Making bread with yeast is endlessly satisfying, especially in these fraught times.
The act of kneading dough by hand serves two purposes: it helps to get rid of Covid-19 angst, and there is immense satisfaction in seeing a shaggy lump of dough transformed, in my hands, into a smooth, springy ball.
Punching the puffed-up dough after proofing is even better. Take that, isolation! I've had enough of you, safe distancing!
Yeast is not even that hard to find. My colleagues and I have spotted it in supermarkets and grocery shops.
There is, however, one downside to baking with yeast. It cannot be hurried.
The first rising is at least an hour, most likely two or three. Then there is usually a second rising. So yeast will not do when one is in need of instant gratification.
Thankfully, there are other leaveners which will make bread that will rise high without the long wait. Baking powder, baking soda, beer and self-raising flour do the job in a fraction of the time it will take yeast to get its act together.
Here are three quick breads to make: Beer Batter Cheese Bread, Whole Wheat And Oat Bread, and Pumpkin Buns.
1. BEER BATTER CHEESE BREAD
One of my first Hunger Management columns featured a quick bread leavened by beer. This recipe is adapted from I Wash You Dry, a cooking blog by American mother of five, Shawn Syphus. Her recipe is simpler than mine, and I have streamlined it even more.
• The sliced chilli topping is not cast in stone. Leave it out, or ring the top with slices of bell pepper or shallots, or stir chopped scallions through the batter.
• Hustle the bread into the oven as soon as possible, so you get the full lifting effect of the beer.
• Don't like cheese? Other savoury add-ins include small cubes of ham or other cured meat, or fresh herbs such as dill and thyme. Sweet options include citrus zest and dried fruit such as cranberries or chopped-up apricots. If going sweet, leave out the cheese, chilli powder and pepper.
• You do not need expensive beer for this. I buy whatever is on sale.
• Store leftovers in an airtight container or zipper bag for up to three days, and toast before eating.
- 120g block cheddar
- 350g self-raising flour
- 3 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp chilli powder (optional)
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 330ml can of beer
- 2 large chillies, sliced on the diagonal (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease a 20cm x 10cm loaf pan with cooking oil. Line it with baking paper so that the paper extends about 5cm along the longer sides of the pan. Grease the paper. This makes it easier to remove the bread from the pan after baking.
2. Grate the cheddar coarsely, set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the self-raising flour, sugar, salt, chilli powder, if using, and black pepper. Whisk to mix thoroughly.
4. Add the cheese and beer. Mix with a sturdy metal spoon just until there are no streaks of flour in the batter. Scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.
5. Scatter the sliced chillies, if using, on top.
6. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a rack. Cool the bread in the pan for five minutes, then pull it out of the tin using the paper overhang. Peel off the paper and cool the bread completely on a rack before slicing and eating.
Serves four to six
2. WHOLE WHEAT AND OAT BREAD
This recipe comes from Gemma Stafford, a professionally trained chef and baker living in southern California. Her website, Bigger, Bolder Baking, has lots of sensible, workable recipes. What I love about this bread is what goes into it - whole wheat flour and oats. And yet, the bread is not stodgy or dry. The addition of honey does not make the bread sweet, but it smells wonderful while the bread is baking, or when you toast slices of it for breakfast.
The recipe calls for the bread to be baked in a 23cm x 13cm loaf tin. I prefer a taller loaf and make this in a 20cm x 10cm loaf tin, adding 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time.
- 225g plain yogurt
- 225ml whole milk
- 55ml canola oil
- 70g honey
- 1 beaten egg
- 85g old-fashioned rolled or quick-cooking oats
- 185g whole wheat flour
- 145g plain flour
- 2¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1¼ tsp salt
- Pumpkin seeds (optional)
- Sunflower seeds (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
1. Place the yogurt, milk, oil, honey and egg in a large mixing bowl, stir to combine thoroughly. Add the oats, stir again to combine, and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Grease a 23cm x 13cm loaf tin with cooking oil. Line it with baking paper so that there is a 5cm overhang on each of the long sides of the pan. The paper sling will make it easier to unmould the bread after baking. Grease the paper.
3. Preheat the oven to 190 deg C.
4. Measure out the whole wheat flour, plain flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. When the oats have soaked for 45 minutes to 1 hour, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine with a large metal spoon just until there are no dry streaks of flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with the back of a spoon.
5. If using, sprinkle pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds on top. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. If using a 20cm x 10cm pan, bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the bread comes out with no wet batter clinging to it. If the top begins to brown too rapidly, place a sheet of aluminium foil over the pan.
6. After baking, let the bread cool in the tin for five minutes. Then lift it out of the pan using the paper sling, remove the paper and let the bread cool completely on a metal rack before slicing and eating.
Serves four to six
3. PUMPKIN BUNS
This recipe came about one night, when I was startled by the beautiful golden hue of a yeasted pumpkin bread on the Serious Eats website. It was by Stella Parks, one of my favourite baking wizards. I took her idea of using mashed pumpkin to replace the wet ingredients in a bread, but used self-raising flour instead of bread flour and yeast. The result is a cross between a scone and bread.
• Resist the urge to add more flour, or to use your hand to knead the dough. This recipe makes a very sticky dough.
• Weigh out the pumpkin after cooking and mashing.
• The recipe can be doubled or tripled. Just stick to the same weight ratio of mash and flour.
• The buns are good for three days in an airtight container, toast before eating.
- 150g cooked, mashed pumpkin
- 150g self-raising flour
- ¼ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a sturdy metal spoon to mix them into a soft, sticky dough.
3. Divide into four roughly equal portions. Flour your hands lightly and roll each portion into a ball. Place on the lined tray.
4. Bake for 18 minutes. After baking, cool the buns on a metal rack until warm, then serve. If not eating immediately, cool completely on a metal rack before storing in an airtight container.
Makes four buns
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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