The joy of a homemade loaf

20 November, 2020

Have you got into baking bread?

There’s something about the smell of freshly baked bread that is guaranteed to get your tastebuds salivating, isn’t there? 

As well as smelling ah-mazing, baking bread is the ultimate therapeutic activity. The mixing, kneading, thumping, throwing and stretching of dough allows us to meditate on the stresses of life while creating something wholesome and necessary to feel our families. November has it’s very own  Homemade Bread Day so if you’ve never baked your own bread before, now is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Bake for your family, your neighbours or your colleagues; everybody loves a homemade loaf.

So, what is sourdough?

The sourdough baking craze swept the nation during 2020. It was like the minute we had our movements restricted we were compelled to go back to basics. People were crafting olive sourdough, Italian style rosemary loaves, fruit bread with fig and walnut, or sultanas, and the perfect accompaniment to any meal; garlic sourdough loaf. 

Sourdough is slow-fermented bread which is more digestible than ‘normal’ bread. It’s unique because it doesn’t need commercial yeast in order to rise. It’s made with a sourdough starter, a live fermented culture, which acts as a natural raising agent. The sourdough starter must be ‘fed’ with flour and water every day in order to encourage the fermenting process of the bacteria (good bacteria!) in the mixture. To make your loaf, mix some of the starter with flour, water and salt and leave to prove before baking.

Is soda bread really bread?

Not everyone has the time to take care of a sourdough starter though! If you’re more of a casual baker, don’t worry, there’s breads you can make on a whim too.

When you feel like getting your bake on but you’ve run out of yeast, there is a solution – make a soda bread! Soda bread is also known as quickbread because it can be whipped up and put into the oven straight away, without needing time to rise. The active ingredient in a soda bread is baking soda. When it’s added to the flour and salt mixture with buttermilk, the ingredients interact to create an air-filled, delicious loaf. The COVID fallback, banana bread, is actually a soda bread. It’s rich and moist and perfect for toast – not the absolute best for sandwiches though.

Flat and functional

Almost every culture in history that has had access to grain has created a version of a flatbread. This super practical type of bread is used to wrap or scoop food up, to make it easier to eat. Think about how Mexican tortillas folded around chilli and salads, how Indian naan soaks up curry and sauces, and how souvlaki meat is wrapped by Greek pita. They’re variations on the same theme.

Flatbreads are easy to make at home. The most common method is to mix up your dough, shape and flatten your flatbread, then cook on a hot dry frypan. Simple!

Yeast based bread

You don’t need to go all out if it’s your first time baking bread. Choose a basic yeast-based bread recipe to follow. Once you gain confidence, you can adjust the recipe to suit your individual tastes. Exchange rye or spelt flour for white, or add seeds or nuts for a multigrain loaf. You can sweeten your dough with raisins or cherries for a crowd pleasing fruit loaf.

Where to find bread in Chatswood

If you want bread but it’s really not your thing to bake, you can find sweet Asian bread and baked treats at Breadtop Express in Chatswood.

Zap Variety has lots of low-cost baking equipment and special paper bags and to wrap your loaves if you intend to give them away as gifts. Woolworths also stocks everything you need. If you’re looking for specialty flours and ingredients pop into Horn of Plenty.