Rising to the Occasion

“It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it.”

M. F. K. Fisher

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I seem to have been making quite a few different types of bread this last week, so I thought I’d base this week’s blog on it.

Some people find bread making a bit of a mystery and/or too time consuming.  I personally mostly find it very satisfying.  Partner upset you?  Bash a bit of bread dough.   Kids playing up?  Bash a bit of bread dough.  In-laws invited themselves round for dinner?  Bash several batches of bread dough.  By the time that warm loaf is out of the oven and wafting its amazing aroma about your home, you’ll be wondering why you got so upset.

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Bread is pretty much a universal food.  It comes in all shapes, sizes and flavours and can be made ‘leavened’, meaning it has a raising agent, or ‘unleavened’, without a raising agent. Originally unleavened, bread has been around for an estimated 30,000 years.  It would have been very basic initially; hand-ground grains and water.  Whilst not particularly appealing by today’s standards, it was the forerunner of today’s baked confections and its simplicity made it a very portable commodity, essential for the nomadic people of the time.

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Wholemeal tortillas, an unleavened bread

It took a good few thousands of years before the bread evolved to resemble anything like the white loaf so popular in the 20th century.  It was the Egyptians that isolated the yeast that accidentally created leavened bread.  They discovered that by keeping a portion of the yeasted dough each day, it could be used to start a fresh batch off.  This method is still used today and is known as a ‘sour-dough starter’.  As the milling process was refined, so it became possible to make a whiter bread, making it a more valuable product.  However, in more recent years, it has been discovered that from a health point of a view, bread made with the whole grain is more fibrous, thus making it much better for us (link).

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Standard, 21st century, ready sliced, wholemeal loaf

I do like a good, nutty wholemeal loaf, especially one with a mixture of grains and/or seeds.  It’s also another way of getting in extra protein.  If you make your own bread, supplement it with nutritional yeast for extra B12 as I have done in these seeded wholemeal rolls (link to recipe).

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Seeded wholemeal rolls

Crispbreads, generally from Sweden and Norway, are unleavened breads, tortillas (link to recipe) are from Central America and popular as ‘wraps’, and chapattis are an unleavened flatbread from India.  Naan bread (link to recipe) is also from India but uses yeast, and is traditionally made with yogurt.  For a vegan version, swap the yogurt for a plant based one.  My preference is Tesco’s own ‘Free From’.

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Wholemeal tortillas

Once you have got the hang of making plain naan bread, why not try different fillings?  Our favourite is Peshwari naan, a sweetened filling of coconut, almonds and plump, juicy sultanas.  There is also Keema naan, a filling of mince lamb and spices.  I would imagine the lamb could be swapped for soya mince, or why not try a simple garlic and fresh coriander filling?  Simply chop up some coriander and garlic and mix into a little melted vegan ‘butter’.  Spread onto the naan bread about 3-4 minutes before they’ve finished cooking and repeat when the naans are out of the oven.

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