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).
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).
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!