Sunday, May 2, 2010
I baked bread yesterday and I must admit that the smugness that makers of this home-made stuff is contagious. Most of my adult baking experience of late has largely been in avoidance of making bread. For some reason I always remember it as too much of a hassle when I was asked to bake bread as a teenager.
But as an adult, there is something satisfying with kneading dough with your hands-- its an almost hypnotic effect. Tony Perez would call it going into an alpha state or altered state of consciousness. I also think that it makes me feel like I am part of a tradition as old as agriculture itself.
The modern practise of breadmaking is credited to the Egyptians who turned the wheat berries into a paste and baked it so that it would keep for several days. The accidental application of yeast led to the raised bread forms common today. But until yeast was isolated as a separate substance in 1000 BC, the manner of reproducing leavened bread was by keeping a piece of the leavened dough of the previous loaf and adding it to the subsequent one. This method is still used today and is known as the sour dough method.
Bread was introduced during the Spanish colonial period to a largely rice consuming indigenous population in the Philippines. Though wheat is not cultivated here, flour is a steady and constantly available imported commodity.
Today, I baked a basic bread using only flour, yeast, salt, warm water and good old fashioned elbow grease. And it shocks me to no end that making my own basic bread cost me less than fifteen pesos. In subsequent posts I will be making more complex breads using additional ingredients like milk or honey or different flours like whole grain, corn flour, etc.
This recipe is for a light colored, plain bread that goes great with salted butter or jam. It is heavy for an afternoon meryenda, but diegests easily.
3 c All purpose flour
2 t yeast
2 t salt
1 and 1/8 cup warm water
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until the dough forms. If the mixture does not stick, adjust water by adding more. If the mixture is too sticky and clings to your fingers, add more flour.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for ten minutes and feel the dough acquire a silken consistent texture. Then form the dough into a ball, place it in a very lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with a towel. Let the dough rise for about 90 minutes. It should double in size.
Punch down the dough and knead again lightly. Return to bowl and let it rise again for 90 minutes.
When the dough has risen again, punch down the down, knead lightly and shape into a loaf. Score the top of the bread by making long cuts on the length of the bread using asharp knife. Place the loaf on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Allow it to rise a third time for about thirty minutes. Bake in pre-heated oven for 35-45 minutes.
The bread should have a thick crust and soft interior. Note that this bread's crust shall not darken not due to the absence of sugar. It is the sugar in the bread that caramelizes into a brown crust.