by Susan Munro (pictures by Gisela Gonzalez)
It’s nine in the morning and Serge, Belgian bread-maker extroidennaire, is kneading home-made bread in New Life’s busy kitchen, where the Foundation’s culinary magic happens. Tasty vegie treats are turned out three times a day for 50+ residents, volunteers and staff thanks to our talented local cooks. One of the highlights of said day surely includes the delicious, warm bread, often peppered with nuts and fruit, which when slathered with a generous spread of sun-yellow butter, is an excellent start to the day (in fact, this simple delight has been known for helping some of the more reticent members of the community – moi included – arise of a morning).
Julien, Director of the Foundation, suggested to me that Serge ‘surely makes the finest breads in Thailand’, and recommended I check out the process. That’s how I ended up wrist-deep in dough mid-week in the kitchen. Now, I’m not much of a cook by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s little placid stirring or exacting measuring here – making bread is a real workout. Bread is made by ‘feel’, and ingredients are adjusted according to heat, humidity, and quality. I present to you the recipe for New Life’s famous bread.
Bread Recipe – White and Wheat Loaf
Makes 3 loaves
- 7 teaspoon yeast
- 1 kilo bread flour (white) or 500g whole wheat flour and 1450 white bread flour (wheat)
- 6 teaspoons salt
- 6 tablespoons soy oil
- 1275 – 1350 water (start with less, add more if needed, gauging for humidity)
- nuts/seeds/dried fruit (for multi-grain loaf, if desired)
- Sesame seeds for topping (black for white bread, white for dark)
- Large bowl, preferably stainless-steel
- Wooden spoon
- Small knife
- OPTIONAL: Stainless-steel cooling racks (or spare oven shelves, in a pinch).
- Mix all ingredients (apart from water) with spoon until combined.
- Add water.
- Knead dough 5 – 10 minutes on chopping board or shallow-sided platter. Adding flour to surface will prevent mix from sticking to the bottom. Twist bowl, fold, push firmly to avoid air-holes. If too much air is in the dough it will expand in the oven, cracking the bread. Really use some elbow grease to ensure smooth, supple result.
- Consistency of bread should be elastic but not too loose. Add flour if too soft, or a little water if too tough. Don’t add too much extra flour as can inhibit crust formation.
- Place bread back in flour-coated bowl. Cover with cling-wrap or similar. Stand for 1 ½ hours in cool, dark place.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Uncover dough, split and shape into round (‘cob’) loaves.
- Cut 3 – 4 straight lines into the surface of each loaf with a knife coated in oil (to prevent drag) – this will help prevent ugly cracks elsewhere. Sprinkle with seeds of choice (black sesame on the white loaf and white sesame on the wholegrain loaf were used).
- Spray with water to regulate surface humidity and get a good crust.
- Check oven temp. If 200 degrees, place loaves in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn up to 250 degrees for another 20 – 25, checking every five minutes. Baking time may differ depending on your oven’s settings. IMPORTANT: If ambient temperature is hot, bread may rise quicker than normal.
- Remove bread from oven and stand on stainless steel cooling racks, if possible. Be sure not to leave bread out too long in a humid climate, as it will quickly absorb water form the air and go stale.
- Ensure bread is relatively cool before wrapping in cling wrap (or placing in airtight bread container), and storing in fridge. Rapid temperature drop may affect consistency and flavour.
- Use bread within next few days – when ready to eat, set oven to 180 degrees and heat for 25 – 30 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure all your work is not wasted at the last minute! Once again, if ambient temperature is hot already bread may heat at a faster rate.
- Voila! Tasty breads courtesy of our fabulous Belgian pastry chef, Serge!
- 1 kg sourdough
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup sunflower/pumpkin seeds (optional)
- 1.050 gm multigrain flour
Recipe identical to the above, apart from the rising time, which is 4 – 5 hours.
NOTE: As mentioned, humidity will affect the bread-making process. This excellent article on eHow addresses this problem in further detail: ‘How to Make Bread in High Humidity.’
Susan is a writer, traveller and digital nomad. She blogs about her travels, mindfulness and other such things over at The Salient Script.