The wonder of flour and yeast

flour and yeast (640x480)

Tomato bread + bacon rolled bread + fig and chocolate bread

I’ve developed a fascination with yeast.  When I started with my studies at the chef school, I dreaded walking into the pastry class.  But the day I got my head around yeast, I was in love.  Such a simple organism, just treat it right and you can create feasts.  Getting to understand the basics behind what happens when you add yeast, how sugar at the wrong time can kill it, but is also the food for yeast, will ensure that wonderful things will happen to the dough when it proofs. (I will not be giving you a lecture on the reaction of yeast etc; you can find it in any reliable bake book or site and I understand it in my simplistic manner.)

With this post, I want to sing the praises of two such seemingly simple ingredients as flour and yeast.  I am a firm believer that if you have flour – of any kind – in your cupboard, you can create amazing things.  Even without yeast, by simply adding water, a touch of salt and perhaps some other spices, you can make a simple unleavened bread that can go nicely with curries or stews.

Some bread ideas

I am not a particularly big bread eater and I think it came from the fact that store bought bread (the factory produced ones) really just aren’t worth a spread of butter.  But all of changed when my fear for yeast and breads turned into a fascination.  From the simple loaf of bread, fresh from the oven or that same loaf flavoured with olives or rosemary or caramalised onions or garlic to some more adventurous breads.  When the bread tin is empty and time is limited, I make quick flatbreads, that need some baking powder for a bit of a lift and can simply be baked in a pan.  This same flatbread can turn into a sumptuous dinner bread, by making it bigger and topping it with all kinds of wonderful dinner goodies; from meats to veg.  There’s the beer bread that’s made during braai time, in a black pot in a hole in the ground with a touch of glowing embers underneath and on top of the pot.

What about lemon?  Yip, I’ve topped the dinner bread with lemon zest, even added some lemon zest to the flatbreads and the unleavened breads.  It gives just a bit of a zing and freshness to it.

And what else can we learn from yeast and flour.  The same thing that can kill yeast can also let it grow.  I guess that’s like life – bad things sometimes happen, the best is to take the lesson from it, rather than letting it get you down.  Going to the old cliché, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, but it’s true.

Veg ingredients (640x466)

For the bread creations, I first walked the garden and saw what was available to create something with.  From the garden:  we had our first figs, these I hamstered away for a nice bread.  And still there are tomatoes, so naturally this was used and for the last bread, basil was picked from the garden to accompany a bacon and mozzarella rolled bread for dinner.

Yeast spunge (640x414)

I used a dough recipe that I sometimes use to make a thicker base pizza.  It’s one where you get the yeast to spunge a bit before the time.  This is where sugar doesn’t kill it, but works together with the tepid water.  For the rolled bacon bread, see the note on the flour, as I adjusted the combination slightly.

Basic dough recipe

1 packet of yeast

5ml (1 t) castor sugar

250ml (1 cup) luke warm water

375g cake flour

5ml (1 t) Salt

15ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil

Combine the water and yeast.  Then add the sugar.  Let this stand to foam (around 5 minutes).

Now combine the flour, salt and olive oil in a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and add the foamed yeast mixture.

Combine this with your hands till you have a dough.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until you have an elastic dough (around 10 minutes).

Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl and lightly oil the top of the dough, to prevent it from cracking.  Cover with a cloth and let it proof in a warm spot for 30 minutes or until double in size.

Make this one batch of dough and you can make 1 tomato and 1 fig and chocolate bread.  Simply split the dough into two similar sized balls and roll into rounds.

Rolled dough (640x439)

Place these rounds onto two separate baking trays, lined with baking paper.  Top them with the choice of bread toppings.

Tomato bread

Tomato bread (640x417)

The oven must be pre-heated to 180 °C.

4-6 tomatoes, sliced into thick slices

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil, for drizzling

After you’ve rolled out the rounds, lift and crimp the edges of the round to make a bit of an edge.  Almost like you’re creating a bit of a ‘dish’.  That is to prevent any juices from the tomatoes running over the edges.

Simply place the tomatoes on top of the bread.  If it’s smaller tomatoes, you can just halve them and simply press them skin side into the bread.

Grind salt and black pepper over this and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until it’s done to your liking.

Fig and chocolate bread

Fig chocl bread ready for oven (640x585)

This was one of my surprises.  I had loads of chocolate left from recipe testing and decided to add that to the bread.  And what a surprise.

The oven must be pre-heated to 180 °C.

10-15 figs, size dependent, quartered

50 g dark chocolate or milk chocolate, grated

Touch of salt flakes

30-45 ml honey, to drizzle before serving

Do the same as with the tomato bread and create a lifted edge to the round bread, to capture any escaping chocolate melts.

Press the quarters of figs into the bread.

Sprinkle with the chocolate.

Finish with just a touch of salt flakes, to awaken the chocolate a bit.  Literally about 1.25-2.5ml.

Pop in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the chocolate is nicely melted.

Remove from the oven and drizzle with the honey.  You can serve it warm, it is quite nice and with a dollop of ice cream can be an interesting dessert.

However, it is an interesting sweetbread when it’s cold.

Rolled bacon filled bread

This was the family favourite.  After dinner, this was all that was left of the bread.

Rolled bread left (640x414)

NOTE:  on the dough, I used the same basic dough recipe, but just made it ½ cake flour and ½ white bread flour.  This was to give it a bit more body.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C.

Lightly oil a baking tray with some oil.

250 g diced bacon, cooked and make sure it’s diced small even if you have to put it through the food processor after it’s cooked

280 g mozzarella cheese, grated

100 g fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Roll out the dough to form a rectangle.

On the long side of the rectangle, sprinkle some of the bacon, along the length of the bread.

Roll the dough over the bacon, like you would a swiss roll.

Then sprinkle cheese and basil along the length again and roll the dough over the cheese like a cylinder.

Start again by sprinkling some bacon, and rolling, then cheese and basil and rolling.

Keep repeating this process until all the filling have been used and you’ve got a nice section of dough left to close it up.

Take this long sausage and roll it up to form a round cake shape.

rolled bread (640x560)

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the bread is done and the cheese golden brown.

Rolled bread oven 2 (554x640)

Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly so you can cut it.  You can also serve the bread cold.

Lola not impressed (486x640)






Lola is not to keen on bake-day.  She always ends up with flour all over her face, cause she’s so inquisitive. So, special doggie snacks are given to make up.


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