Making bread at home can be a wonderfully pleasurable experience, there is an immense satisfaction to slicing into a freshly baked loaf that you have just taken from your own oven, writes Michelle Darmody.
Bread making need not be too complicated. Traditional Irish soda breads are a good introduction as they do not contain yeast. Yeast can be a little temperamental to work with, but bread soda is a more placid raising agent and not as tricky.
When you are using yeast the dried, powdered version works well in a home environment. It comes in small sachets that protect the yeast from the elements. If it is allowed to touch the air and moisture gets in the dried yeast it will spoil. Keeping it in small amounts allows you to use it over time.
The olive bread recipe included here is a good introduction to using this type of yeast. The temperature of the water is important, to get it right boil a kettle and measure 100 mls of the boiled water, then top it up with 300 mls of water from the tap. This creates the perfect — blood — temperature. The yeast will be activated correctly and your bread will rise nicely and evenly.
All three bread recipes have an added flavour, whether you choose to bake the cranberry and almond loaf or to use hazelnuts and honey, warm smells will waft through your house and make you realise that bread baking is a pleasure worth taking the time over.
Green olive and rosemary bread
500g of strong flour
7g of dried yeast
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of golden sugar
400 mls of water
2 tbs of olive oil
a handful of green olives, de stoned and roughly chopped
a small bunch of rosemary, chopped
Stir the flour, yeast, salt and sugar together in a bowl.
Combine the water and oil and pour it into the dry ingredients.
Work the dough with your hands in the bowl until all the ingredients are combined.
Lightly oil a clean surface and tip the dough out. Knead it until it becomes smooth. Place into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl and place it in a warm place for an hour to let the dough rise.
Knock back the dough to remove the largest of the air bubbles. Knead in the green olives and rosemary and shape the loaf. Place into an oiled 2 lb loaf tin and allow to rise again for a half an hour while the oven is pre heating to 220 degrees.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden.
Cranberry and almond loaf
450g of plain flour
1 tsp of bread soda
a pinch of sea salt salt
1 tbs of honey
1 tsp of vanilla essence
1 tsp of almond essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
250 mls of buttermilk
100g of dried cranberries
50g of chopped almonds
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and oil a 2 lb loaf tin. Line the base of the tin with parchment and leave it lie over each end of the tin. It will help you remove the loaf after baking.
Place the flour in a large bowl and sieve the bread soda and salt into the flour.
Stir the honey, vanilla, almond essence, buttermilk and egg together.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into the well. Bring it together with a fork until everything is combined.
Stir in the cranberries and nuts and scoop the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Use each end of the paper to help you ease the loaf out of the tin. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Hazelnut and honey loaf
250g of wholewheat flour
180g of plain flour
20g of porridge oats
1 tbs of wheatgerm
1 tsp of bread soda
1 tsp of sea salt
350ml of buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp of honey
A generous handful of hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Heat your oven to 200C. Oil a 2lb loaf tin and line the base of it with a strip of parchment.
Mix the flours, porridge and wheatgerm together in a large bowl. Sieve in the bread soda and salt and stir them in well.
Mix the buttermilk, egg and honey together.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet. When everything is combined stir in the hazelnuts.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes until it is golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
Use the ends of the baking parchment to help you ease the loaf from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
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