rialien Furstenberg