Different varieties of bread are available at bakeries and supermarkets all over Oman, but there’s nothing like warm, freshly baked homemade bread, prepared with one additional ingredient – love! Don’t worry if you haven’t ever attempted to bake bread at home, there’s always a first time. You don’t need a great oven or expert hands to land yourself a winner. Just follow these simple recipes and you can prepare soft/crunchy bread in your microwave itself. (Try it out when your home critics are away at work or school, and get their frank opinion before revealing your little secret.) Ta da!
2¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup water
1tsp instant yeast
2tbsp sunflower oil or melted butter
Begin by proofing the yeast. To one cup of warm water, add 1tbsp sugar and yeast. Stir and let the yeast activate – about 10 minutes. Set aside.Now, sieve both the flours with salt in a large bowl or plate with a rim. Add the proofed yeast and oil. Mix all the ingredients and knead to form a smooth dough. Add dry flour or little water suitably till you get a smooth, pliable dough. Apply oil all over the dough and keep in a covered bowl in a warm corner to leaven for 2-3 hours.
Then remove and punch the dough, which would have doubled in size, to deflate it. Roll it into a single log, tuck the edges down on both sides of the loaf and place in a greased loaf pan with the tucked edges down. Cover and let it rest for an hour.
Preheat oven to 180º C and bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Place the bread on a wire rack or tray. Slice and serve warm.
For preparing the yeast, warm up milk and sugar for few seconds. Add
the sugar and yeast, and whisk it well. Set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, it will look like a thick creamy paste which shows that the yeast is active – if it doesn’t foam, discard and start again.To prepare the dough, in a large bowl, combine flour with salt and baking powder. Mix it well. Slowly add water/milk – don’t put all of it at once, as you might not need all the water/milk. Then, add yeast and mix well. Add butter and oil to the flour, mix well and knead for 5-10 minutes to form a smooth dough – it should not be sticky. (Add a little flour to smoothen) Transfer the dough to a bowl. Cover with a wet towel and set aside in a warm corner for 1- 2 hours to double in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, dust it with some flour and start kneading again. This step is necessary – if the dough is not kneaded well, pav will turn out dense. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Then again knead slightly and roll to form a log. Cut into eight equal parts and form each into smooth balls. Flatten each ball slightly on your palm and tuck the rim inwards to create mushroom-like heads. Arrange on a greased tray with at least two cm space between each piece and all around. Cover with a wet towel and set it in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. Lift the wet towel to see them doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 180º C, brush the pavs with milk and bake for 10 -15 minutes or until light brown on the top. Broil for 2 minutes and remove. Run a butter knife around the edges to loosen up the pavs from the tray when inverted.Place the set of pavs on a wire mesh and brush with melted butter. Dont let the pavs cool off in the tray – they will get moist on the underside and become dense. When lightly pressed on top, the pavs should spring right back into it’s shape.
Crusty French Bread
3¼ cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2½ cups cool water
2tsp instant yeast
Cornmeal for dusting pan (optional)
In a large un-greased mixing bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together. Pour in the cool water and gently mix together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will seem dry and shaggy, but keep working it until all the flour is moistened. If needed, use your hands to work the dough ingredients together. The dough will be sticky, yet try to shape into a ball in the bowl as best you can. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and set aside at room temperature for 2-3 hours. The dough will just about double in size and stick to the sides of the bowl.
You can continue with the procedure or leave in the refrigerator to make the next day (at least 12 hours). To prepare, lightly dust a large nonstick baking sheet with flour or cornmeal. Turn the cold dough out onto a floured work surface and roughly shape into one circular piece or cut in half and make two logs using floured hands. Loosely cover and allow to rest for 45 minutes. You will bake the dough on this prepared baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 240° C. When ready to bake, using a very sharp knife, score the bread loaves with 1cm deep slashes. Place the shaped and scored dough (on the flour/cornmeal dusted pan) in the preheated oven on a low rack Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Gently tap the loaves– if they sound hollow, the bread is done. Remove and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
For a slightly crispier crust, after the oven is preheated, try to accommodate a a glass tumbler half full with hot water while baking. The steam helps create a crispier crust.