A real-estate agent once told my mother that that best way to sell your house is to make sure you have fresh bread baking in the oven. The woman claimed that the fragrance of fresh bread in the oven was enough to entice even the most scrupulous of house-hunters into purchasing the shabbiest shack on the street. Unfortunately we never got the opportunity to test out this theory. But I must say that passing a bakery early in the morning with its perfume of baking bread floating amidst the crisp morning air was indeed reason enough to cross the threshold and buy something. The bread I guess, just sells itself, and what a beauty it is.
I love bread. I love sourdoughs, I love baguettes, I love brioches, but really any bread will do. Whoever said carbs were bad should be sent to the loony bin; bring on the carb-fest any day. Carbs are great and I will defend carbs to the very end.
But sadly I must confess that for some time now, I have been convinced that yeast has a personal vendetta against me.
There, it’s finally out in the open, no more pretence, my feelings about yeast are laid bare for all to know. Yeast just doesn’t like me, and to be honest I don’t care much for it either. I love bread, but I don’t get along with yeast. Whenever I see a recipe requiring any sort of yeast, I avert my eyes, and avoid it as if it were a black cat on Friday the 13th. Because of this, sadly no breads are ever baked in my oven. No intoxicating aroma of baking carbs waft through my kitchen; bad news if I were to decide to sell a house.
I don’t know what it is about yeast, but all my experiences with it have left me soured. When it comes to baking with yeast, there have been one too many disappointments, one too many failures, one too many catastrophes. What emerges from the oven look more like rock formations, rather than something edible and would probably be of more interest to a geologist than a baker.
However recently, I decided to tackle this fear of baking with yeast. If I could overcome my trepidation towards pastry-making I’m sure that this won’t be any different. Now I have come to think of yeast as the stray dog that likes to bully the neighbourhood kids. It can smell your fear, although if you approach it with a certain amount of bravado and confidence it will just leave you to be. So off I go towards that bull terrier called yeast; my gait confident, my head held high, ready to tackle this beast.
I used Donna Hay’s recipe for Aged Cheddar Breads; the recipe sounded simple enough and I would seriously have to doubt my ability to read if I were to stuff this up. All that was required, to put it bluntly, was to throw everything into a bowl and knead away. Simple, right? And the result?
Well, let’s just say that there’s no rush to open my own bakery. The bread was quite tasty, the sharpness of the parmesan and the mustard seeds and the delicate texture of the cheesy interior is quite delectable. Although I have to say the bread came out a little bit too dense for my liking and after eating half a loaf, I felt that my stomach had expanded to the size of a Nepalese tepee. Be that as it may, the recipe is so simple and foolproof, that if you are a beginner in bread-making, you won’t be able to stuff it up. So if you need a boost in confidence when it comes to baking bread, give this recipe a try.
Vintage Cheddar Breads
from DH Magazine (Issue 3)
½ tsp sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 cups plain all-purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
40g vintage cheddar cheese, cut into 6 logs
Preheat oven to 200ºC.
To make the dough, place the yeast, sugar water, flour, salt, olive oil, parmesan and mustard in a large bowl and mix to a soft dough.
Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic,
Divide into six pieces and flatten slightly into discs.
Place a piece of cheddar on each disc and roll to enclose.
Place each roll in a greased and floured 9 x 5 mini loaf tin.
Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to stand in a warm place for 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.Serve warm.