I am an occasional bread baker, yet working with yeast is a process that is still veiled in mystery for me. It seems like voodoo magic that an inert pile of grey-brown powder can breathe life into a lump of dough and enable it to rise into a regal loaf, standing proud above the pan.
I haven’t come across any other ingredient that imparts such life into a dish. Dough, once risen, has a warmth and vitality to it that makes it feel almost like living flesh under your hand. If you’ve never made your own bread before, the dough is not cold to touch like pastry or pasta dough. It is warm, as the yeast must be mixed with warm water and left to rise in a warm place. And rather than being solid or stiff it has a squishy softness reminiscent of the fleshier parts of a woman’s body that we try so hard to hide. When you knock it back by punching it with your fist after its first rising, you can smell the bubbles of yeasty air escaping from the dough, as if you knocked the breath out if it.
My ever-present juggling act of work and kids makes it tricky for me to make bread on a regular basis. Tricky, but not impossible. But still I refuse to let a breadmaker machine enter my kitchen as I have a cupboard full of appliances already, and kneading the bread by hand is half the fun.
Some German friends discovered a brand of bread mix that they fell in love with, as it was the closest thing to proper German rye bread that they had discovered in Australia. Bread is a religion to Germans. It’s a staple at all their meals, and any group of Germans living in Australia will talk for a matter of a few minutes before they start lamenting the lack of proper bread here.
So my German girlfriends would get together, bake a loaf of Laucke German Grain bread, and sit around in the kitchen eating warm bread straight from the oven, spread with a thick blanket of cream cheese, quark or unsalted butter.
Who says Germans don’t know how to have fun?!
I’m usually not a fan of prepackaged food, but I think if you are a little intimidated by the thought of baking bread yourself, a bread mix like this one is a great place to start. You can pick up a box at the supermarket (look near the flour), and it will cost around $7 for four loaves… (whoever said it costs a lot to eat well?). I love the mix of grains in this mix, and it produces a loaf of bread with a compact, moist crumb that’s reminiscent of a heavy cake.
Making bread is also the perfect activity to entertain kids on a rainy afternoon. They can help you knead the dough, and watch how the yeast makes the dough rise and grow – an endlessly fascinating science experiment for little ones. I’m generally besieged with questions like, “Can I poke it? Can I poke it?”
This bread has become an occasional feature for dinner at our house. If I manage to bake a loaf the day before, or that afternoon (you can start it as late as about 4pm and it will be coming out of the oven at dinnertime), dinner is easy. Just make a platter of ham, avocado, cheese, olives, and maybe some dip and carrot or celery sticks. Sometimes I’ll pick up half a bbq chicken on the way home too, or make a simple salad. The bread is very filling, and two slices will fill up the hole in a hungry adult.
We call this meal German Dinner, and it’s a favourite for our kids. They love being able to make up their own sandwich from the platter, and I love being able to get dinner on the table in a matter of seconds.
This is not a sponsored blog post. It’s an honest review of a product that I like and want to tell people about.