My instinctual response to any mention of Mary Berry is to immediately begin to pre-heat my oven in preparation for a bake. So, here I am, in the midst of the excitement of the start of the new season of The Great British Bake Off, staging my dramatic return to baking and blogging.
Cape Town really is magnificent at this time of year, the mountain just about sparkles in the soft-lit blue skies- imploring you to put on some sensible shoes and come outside to “seize the day” : to be honest it’s all really a bit of a bother . Some of us would far prefer to be inside watching back-to-back episodes of Project Runway with a bit of Star Trek mixed in (for balance) than dirtying our hems outdoors. But when Cape Town is behaving in this way it’s difficult not to feel guilty about keeping the curtains drawn- even if you are having a perfectly lovely time in the dark.
Boy, are these buns delicious: the subtle background of spice brings these flavours together to make for a grown-up yet sweet and deeply comforting experience. I chose to serve this to my coolest and most excitingly trousered friends because the addition of one of Cape Town’s favourite local “craft” brewery’s stout makes these buns as hip as they are delicious.
Rooibos, Apple and Roasted Pecan Breakfast Bread
While this loaf makes for a handsome and edifying breakfast it also gets on terribly well with a bit of cheese- making its virtues enjoyable and accesible to the late riser/eater.
Makes One Medium Loaf
- 300ml strong dark brewed Rooibos Tea, luke -warm
- 340g white bread flour
- 20g fresh yeast (or 3tsp dried fast action yeast)
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 100g Roasted Pecans roughly chopped
- 50g Dried Apple roughly chopped
- 1tsp honey and some extra for drizzling
- A little oil
A) For the Starter:
- Combine Rooibos, yeast, 1tsp honey and 100g of the flour in a large bowl.
- Leave to stand for about an hour and a half.
B) For the loaf
- Mix the remainder of the flour and the salt to the starter.
- Now knead the dough until its smooth and hold its shape (click here for a clear guide to knowing when you can stop kneading: http://www.thekitchn.com/bread-baking-tip-how-to-tell-w-156772)
- Shape the kneaded dough into a rough ball and place into a large oiled bowl
- Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave the dough to rise until it is about twice its original size.
- Place the risen dough onto the counter and knead quickly and gently. Spread it out on the counter.
- Sprinkle the dough with the Apple and Roasted Pecan and knead until its evenly spread.
- Shape dough into loaf (or place into bread tin), remove any apples pieces that are on the surface of the crust (these will burn quickly). Here is an excellent guide to shaping bread:http://www.thefreshloaf.com/handbook/shaping
- Allow the loaf to prove for about 30-40 minutes, until is 1 ½ times its original size. If you want to score your loaf do this about 20minutes into this time.
- Bake in the top third of a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 40 minutes (until loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath)
- Remove from oven and drizzle with a little honey
- leave to cool before slicing.
Focaccia and the argument from irreducible complexity (Alternative Title)
Nothing encourages my megalomania more than a successful loaf of bread. I get quite giddy with my opinion of myself after such a success, swanning about my kitchen like I have just descended Mnt Olympus to pop something into an oven. I mercilessly lord over my yeast colonies like a cruel titan, fuelled by a mad love of power; eventually destroying them in a fit of pleasure.
How do I explain this? Well, with reference to a philosophical argument of course:
There is a popular pro intelligent design argument that goes something like this: the human eye is just too complex, specific and all together wonderful for it to be a product of mere natural selection it must be the work of God. (Well, that’s it poorly stated with poetic license – For a more accurate expression you will have to go somewhere other than a baking blog). Now, I know better than to comment on the merits of this argument. I mention it only because the reasoning here is something like what I think when I successfully execute a bread recipe. This is going to be a bit of stretch, I ask you ,reader, to take a few leaps with me. There are times when I bite into a piece of bread and think: “This loaf’s flavour is too complex, its crumb too tender and its crust too crisp for its baker (me) to be a mere mortal- hobbyist. This must be the work of something great.”
I get mixed up, you see. Bread is just so wonderful and glorious that I get confused. I start thinking that the miracles that happen when you put yeast, flour, water, heat and pressure together have something to do with me. I do eventually find my way back to humility. This is usually as a result of my habit of pressing my pale and hungry face up against bakery windows. The sight of a fat pile of perfectly shaped and scored country loaves can be profoundly humbling to a recreational baker (humbling and appetite inducing).
My latest loaf a caramelised onion and thyme focaccia (the one in the photographs) is going to require a considerable amount of window-time to bring me back to earth, but first its time for a sandwich.