A Letter from Cape Town

Alwyn Steenkamp from Cape Town, South Africa writes:

kneading dough:

Gooday, I have a small house shop here in Cape Town. For the last few years I was trying to make bread. I can not understand why my bread always comes out crispy on the outside and clammy on the inside. Can you please send me a recipe for soft White Bread.

My recipe is:

3 and half cups flour or bread flour
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoon suger
1 and half teaspoon bread yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cup of hot water

Can you please help me to improve my recipe.

My reply:

Howzit Alwyn!

I think for a start, the 2 tablespoon oil may contribute to the crispiness. Half the oil would make it less crispy. But also oven temperature is critical and may have something to do with it, and also the type of plain flour. Try alternative varieties of plain white flour, specifically bread flour, not cake flour (there is a difference).

Also try omitting the baking powder. Maybe you don’t need it <AND> the yeast. That would be having something to do with the clamminess, perhaps.

the dough:

And I think using hot water definitely contributes to the strange texture. Hot water does strange things to the gluten in the wheat. Try warm water instead.

What does the vinegar do? try a batch without it.

I am saying ‘perhaps, maybe, I think’ because bread-making is an exacting science with many variables.

Here’s my recipe anyway. Happy cooking. You may make this in a loaf tin instead of buns if you like. And leave out all the herbs, as a comparison with yours. You really only need flour, water, sugar, oil, yeast and salt to make a nice bread.

Herbed Bread Rolls

In this recipe, small bun-sized pieces of herbed and yeasted dough are arranged in a quiche pan or shallow cake tin fairly close together, then baked. They come to the table joined together in a singular circular cluster, and diners can break off a roll as desired.

Preparation time: about 30 minutes
Dough resting time: First rise: 1 hour Second rise: 30 minutes
Baking time: 30-35 minutes
Makes 18 rolls

1 teaspoon dried yeast
about 1¼ cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups plain unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
poppy seeds, sesame seeds, fine oatmeal or dried herbs for topping

herbbread:

Combine the yeast, a few teaspoons of warm water, and the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is frothy.

Whisk together the flour and salt.

Add the oil, herbs and yellow asafetida powder to the frothy yeast mixture.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Add three-quarters of the warm water, and mix. Add enough of the remaining water, if required, to make a soft but non-sticky dough. Knead the dough for 5-8 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for one hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and divide into 18 even-sized pieces. Shape them by rolling them around under cupped hands on a floured board or marble slab, then arrange them fairly close together in a lightly oiled, 25cm (10-inch) quiche pan or round, shallow baking dish. Keep in mind that the rolls will approximately double in size.

Allow the rolls to rise again for about 30 minutes. Spray with water and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame, fine oatmeal or dried herbs.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C/430F and bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the base. Serve as described.

Posted by Kurma on 19/5/06; 7:27:33 AM

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