With social distancing and staying at home becoming the new normal, a lot of people are focusing on cooking and baking at home.

Many of my friends on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, are trying their own homemade versions of bread, pasta, pizza, etc.

Some of these are people who have never even cooked or baked before, but now — partially due to necessity but also to cultivate new skills and hobbies — they are putting their aprons on and getting into their kitchens.

Social media food groups that once thrived on restaurant reviews have shifted to recipes and home-cooked food photo sharing. In my opinion, this move towards homemade food is quite wonderful. It gives people a sense of achievement, and also serves a practical purpose.

I recognise that sharing recipes during a time of crisis, especially when many are struggling to acquire even the basic necessities, can raise eyebrows. But I also think it is important to utilise what we have in the best way possible. Clearly, so many are turning to cooking as for those of us privileged enough to have this option, it can be quite a therapeutic act.

I am sharing two recipes: the first is a basic white bread recipe. It is quite simple to put together and extremely practical for when you’re not able to get to a bakery.

Additionally, it is always good to have a good bread recipe in your arsenal. The other recipe is for lemon and raspberry bars. These bright and sunny bars are easy to make and a good pick-me-up on a dreary day.

Recipes to fulfil basic needs and provide a bit of pleasure during these uncertain times

Basic white bread

Ingredients

  • 7g instant yeast
  • 94g and 320g warm water (divided)
  • 25g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 21g butter (at room temperature)
  • 565g flour
  • 21g butter (melted, for brushing)

Method

Sprinkle the yeast over 94g of warm water and set aside for five minutes. Add the yeast mixture to a large bowl, along with the 320g of warm water, the sugar, salt, butter and flour. Mix with a spatula (or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook) until a dough forms.

Turn the dough out on a floured kitchen counter and knead by hand for at least seven to 10 minutes — again, if you have a stand mixer, you can do this step with the machine. Put the dough into a well-oiled bowl and leave in a warm place for one hour.

The dough will double in size. Turn the proofed dough on to a lightly floured surface and use your hands to shape into a rough rectangle. Roll the rectangle from the short side to form a roll and tuck in the sides. Place into a greased nine-inch bread pan and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.

The dough will rise again. Brush the loaf with melted butter and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees C for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned on the outside.

When the loaf comes out of the oven, immediately take it out of the pan and put it on to a cooling rack and brush with more margarine. Allow it to cool completely before cutting into slices.

Lemon and raspberry bars

Ingredients

Crust

  • 170g butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 190g flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest

Raspberry Puree

  • 20g caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons corn flour
  • 95g raspberries (fresh or frozen — you can also use strawberries)

Lemon Filling

  • 5 eggs
  • 430g caster sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon zest
  • ¾ cup lemon juice
  • 95g flour

Method

Make the crust: Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C and line a nine-into-nine-inch brownie pan with baking paper leaving a few inches of overhang on two sides, grease the paper well. With an electric mixer (or by hand), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the flour, salt and lemon zest and mix until the mixture resembles crumbs. Use your hands to settle the crumbs uniformly into the prepared pan, covering the entire surface. Chill the dough for 15 minutes and then bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make the raspberry puree: In a small saucepan, mix the sugar, lemon juice and corn flour until all the lumps have dissolved. Add the raspberries and cook for five minutes or so until the fruit becomes a thick liquid. Sieve out the seeds and cool the puree to room temperature.

Make the lemon filling: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and the caster sugar until they are well mixed. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and flour and mix well.

Pour the prepared lemon filling on to the still warm crust. Using a tablespoon, put large blobs of raspberry puree all over the surface of the lemon filling and then use a butter knife or a toothpick to marble the mixture.

Bake at 160 degrees C for 30 minutes or until the top looks firm. Cool the bars completely at room temperature and then chill for at least three to four hours, or overnight, before dusting them with icing sugar and cutting into squares.


The writer is a professional chef and holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu

Originally published in Dawn, EOS, April 26th, 2020

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