The art of bread baking
Baking is often therapeutic. Dare I say, bread baking is also addictive!
Those who have tried their hand in bread baking can surely resonate with the above statements. As for those who have not, I suggest you give it a go. Even if a kitchen fail occurs, rest assured the procedure would at least calm your mind.
The entire process of bread baking is so beautiful, and although it may take several hours to make at home, the result is worth it as there is no aroma better than the smell of freshly baked goodies in my accord!
There is something utterly satisfying about kneading the soft dough and giving it time to rest for as long as it requires, then finally watching it rise beautifully in the oven — a true labour of love. Fear not, because time is the only complex element in this elaborate process.
Bread also happens to be a quintessential staple all over the world, and thus, several countries have their own type of breads that are representatives of the country. Thus, here are four bread recipes handpicked from around the world for you to savour.
This soft and tender bread is infamous for being hard to make at home. If you think likewise and the thought of baking ciabatta at home intimidates you, then this recipe shall be your ultimate saviour! It requires only a handful of pantry ingredients and if followed correctly, you shall master the art of bread baking in no time.
Originating in Italy, ciabatta is best enjoyed with a drizzle of pure extra virgin olive oil, a light sprinkling of salt and freshly sliced tomatoes. To enhance the flavour even further, you can rub a slice of garlic on the slices of bread. Ciabatta also makes a great base for bruschetta or crostini topped with juicy tomatoes, olives, and basil.
2½ cups bread flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1¼ cup lukewarm water
Drop the yeast in one cup of water and leave it for 10 minutes in order to activate. In a large bowl, add flour, salt, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil and mix to combine. Add in the yeast and water mixture into the bowl and start stirring everything with a wooden spoon.
As the dough comes together, start mixing with your hands. This tends to be very sticky so you may oil your palms. Add the remaining water in little amounts as you go. Stretch the dough, drop it back and then push it against you with the help of your palm. Be careful about not tearing the dough and continue kneading for 8–10 minutes.
Once done, the dough should be incredibly light and soft. Slip in the prepared dough into a greased bowl. Cover this and leave it to proof for two hours in a warm place. After two hours, the dough should triple in size. Place the dough on a floured surface and lightly stretch it to a slender rectangle. Slice the rectangle in half lengthwise and cover it again for 15 minutes.
At this point, preheat your oven at 170°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Gently place the slices of dough on it and bake them separately for approximately 20 minutes. Once done, allow them to cool slightly, just enough to cut through and enjoy while still warm with your favourite toppings!
This French classic is well-known for its length, crispy crust and chewy interior. Baguette is yet another bread recipe that sounds complicated, but is actually possible to master with practice. The distinguishing factor in all bread recipes is the process and this fool-proof recipe works every time without failure.
Baguette is widely popular all over the world and every household has their own way of consuming it. It is a great one to make garlic bread or cheesy toasts, among several other ways in which it can be enjoyed. Baguettes also complement a hearty soup or stew really well. The tall and slender shape of a baguette makes it perfect to make stuffed bread boats as well.
3½ cups flour
1½ cup warm water
1½ tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
Stir in sugar and yeast into warm water and leave it for five minutes or until the top is frothy. Sprinkle salt onto the flour and mix; pour in the yeast and water mixture into this and stir with a spatula until it comes together. Then, knead the dough with your hands for 6 – 8 minutes. It should be very sticky; you may add flour, not too much, as you go.
After the end of the kneading process, the dough should be stretchy and elastic. Scrape the dough with the help of a spatula and drop it in an oiled bowl. Brush the ball of dough with more oil and cover it before allowing it to rest for two hours.
After that duration, the dough should puff up and double in size. Generously flour your work surface and drop the dough on it. Knead for a couple more minutes incorporating more flour as you knead. In the end, you should have a light and supple dough. Divide the dough into three equal portions and work with one at a time.
Roll and twist the dough, stretching it as well to make a long cylindrical shape. Flour your baking tray and place the loaves on them individually. Flour the top as well and make slits at the top; cover and let it rest for another hour. Meanwhile, take an ovenproof pan and place it at the bottom of your oven while it preheats at 180°C.
Once the dough has risen, place it in the middle rack of your oven and pour in cold water in the empty baking dish that has been preheating at the bottom. This will generate steam that helps create that classic crispy exterior and chewy interior. Bake this for 30 minutes and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before slicing in.
KOREAN SAUSAGE BREAD
This delicious and cheesy bread recipe is a snack on its own, which is stuffed with sausages, bell pepper, mushroom and corn, all resting on a soft bread made from scratch. To top it off, there is mozzarella cheese atop that creates the most gorgeous cheese-pull when torn apart.
Munching on this delicious snack will make you think of Korean street food. This one is delicious as it is but you may drizzle some barbeque sauce, or a combination of mustard and ketchup for that final touch.
For the bread —
2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup warm milk
2 tbsp oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
For the topping —
6 sticks sausages
½ cup boiled corn kernels
¼ cup chopped mushrooms
¼ cup chopped bell peppers
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp dried oregano
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated mozzarella
To prepare the bread, mix milk, sugar, and yeast and leave it for 10 minutes. Mix this concoction with flour, salt, oil and one beaten egg; combine everything until it forms a dough. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a clean bowl drizzled with oil. Massage the top and sides of the dough with oil and allow it to rest for an hour while covered.
Meanwhile, make the stuffing. Mix corn, mushroom and bell pepper along with the condiments, mayonnaise, and grated cheddar cheese. Once the dough has rested sufficiently and risen, knead it with more flour to make it smooth. Shape it into a long cylinder and divide into six equal pieces.
Roll out each piece into an oval and place one sausage on it. Encase the sausage entirely with the dough and make 5-6 slits by cutting in through up until the length of the sausage, leaving dough at the base. Pull and twist each disc of sausage covered with bread outwardly so that you have a wide base. Allow this to rest again covered for 15 minutes.
After that, brush the tops and sides with a beaten egg and spoon over the prepared mixture on top. Sprinkle over grated mozzarella cheese and bake them in a preheated oven at 170°C for 20-25 minutes before biting in.
This fancy Venezuelan bread is nothing short of eye candy. Rolled with layers of soft bread and bacon with a sprinkling of raisins and olives, baking this will make you want to do it repeatedly. It is usually prepared in Venezuela during the holidays and typically contains ham, which has been replaced with smoked bacon in this recipe.
This unique bread is delicious as it is but can be the perfect accompaniment in any meal, whether breakfast or dinner. You may also spread a thin layer of mustard over it and munch on it as a snack, or serve this as a side dish to supplement a full meal.
1 cup warm milk
2 tsp dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
10 slices smoked bacon
½ cup sliced olives
¼ cup raisins
Mix milk, yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar and leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Once the surface is foamy, add in one egg and melted butter to it and combine. In a large bowl, add flour, salt, and sugar and pour in the mixture. Mix it until a dough is formed and knead it for 8-10 minutes. Roll the dough smoothly into a ball and let it prove in a greased bowl covered for an hour.
After an hour, it should double in size. Deflate it and roll the dough into a large rectangle. Cover the surface heavily with slices of bacon leaving some empty space on the sides. Generously sprinkle over chopped olives and raisins. Roll the dough tightly and pinch the seams; let it rest again for 45 minutes while covered.
After that, transfer the loaf of bread onto a greased baking tray and brush all the exposed sides with a beaten egg. Pierce the top and sides with a fork to allow steam to escape. Bake this in a preheated oven at 160°C and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting in.
Food and Photo: Fariha Amber