Sunday, 11 March 2012

Breaking Bread

I have never had much success when trying to make yeast bread. I did not inherit the genes I guess.   My Mom was not a bread maker.  Bread making was not her forte and it is definitely not mine.  

Thankfully Canada is a country rich in multiculturalism.  This diversity of people means that we are able to buy a whole host of different breads. When yeast is used to make it rise it is called ‘leavened’ when yeast is not used bread is referred to as ‘unleavened’.  Then there are the sweet breads and those like pumpkin or gingerbread that fall into a ‘coffee cake’ category of their own.   

From the First Nations People we inherited recipes for fry bread and bannock. Both can be prepared in a short period of time.  Once the dough is mixed together and kneaded, it is then shaped into a flat circle and cooked in a heavy cast iron frying pan. The ‘Bannock Awareness’ recipe book is a collection of bannock recipes and little known facts about First Nations history and culture. Check out for more great info.
Sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. The Egyptians made sourdough bread as far back as 1500 BC. If you combine flour with water or milk and let it sit on your counter, wild yeasts in the air, will convert the natural sugars into lactic acid, giving the dough a sour taste. You can keep a sourdough cultured for eternity if is kept active by adding   flour to a small portion of the raw dough. .  I have currently, a sour dough starter in my fridge that my father-in-law Warner Troyer (January 1932September 1991)   gave to me over twenty years ago.  He might be gone but his sour dough lives on.  I pull it out once a year, top it up, and use it for baking. German immigrants know it as ‘Saurteig’ and African- Canadians call it ‘Most’.

There are so many other types of breads available to us like:

Pita bread, well known from the Middle East, Mediterranean and Balkans cuisine, is popular yeast-leavened flat bread.  It is baked in a very hot oven where steam causes two layers to separate during baking.  The hollow centre that is formed makes a pocket that can be opened at one end to fill for a sandwich often with falafel.  Pita bread is available at all grocery stores. 

Naan, an Indian flat bread is sold at several large grocery stores and is most commonly used for dipping into sauces when eating an Indian meal.  

From Mexico we have inherited the tortilla, thin unleavened flat bread made from finely ground corn.  

Bing is Chinese flat bread similar to the tortilla. All of these are available in most grocery or specialty shops.

One of the best references about bread is ‘Beard on Bread’ by James Beard.

My family and I love the smell of home-made bread   A few years ago I went to my local hardware store  and it  was there that I met the machine that was soon to become my best friend, a bread maker.

You don’t need to know anything about yeast, gluten, or any of the complicated things that have always made bread-making the territory of sophisticated bakers.   With my breadmaker there’s almost no pre-mixing required.  No matter which bread I make, I can measure the ingredients right from the boxes and bags.  I just use a measuring cup to put them into the machine.  It takes me five minutes. I turn it ON and walk away. It mixes, kneads, rises, and bakes any kind of bread in a matter of hours.  It even signals me with a ‘peep’ when it’s finished. Clean up is a breeze as there are only 3 pieces to rinse. The bread maker is true technology at its best.  The Canadian website ‘Bread World’ has recipes that are for conventional breads and for the bread maker.

Half a loaf is better than none.
English Proverb 

Photo courtesy of my son Graham Troyer ‘Falafel in a Pita Bread’

Stay tuned for my next entry about beans...

No comments: