Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bread! Food of gods, goddesses and other critters

The other day, I made from scratch and baked my first loaf of bread -- dotted lightly with chopped walnuts, green olives (the taste of olives tickles the palate!), cereal, poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds. Yay.

At first, I was kind of uncertain, looking at the many kinds of flour and a few kinds of yeast at the supermarket. There were a few types of pre-mixed bread flour which I snubbed after considering it for a few seconds, and instead chose organic unbleached bread flour and a pack-of-three dry yeast.

An ex-colleague had given me this huge and heavy 'Bread Bible' book but I was too lazy to lug it around, so I dug into my favourite spiral-bound 'Open House' book of recipes and stories of volunteers who help feed the homeless (it's inspiring, and bought cheaply at some book fair). I found Cinnamon Cranberry Bread and modified the recipe to suit my five-hundred ingredients.

Very scary -- coz when I sprinkled the yeast into a cup of warm water (maybe it was too hot?), it didn't bubble up much after 10 minutes. Anyway I mixed it with the flour and the rest of the ingredients and halved the recipe for one loaf. I put the lump of dough in an oiled bowl and covered it with cling film to 'prove'. Put it somewhere warm, the recipe said. Geez, it was a rainy cool day so it was hard to find a warm place. After half an hour, it had only increased a bit in volume, so how to 'punch' it down?

For the second period of proving, I heated the oven to 50 degrees, switched it off, and put the bowl in it. Again, the dough only increased slightly in volume. What the hex, I thought. I preheated the oven to 180 degrees C, reshaped the dough a bit and placed it in an oiled loaf pan, and popped the whole production into the oven.

After 32 minutes, I took it out as the top was getting brown. I forgot to knock on the bottom of the pan to hear if it sounded hollow (that's to indicate readiness).

It tasted lovely though; the texture was quite dense (luckily, my partner likes bread dense and not fluffy) and had a bit too much sugar, I thought. Went well with butter and smoked raw ham and even jam.

Now my partner is converted -- last time he thought bread is not worth the trouble making. Now he thinks it is, since we're not in Germany and he can't get his "chicken food" (I call it) dark brown bread here. He even went as far as to suggest getting a bread-making machine, but I pooh-poohed it, saying, "No challenge in that!"

So the second time, I used a Jamie Oliver recipe and ... all is right with the world again. The dough rose like nobody's business. Jamie's the man!

P.S. If you're wondering why the accompanying picture is of dog-bathing and not bread-making, well, I don't want to steal any pics off the 'Net -- and, anyway, the activities are quite similar. You get a nice-smelling fresh dog at the end, too.


Lee Ping said...

Read the comment you left for Lydia (and me). :)

Very interesting! Smell of fresh bread compared with smell of fresh bathe dog.

I do like food (good ones), but who doesn't right? It had crossed my mind to post my favorite bible verse as my favorite food.

I have read Lydia's lil notes to God and that was one factor that motivated me to start my Stream In The Desert blog.

Argus Lou said...

Hello, Lee Ping. Thanks for dropping by.

Your favourite verse as food for thought? Fair enough. Stream in the Desert sounds like a great name for a blog.

I made focaccia (Italian herb flat-ish bread) today. Methinks I enjoyed making it more than eating it, ha ha. Also made a loaf of wholemeal bread studded with chopped almonds, green olives and sunflower seeds, and dusted with poppy seed.

Lee Ping said...


Thanks for dropping by my blog as well.

To answer your questions, Portland's weather is perfect today.

My favorite verse today is Proverbs 16:29 A man who wants to hurt others tries to get them to sin. He leads them down a path that isn't good.

I love making bread as well. It is joyful to see it expanding. The ingredients that you used sounds healthy (and delicious). Have a great time baking :)

Lee Ping said...


Thanks for your cold remedy suggestion, using Cola. I found quite a few links on google on this topic. Very interesting.

Tunku Halim said...

Argus - I've made bread a few times but not regularly enough. Always plain though, but now after reading your post will try to put stuff in it!

I find bread making so good for the soul. It's like alchemy. From plain flour you create warm, steaming lovely food!

gRaCe said...

i've never attempted to make bread. cakes, yes..especially cheese cakes. YUmm yUmm...eheh.. tho they dun look good but still tasty as ever. heheh...

Argus, i agree with u all the way.. Jamie's the man!! =D

Argus Lou said...

Lee Ping, the weather in Zug canton these few days has been perfect too - around 25 degrees in the daytime. The ducklings and cynets have hatched, too - they're so delightful!

TH, your comment reminded me of "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho - what a story. Yes, kneading bread dough and seeing it double in volume is a wondrous thing. Therapeutic, almost. Wow, you're a baking man, too - anything you don't do?! You can add stuff to your bread AFTER the first proving or during the first stirring of the flour with the yeast-sugar-water.

Argus Lou said...

Spiffy, I like Jamie because his methods work and he isn't fussy about things not worth fussing over. (Not for his baby-boyish looks!)

Hope to taste your delish cheesecake when we have a party at Xeus's house this July/August.

Chopped walnuts, apricot and cranberries in brown bread is comfort food. Never knew breadmaking was this easy and fun till now. :-)

Xeus said...

Grace, you are back!! Argus is a very good brownie maker too. Wait till you taste her brownies.

Argus Lou said...

Xeus! Back from busy Billyland?
Haven't made brownies in a long while; did bake some blondies (with white choc chunks) though, ha ha.

gRaCe said...

ermm...want to taste my cheesecake ah? it always doesn't turn out very nice..but i can make one if you all don't mind eating with your eyes closed. hehe...

I'm not really attracted to his looks as well, i like the way he cooks..makes everything looks so simple and easy to make. and they look yummy too..=D

oooh...u gotta make me some of ur brownies too. Xeus say until so nice..i wudn let u leave M'sia without tasting them. Heheh..

Yes, i'm back..^_^ Will i see u at BC4/readings this sat? ;o)

Xeus said...

Argus, 1/3 through the Billyland rewrite. Have to live up to all those lit agent addresses Eric keeps sending me.

Grace, yes... will see you :)

Argus Lou said...

Spiffy, I agree. Jamie is also inspiring in that he encourages you to experiment with his recipes and create your own edible stuff. And his way usually IS easy!

We'll wear dark sunglasses to eat your cheesecake, no problem. I'll hafta invade Xeus's kitchen armed with ingredients and utensils she might not already have. My bro's kitchen doesn't have an oven and is seldom used for such fun things.

Xeus, good luck with all the rewriting. Exciting, isn't it? Seeing it all come together nicely.

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)