Bread, in various shapes and forms, has been a dietary staple for thousands of years — something like 30,000 years, if recent research is to be believed.
Flatbreads, cooked on stones, derived from a mixture of edible grains and harvested from the wild by ancient peoples, are thought to have been the first breads in existence, and they remain highly popular even now — think of roti, naan and tortillas.
Other forms of bread evolved over the years and there are literally thousands of different kinds of bread all around the world today.
Bread, as we all know, is primarily made from flour. Different kinds of flour are being used to create breads of very different tastes.
Wheat, rye and corn flour are counted amongst the most popular types of bread flours currently in use, with whole-grain, stone-ground and organic flours being increasingly popular.
Not so well-known is malted flour: this is usually made from barley which has been sprouted, dried and milled, and which still contains a high percentage of active enzymes. Malted flour is occasionally made from wheat too or may be made from a mixture of barley and wheat.
Try this malted onion bread which is a tasty and nutritious delight
The active enzymes it contains work to improve heart health, reduce cholesterol and aid general bodily health and wellbeing.
Malted flours are much darker in colour than other flours and, aside from being used in bread-making, they are widely used in the baking of fruit loaves — served sliced and buttered — the malt flour imparting a deliciously distinct flavour and aroma.
Always on the lookout for healthy alternatives, I ‘invented’ a version of malted onion bread which, I am proud to report, turned out to be a tasty and nutritious delight.
Malted Onion Bread
500g malted flour or whole meal flour or chakki ka atta 1 teaspoon dried yeast 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup warm water + extra warm water for mixing if needed A pinch of salt 1 tablespoon sunflower oil 2 cups pre-fried onions — drained of oil Optional: Sesame or mustard seeds
In a small bowl: dissolve sugar in the warm water (not boiling hot or it will kill the yeast). Sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover, stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes or until yeast has frothed up.
In a baking bowl: put in the flour, salt and friend onions. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil. Add the yeast mixture and begin mixing then kneading. If very dry, add more warm water, bit by bit, until the dough is nicely formed and the texture is smooth and elastic. If too sticky, add more flour and knead until it is absorbed.
Turn the dough on to a floured board. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes, ensuring that you trap as much air in the dough as possible. Do this by folding and pushing the dough back on itself, using the base of your hand.
Lightly oil the dough, put back in the baking bowl, seal inside a lightly oiled plastic bag and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This takes approximately one hour.
Turn the dough back on to a floured board and knead for another five minutes.
If making a loaf: shape the dough, lightly oil it again and place in a baking tin/tray. Using a sharp knife, cut half a dozen shallow incisions on the top of the loaf. Lightly sprinkle with sesame or mustard seeds if you wish.
If making rolls: Divide the dough into eight pieces. Shape and knead each roll, lightly oiling each one when done. Place on an oiled baking tray. With a sharp knife, make two or three shallow cuts on the top of each one. Sprinkle with sesame or mustard seeds if desired.
Bake in a pre-heated oven set to medium.
Cooking time: Loaf 40 — 50 minutes. Rolls: 25 — 30 minutes.
To check that the bread/rolls are fully baked: tap the underside with your fingers. If the sound is hollow and drum-like, it/they are ready. If the sound is heavy and dull, return to the oven for a little while longer.
Serve: hot or cold, with soups, savouries, salads or make a delicious range of sandwiches. The rolls are the perfect match for burgers.
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, March 7th, 2021