The artistic and extraordinary, freshly baked bread

Published: December 18, 2014
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The method I am sharing here is for straight dough which requires hardly three to four hours. PHOTO: FARAH KAMAL

Bread making is both science and art. It’s science in the sense that it involves a lot of chemistry, including fermentation, temperature control and enzymatic activity. It’s an art because crafting and baking artisanal handmade breads ensure quality, taste and satisfaction.

So, here is an artistic and extraordinarily versatile recipe for a very popular bread loaf.  I regularly bake this for home consumption as well as for my friends and family.

I bake these using either pre-fermented dough which requires a portion of the bread to be fermented for 16 to 20 hours. The method I am sharing here is for straight dough which requires hardly three to four hours for you to fill your house with that aroma of freshly baked bread and present a professional looking and tasting braided loaf filled with all kinds of amazing fillings.

Ingredients for the dough

Plain white flour – 250 grams

Whole wheat – 250 grams

Bread improver – 2 tsp (optional)

Instant dry yeast – 1 tbsp

Water – 2 oz/65 ml (lukewarm)

Milk – 2 oz/65 ml (lukewarm)

Castor sugar – 2 oz/55 grams

Salt – ½ tsp

Eggs – 2 (one for the dough and one for glazing)

Unsalted butter 2 oz/55 grams (room temperature)

Optional ingredients

Kelonji/nigella seeds – 2 tsp (for topping)

Sesame seeds or poppy seeds – 2 tsp (for topping)

Method for making the dough

1. Add all the dry ingredients and sift them together

2. Mix the beaten egg and butter. Then add water and milk.

3. Mix all the ingredients, with yours hands, into a loose, shaggy mass. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes for the yeast action.

4. Now knead it for six to eight minutes to a make it a supple and elastic dough. Leave it to prove in a warm place for one and a half hours until it gets double in size.

5. Punch down the dough for degassing and knead it lightly

6. Roll it out on a floured surface, into a 15×10 rectangle. Now transfer on a baking sheet and spread one of the fillings on it.

Photo: Farah Kamal

Photo: Farah Kamal

7. Then with a pizza wheel or a knife, cut out 10 to 12 strips at angle on either side of the filling, cutting just up to the filling.

Photo: Farah Kamal

8. Now make the bread, folding the ends neatly on each other in a criss-cross manner until all the stripes are folded.

Photo: Farah Kamal

Photo: Farah Kamal

9. Cover the bread with plastic and leave it to prove for 40 to 60 minutes or until its double in size

10. Then brush the top with a beaten egg. Add nigella seeds/kelonji if the bread is savoury or sesame/poppy seeds if it is sweet.

Photo: Farah Kamal

Photo: Farah Kamal

10. Now bake it in a pre-heated oven at a 375F/200C gas mark.

Photo: Farah Kamal

Ingredients for the vegetable filling

Baby spinach – 450 grams (roughly chopped)

Bell pepper/shimla mirch – 1 large chopped

Spring onion – 100 grams (chopped)

Garlic chives – ¼ cup

Fresh green coriander– ¼ cup (chopped)

Green chillies – 2 to 3 (chopped finely)

Cloves garlic chopped – 6 to 8

Olive oil – 1 tbsp

Cubed cottage cheese – 100 grams

Red chilli flakes – 1 tsp

Salt – 1 tsp

Photo: Farah Kamal

Photo: Farah Kamal

Method

1. Slightly heat the oil and sauté the garlic in it.

2. When fragrant, add all the other vegetables and spices, excluding coriander and chives.

3. Sauté the vegetable just for few minutes until they’re wilted. Then turn off the stove and leave them uncovered.

4. Add in the chives, coriander and cottage cheese while filling the dough with it.

Photo: Farah Kamal

Ingredients for the chicken mince filling

Minced chicken – 250 grams

Spring onion – 100 grams (chopped)

Garlic chives – ¼ cup

Fresh green coriander – ¼ cup (chopped)

Green chillies – 2 to 3 (finely chopped)

Cloves garlic – 6 to 8 (chopped)

Ginger paste – 1 tsp

Garam masala – ½ tsp

Roast cumin powder – ½ tsp

Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp

Photo: Farah Kamal

Method

1. Sauté the ginger and garlic in heated oil.

2. When fragrant, add in mince, salt and the spices, chillies and cumin. Fry all these for five minutes on medium fire.

3. Now add a cup of water and leave it covered for cooking.

4. When the water dries, add garam masala and the fresh spring onions, herbs chives and coriander.

6. Sauté these lightly for two to three minutes. Now turn off the fire and leave it covered.

Ingredients for the sweet nuts and fruits filling

Dried apricot – 250 grams

Currant – 50 grams

Almonds – 100 grams (chopped)

Walnuts – 50 grams (chopped)

Candied orange peels – 50 grams

Grated nutmeg (jaifal) – ¼ tsp

Lemon zest – 2 tsp (about 1 big lemon)

Any herbal or light brewed tea – 1 cup (use 1 tea bag and make tea without milk or sugar)

Castor sugar – 2 tsp

Melted unsalted butter – 1.5 oz/45 grams

Photo: Farah Kamal

Method

1. Soak the dried apricots in warm tea and leave it for 20 minutes.

2. Drain and chop the walnuts.

3. Add in it all the nuts and fruits and then add sugar, lemon zest and butter.

4. Mix this into a thick mass with a wooden spoon.

5. Your filling is ready to be added in the dough now.

Photo: Farah Kamal

Photo: Farah Kamal

Photo: Farah Kamal

There are multiple other ways in which the filling of this bread can be made. Try this at home and impress everyone with this aromatic, tasteful and exquisite homemade bread.

This post originally appeared here.

Farah S Kamal

Farah S Kamal

An education and development consultant, who is currently leading the iEARN programs in Pakistan. Photography is her hobby and passion and she tweets @fskamal (twitter.com/fskamal)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.