{ Bread Raisin’ & Raisins }

Yesterday I discussed my love for winter, but today I hate it! Yes people, you heard me. I went from being the lady queen of winter to the groggy mess sitting on the couch with ten empty cups of tea cups in front of her, five boxes of Kleenex, and a cat who’s too lazy to make me some goddamn porridge.

In hindsight I’m so glade I had the chance to bake warm, toasty bread yesterday. Since discovering my new-found love of homemade basics – such as bread and pasta – I’ve been baking bread every week for my dear husband. Mind you I don’t use a bread machine! Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I like my breads crunchy and to come in all different shapes and sizes. Not to mention that I come from a long line of aggressive kneaders; It’s in my blood… and my arms.

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Bread is pretty simple to make and lasts all week in the cupboard wrapped in a tea towel. So even if you’re a family of one or ten, taking the time to make fresh bread is a must. Not only is it fresh and all those nasty preservatives are nowhere to be seen, it also has the advantage of allowing you to experiment with various flavors, shapes, and densities. You can add in anything you want, and that’s the beauty of it.

I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about the ins and outs of bread baking. After many trial and errors I found a website which explained how to bake good bread very simply. Gourmet Dough is a simple online blog about the basics of cooking bread. In the early stages of my bread trials they seemed to always turn out too dense, and too floury. I found out, water and yeast content are the keys to a successful batch. Adding more water to any bread makes it softer, while yeast content delivers various sizes. The website also offers some handing hints on how to knead bread properly (by hand) for those that want to take the dive.

Anyways, back to whats important here – I’m sick, and there’s nothing more I like when I’m sick then yummy, warm, raisin toast. So while I was preparing a gigantic bread loaf I set aside some dough (roughly two handfuls) and made some raisin toast. And OH how delicious it was this morning… yum, yum, yum.

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So here’s the basic wholemeal bread recipe and a little extra raisin goodness for those who are experiencing the downfalls of winter at the moment (or not).

be Cozy, be warm, don’t get sick, and enjoy your fresh bread!

{ Wholemeal Bread }

600g Wholemeal bread flour

450g Lukewarm water

2 Tbsp (large) Dried yeast

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Sugar

{ Directions }

1. Do not preheat over yet. I’ve made that mistake too many times!

2. Put flour in a bowl and make a crater in the center. Add in the yeast and around 2/3 of the water. I like to add in my pinches of salt and sugar now to activate the yeast. Start  musing it all together with your hands.  gradually add the rest of the water. I always love this part because I find we rarely use our hands to create anything these days. Anyways, once you’ve had your fun squishing all of the ingredient together dust a clean surface with flour and start the kneading process!

Kneading involves stretching the dough which lengthens the gluten strands that will hold the air as it rises producing a light and airy loaf. The classic way of kneading is to stretch the dough out in front of you, fold it back in on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat this process of stretching and folding for about ten minutes or until you get a smooth and elastic dough. The above method is the traditional English way and can be viewed in the flowing youtube video.  However the French have a very different method which involves picking the dough up and slapping it down, stretching it and then folding it back onto itself and can be viewed in this video. If you choose to wet your dough more to make it more fluffy and light, then use the second method, but in all other instances use the first.. This method makes soft, light and airy bread. Be recessional on the amount of flour you use on your counter-top when kneading. When you add flour you are messing with the ratio of flour to water in the dough. The more flour a dough contains the more dense the bread will be.

So the most important question: How do I know when it has been kneaded enough? With experience you will get to know when the dough has been kneaded enough. The appearance of the dough will change from rough to smooth and elastic. So with time you will just know when it is ready. In general it should take about 10 minutes. Keep in mind though that wholemeal bread will still have many bumps and lumps in it and won’t end up as smooth as normal white dough bread – generally the rule i go buy is that the kneading is done after 10 minutes and when I can stretch the dough and it forms a small whole in the center without tearing apart the rest of the dough.

4. It’s time to allow the dough to rise! This has to be the easiest part because you really don’t have to do anything. Form the dough into a ball, flour the bowl you used previously and plonk it in there. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to sit for at least an hour. I usually wait until it’s roughly twice the size. Gourmet dough recommends allowing the dough to rise away from direct light and in a cool place. Although it is always recommended to allow the dough to rise in a warm place, cooler temperatures when rising allows the flavors to fully form. But its up to you. It’s cold here, so it took a lot longer than usual (2 hours).

5. Now you can preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Lightly dust a surface with flour again, because its time to air out the dough. To do this I simply throw the dough (with force) onto the counter from above – literally taking the air out of it. Do this two or three times and then put it in a oiled baking tin or alternatively, and my favorite practice, shape the dough lightly with your hands (I.e. the dough can be circular or in the shape of a football) without disturbing it too much and bake it on a ceramic/or/terracotta pizza base. This allows the bread to form into natural shapes and allows for the heated plate to distribute heat through the center of the bread.

6. Cook for 30-50 minutes depending on the oven. Bread should be done when it’s golden on the outside and it sounds hollow (airy) when you tap it. Take bread out of the oven and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes. I’ve learnt that cutting into bread straight away is a big no no because it releases all the air inside the bread and it can deflate – BE WARNED.

{ Raisin’ Some Raisin Toast }

Essentially with the 1/3 left over from my bread making adventure last night  I added the following to make some raisin toast:

2 Tbsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp nutmeg

1/4 Cup of raisins

{ Directions }

1: simply add these ingredients towards the end of the kneading process. Make sure the ingredients are well combined with the dough and the raisins are distributed. Follow the rest of the above directions and you’ll have a wonderful time.

Note: Smaller amounts of bread will require a smaller amount of time in the over. This bread took only 20-30 minutes.

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