Sunday, July 8, 2012

Epic Homemade Bread on Sunday in Tanzania

Tenzing is horrified by the local bread.
For foodies like our family, living in Tanzania can be trying. The chicken tastes like fish, the fish... well, I wouldn't eat that if I were you (if you're not on the coast). The veggies are rarely refrigerated and often have questionable chemicals that may or may not have been sprayed on them. They are generally nutrient poor and lacking in any real flavor. Some more trustworthy products are airfreighted in and cost double or triple their Western price in the local expat supermarket.

Luckily humans are infinitely adaptable, and denial eventually turns to acceptance. In the case of food, this means making the best of what we do have that is good, paying the premium for quality products from abroad, and using cooking techniques to add flavor. It also means working extremely hard to find quality producers and buying whatever they have. We are very lucky to have a permaculture NGO called foodwatershelter that grows seasonal organic veg and sells it to us. Also, a lovely Dutch expat family runs a huge farm called Simba Farms on West Kilimanjaro that generally turns out nice produce, especially beautiful beets in season. 

The bread here is especially and universally awful. The main ingredients are generally GMO flour and "vegetable fat". Gross. 

We've never baked our own bread, in part because we believed the myth that you need a steam-injected professional oven to make really amazing artisan bread. We're happy to report that it is possible to make amazing bread in even our very humble kitchen. The secret is a technique invented by Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street bakery in NYC and popularized by Mark Bittman of the New York Times. Literally ANYONE can do this, though you do need a cast iron pot like a Le Creuset

Luckily, we just picked up a Chasseur Enamel Pot for $30 from some expats that didn't want to lug it back to the USA.

The utter genius of this recipe is that your cast iron pot becomes like a miniature steam oven. The other genius part is that you let time do all the work. So you let the bread rise for 12-18 hours, but you have to do almost no work. Most important, there is no kneading, zero, nada. Awesome.

So the only ingredients we used were flour, water, salt, instant yeast and a bit of whole wheat flour for the crust. But oh, what flour! We found this surprisingly well-stocked health food store in Nairobi, and they had imported flour from Glebe Farm in the UK. Utterly awesome organic flour from the English countryside.

If you want to try yourself (I bet you'll get it right the first time). Recipe: at NY Times , also best to watch the video here first.

We only ran into one hitch - the always unreliable power here went off just after we turned on the oven. Luckily the bread hadn't gone in, or all our hard work would have been lost! We should have our house largely "off grid" in the next few weeks, as we're putting in a backup power system. We're quite excited about that. 

 Now for Laura's turn to share in her joy of having fresh bread to eat... making a B.L.A.T.!


 As most of you know I used to be gluten-free, I'm now a little more of an opportunivore since living in the UK. How can you say no to fresh french croissants de buerre. I can't, nor shouldn't! I realized while living in Europe that I could digest bread made from more ancient wheat, wheat that's never been genetically engineered or altered. So... bread I eat, and love it although we really don't eat it that much.

Today I'm relishing in Xavier's creation and adding some extra pizzazz and flair, I'm making a lovely BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato). Since finding out I am allergic to eggs I have stayed away from mayo for the most part. So really the only true recipe here is my famous yogurt dijon eggless mayo!

Yogurt Egg-less Mayo
-3 Tbls. greek yogurt
-1 Tbls. dijon mustard
-salt and pepper to taste
*mix well, voila!

-Back Bacon ( it's much tastier than streaky bacon which I didn't know existed until living in the UK)
-Heirloom tomato (we obviously don't have those here, but please use them if you can get them!)
-organic mixed greens
-organic avocado
-Yogurt Egg-less Mayo
-Fresh made No-Knead Bread.
*I'm pretty sure you can figure out the rest.
Eat at least 2 of them and enjoy!
Love. love. love.

 Xavier, Laura and lil' Tenzing