Zen and the art of bread making.


Bread

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Baking bread is not just a chore it’s a philosophy. The Tao of Bread if you don’t mind me mixing my philosophies. Something that is simple yet complex. It is part of many cultural histories. The bedouin of the Sinai desert have it right. When you are resting under the shade of the tree watching the bedioun brew fresh tea and bake marvelous bread in front of you on a fire you realise that bread is part of life itself. When you bake bread you are connecting with the soul. The soul of the kitchen and through your hands you breathe life into a ball of flour. It is magical. Every loaf is an individual and each one turns out slightly different. To master bread baking is an art not a chore. Do not give this task to a machine.
Make your own bread and don’t buy a bread maker. Baking your own bread is a far more efficient. You can bake three loaves at a time and freeze a couple and you get the enjoyment and exercise of kneading your dough. Buy a mixer with a dough hook but do not buy a bread making machine!

Kneading dough is a way of connecting with the routes of the earth. Man has been baking bread for centuries and it is one of the most satisfying things to do in the kitchen. The recipe below was given to me by my mother and I have used it ever since with my own decorations and bread designs.
As you knead the dough, practice the art of meditation. Just think about the task in hand, forget about all the other things that you need to do. Pull the dough and roll it under your hands. Think about your breathing as you do this, let the mind and body come together as one and enjoy the inner peace that it brings.
(Do also read my latest bread posting here.)

Ingredients –
3lb of flour to make 3 loaves. Use a mixture of strong white flour and brown or wholemeal flour.
dried yeast – follow instructions on packet. Fresh yeast is better if you can get it.
pinch of salt
mixture of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to mix
1 tbsp olive oil
water to mix 1 1/2 pints of lukewarm water.
Topping: sesame seeds, sunflower, poppy seeds and a little milk or beaten egg.

I use a mixer and dough hook to mix up the flour with yeast, salt and seeds.
If you use fresh yeast – mix up in a jug with some a tablespoon of honey and some lukewarm water. Cover and leave for ten minutes until it froths up and then add to the flour mixture and add more water as below. Use about a teaspoonful of fresh yeast per 1lb of flour.
Then add the water at lukewarm temperture – feeling just warm on the hand. I add a pint fairly quickly at first and then slower as it binds together to get a nice not too sticky dough.
Turn this out on a board – you can flour the board to stop it sticking. Divide into three lumps and then this is the best part.
Knead the dough by pulling it apart and then folding over. Do this for ten times or so on one lump and then move on to the next one. The dough should get springy as it gets to the right consistency.
Leave covered in a bowl for half an hour to expand in size. Then bash it down a bit to expel the air, re- knead for a little and put the dough balls into the bread tins. Leave to rise – they should double in size.

Topping
The topping of the loaves is very important – it adds such a lot to the final satisfaction. i used to wait until the loaves had risen and then brush with milk or an egg(for an extra crusty top) then scatter the topping on top – sesame seeds are a favourite because if you toast the bread you get delicious toasty sesame seeds.
Pat, my mother now has a better idea that I have adopted because the problem with the above method is that the most of the seeds drop off before you get to the toast stage. Now we put the topping before you put the dough into the tins. Spread out the topping on a surface and roll the dough over it. This way the topping embeds into the dough and doesn’t fall off. I now use more sunflower seeds and some fllour mixed in for a real chunky topping.

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