Do you find the thought of baking with yeast intimidating? In South Africa, I seldom used yeast in baking. Woolworths had delicious Hot Cross Buns at Eastertime and crusty white breads, rolls and brown seed loaves were always readily available.
Fast forward to living in Phoenix. There are certainly places that bake specialty breads and rolls, but I started baking my own. I love the smell of bread in the making – not to mention the warm, fresh loaf one can take to table! Home-baked white bread freezes well and makes delicious toast, and the ingredients are simple and basic, with no additives.
I find baking with yeast quite therapeutic! I love the ritual of combining the ingredients, kneading the dough and seeing it rise. Doing it all by hand is a little more challenging, but if one has a table model food mixer, the dough hook does the heavy work and you can do the final knead, knocking down and shaping. Yeast is very forgiving. As long as there is flour (gluten), a little sweetness and warm water (with some salt and oil), those little organisms will grow. After the first rising when the dough gets knocked down, there is no right or wrong.
My grandchildren love playing with the dough at this stage and when the difficult decisions have been made as to shapes and sizes, the yeast dutifully rises again – before being baked and enjoyed by all.
Serves: 2-3 loaves
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 ¼-ounce sachets instant active dry yeast or 1 tablespoon instant active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2¼-2½ cups warm water
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the oil and water and mix very well to form a soft dough that handles easily. Add a little flour or water if necessary.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead thoroughly until the dough is smooth and elastic. Rub some oil on your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Shape the dough into a large ball and return it to the mixing bowl (lightly oiled to prevent sticking).
- Cover the dough with cling wrap or a damp dishcloth and set it aside to rise in a warm place, for 50-60 minutes, until about double its size.
- Lightly knock down the dough, and divide it between two or three medium-sized (9x5x3 inches) bread tins (oiled and lightly floured).
- Allow the dough to rise for a further 40-50 minutes, until the volume doubles again.
- Bake at 400⁰F for 20 minutes and then at 350⁰F for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a cooling rack.
Instead of instant active dry yeast, 2 ¼-ounce sachets of active dry yeast or 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast can be used. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of the sugar in about ½ cup of the warm water. Stir in the yeast and set aside to froth. Add to the dry ingredients with the oil and remaining water, while mixing.
When the dough is knocked down, it can be placed into a large, oiled, cast iron pot or Dutch oven instead of the bread pans, to double in size before baking as above (without a lid). When prepared in this manner, it is reminiscent of “potbrood” (pot bread), which was buried and baked in a sealed pot, surrounded by hot ash and coals.
Bread dough can be shaped into bread rolls. When the dough is knocked down, shape it into rolls and set aside to double in size before baking at 350⁰F for about 20 minutes.
Bread dough can be used to make pizzas or vetkoek (page 33 in our book, South African Cooking in the USA).
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