Bread, glorious bread!

Nina's marvellous homemade bread is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of vegetable soup

During our retreat at Bodhi Khaya (which I wrote about in my previous post), two items in particular stood out for us: Nina’s buttermilk rusks and her freshly baked bread.

The large bowl of rusks in the tea-room was magically replenished every morning. By night-time, to our communal sorrow, it was empty, with not even a handful of crumbs remaining at the bottom of the bowl. That should tell you something.

In addition to the rusks, there was a freshly baked loaf of bread every day. Actually, I think it was usually two loaves, because you couldn’t just have one slice with your thick, nourishing, vegetable soup on a cold wintry evening. No no no. You needed at least two.

Ahhhh…. (a blissful sigh).

Start by assembling all the ingredients you will need

When our retreat ended, and we had to wave goodbye to Bodhi Khaya, Nina generously gave me a copy of those two recipes, and I promised hubby that I would try to bake a loaf of her bread as soon as I could.

Sadly, the first attempt did not turn out as well as I’d hoped. Mind you, I wasn’t that surprised, because – although I can bake fairly straightforward cakes and cookies – I have never yet managed to produce a decent loaf of bread.

I had followed the recipe to the letter and used the full ingredients (1 kg of brown bread flour). As a result, I ended up with too much batter, which meant I had to use my spare breadloaf pan, which is not a good quality pan, which is why I haven’t used it in years (stuff tends to get stuck in it…)

Also, I had used fairly cool water, and the weather was very cold, and thus the batter did not rise much. I ended up having to leave both pans in the oven for about one-and-a-half hours, giving more heat from the bottom than the top, before I felt they were done. They were still too moist for my liking when I finally took them out.

Yesterday, I made a second attempt, and decided that I would document the process, step by step (see slideshow below).

Aahh, nothing nicer than a couple of slices of still-warm freshly-baked bread with a generous spread of butter

This time, I only used half of the ingredients, a full sachet of yeast, and warm water from the kettle. The batter rose so much that it spilt over the side of the pan, and made a bit of a mess. Eh-heh. (Note to self: Next time, concentrate – and use half of the instant yeast!)

Our oven does not have a convection or fan option, so we can either heat it from the bottom, or from the top, but not both at the same time. I gave it about 50 minutes from below at 180-190 degrees Celsius, and about 20 from the top.

It turned out muuuuuch better!

Still a little moister than I like, but perhaps next time I’ll use a little less water, and half the yeast, and leave the heat from below on for longer.

Fortunately, hubby did not mind at all that it wasn’t award-winningly perfect – in fact, he liked it so much that there isn’t much left of this loaf, and I’ll need to bake again soon! Perhaps I’ll even tackle that rusk recipe next!

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20 thoughts on “Bread, glorious bread!

  1. Mmmm…homemade bread is so wonderful. The smell of it baking is sublime. So you were here for nine days? (Or did I read too fast?) Did you have to sit cross-legged? Could you lean against anything? Are you enlightened? πŸ™‚

    • Ohh, it sure is…

      Yep, it was a 9-day retreat, my longest ever. And yes, we were supposed to sit cross-legged, but some of us (me) can’t sit like that for long periods of time, so I have a little wooden bench with a forward-slanting seat, that I tuck my legs under… I can sit on this for longer periods, until my backside falls asleep, and then I get irritable. Having so many sessions of sitting meditation was reallllllllly hard, so I (shhh, don’t tell anyone…. shhh!) did some walking meditation outside in the sunshine instead. With my camera of course. πŸ˜‰ (I’m sure you can understand that, as a fellow photie.)

      And no, dearest friend from the Upper Peninsula, I am soooo not enlightened. NOT even close. But we had some fun too, it wasn’t all “let’s be serious now”. πŸ™‚ I just know you would’ve loved it.

    • In that case, mum’s the word! πŸ˜‰

      Ironically, my main problem with baking the bread was the surprising and unexpected difficulty in finding the flour!

      Our local KwikSpar stocks only 2.5kg stone-ground flour, and I wasn’t sure whether that might be too rough, heavy or chewy for the bread. None of our Woolworths stores stock brown bread or wholewheat flour anymore; I actually went and spoke to the manager about it – if no-one says anything, it seems they’ll never stock it again. The Pick’n Pay in the Howard Centre, fortunately, had good old Snowflake brand brown bread flour and even nutty wheat flour. So yay for that!

  2. Ever since we came back from South Africa in March Mr F and I have been talking about baking rusks. It would be nice to get beyond the talking stage. Your bread looks yummy.

    I’m impressed I don’t know how you manage to photograph each step, it must take so long. Flour on scale, wash hands, take photo. Balance spoon of salt next to salt bottle, take photo. Balance spoon of yeast next to package of yeast, take photo…

    • I’ve always shied away from making rusks, because, wherever I’ve stayed, the oven has never had a convection or fan or all-around-heat option. In my few previous attempts the rusks have always turned out either burnt on the outside, or not-quite-done on the inside, or burnt from the top and soggy at the bottom. Ideally, I think they need to stay in a still-warm oven for quite a while in order to dry out properly.

      Now that I have Nina’s recipe, though, and access to a new oven, I am keen to try it out!

      You’re absolutely right in your description of how long it took to photograph each step… sheesh! Were you peering over my shoulder, or what? It was more like: “Take several photos of each shot, from various angles, with flash, without flash, zoomed in, zoomed out, notice unflattering shadows and reflections, re-align items in shot, spill flour, clean up, spill salt, clean up, spill sugar, clean up, try again….”

  3. I’ve also been in home-made bread-baking mode πŸ™‚
    I’ve had great success with a “Wholewheat health bread (quick method)” using SJA de Villiers – Kook en Geniet (English version)
    Ek geniet dit baie πŸ™‚

  4. This bread look delicious, and (a little surprisingly) exactly as the bread we make here in Denmark, “Rug-brΓΈd”. Rye-bread is the most common and basic bread we eat here, it is used as “danish open sandwich” which means bread with sliced meat or vegetables. Whole grain has been a trend for a long time, now we see it in more and more products.
    The meditation place looks so peaceful, what a beautiful place. And the interior too, love the rustic look. – I know the meditation is the primary reason to be there, but a nice place would surely make me more peaceful that the opposite.
    Have you btw. posted the bread recipe?

    • I have never had Danish rye-bread, but it sounds delicious, particularly with such elaborate spreads as an open sandwich.

      Yes, our meditation retreat centre was very beautiful and peaceful – and you are so right: it is definitely easier to meditate in a calm and peaceful place, than it would be somewhere noisy and unpleasant. Mind you, that is one of the challenges of meditating: learning how to remain calm and centered, even in the midst of noise and distraction.

      I have *kind of* posted the recipe – all the information is in the slideshow. πŸ˜‰

    • Gosh, that sounds rather ambitious, Slowvelder! I have never used a black pot on a charcoal fire – do you mean a South African kind of potjie-pot? I am intrigued – how do you bake bread in that?

      • Reggie – I just put my bread dough in an oiled flat bottomed potjie pot and I put it over hot charcoal (about 5cm’s above the coals) and then I put about 8 hot charcoal bits on the lid and leave it shut for about 45 minutes – sometimes I have to put new coals on the lid about halfway through. You must use the good briquettes though – they last longer.

    • Oh dear, Munchow, you’re just a little too late – that loaf of bread has already disappeared, and I have not had time to bake another one. Hopefully tomorrow! I’ll keep you a slice, if you like. πŸ˜‰

  5. Pingback: Finding Inner Peace and Tranquility at Bodhi Khaya Retreat Centre « Grains of Sand

  6. Pingback: Heavenly bread | Finding Frohsinn - Living Now

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