Tanzanians don’t eat much bread. The stuff you can get is dry, thin and tasteless, though it’s brought out as a delicacy for visitors! I knew before coming here that I’d have to make my own and set about learning how. I learnt about different types of flours and how you need ‘strong flour’ to make bread. A friend gave me her family’s tried and tested recipe for German bread and I got good at making that. Unfortunately, not much of that helped me here!
When it comes to flour, maize flour is most common but wheat flour is readily available. There’s just the one type. Well, my house mama tells me there’s a ‘super’ type, but I haven’t been able to find it! The constitution of the flour is different too – it’s drier and my tried and trust Australian recipe did not rise. Things got a bit tense with my house mama at first because she thought I didn’t know how to make bread, when it had worked perfectly well in Australia!
Plus, the oven doesn’t cook evenly, so it’s always a bit of guesswork trying to decide if the bread will be gooey in the middle or burnt on the bottom. (The over door doesn’t shut properly – it’s meant to be being fixed or replaced, but so far that’s taken several months!)
So I started experimenting with other bread recipes. It was worth it, because I found one which is wholesome, smells amazing while baking, and is pretty hard to mess up. No breadmakers here, but it’s still pretty easy.
- 6 heaped cups flour
- 2t sugar
- 2.5 cups ‘hand hot’ water (hot but not boiling)
- 2t salt
- 2t yeast
- 2T oil
- Prepare the yeast by mixing sugar and yeast and adding 1/2 cup of the water. Stir and then stand for at least 10 mins. This ‘activates’ the yeast – kind of like waking it up and giving it something to eat, so it should froth up. (If it doesn’t, start over.)
- Put flour and salt into a bowl.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in yeast liquid and 1.5 cups water plus oil. Mix thoroughly.
- Knead for 10 mins until it has a sheen and is springy to touch. (This is where you may need the extra half cup of water.)
- Leave to rise for 40 mins or until has doubled in size.
- Knock back (push it down) and gently knead again for 5 mins.
- Divide into 2/3 and 1/3. Use the bigger part for the loaf tin and shape the remaining dough into 4-6 bread rolls. Leave to rise for 40 mins. (It will rise further during cooking.)
- Bake on high for 35-40 mins for the loaf, 20 mins for the bread rolls. Loaf will sound hollow when tapped when cooked.
- Turn out of tins and cool on a wire rack.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.