No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Hungarian chocolate bread

In the summer of 1998, as the Chairperson of the Community Education committee at a local comprehensive, I helped organise a visit to Hungary – by coach, which was an interesting experience in itself – it took us 26 hours! It was a fantastic trip and the Hungarians made us very welcome indeed. The local population pulled out all the stops and could not do enough for us.

One afternoon we were told there was a folk dancing group we really must see. So we piled into our bus – about 38 of us - and drove out to a small village hall a few miles from Pecs in Southern Hungary.

Where we were completely blown away!

It was a typical village hall, we all collected a chair, unfolded it and sat around the walls of the hall wondering what to expect.

We heard a burst of music outside – then in trouped this colourful, exceptional folk dance troupe! We found out later they had won prizes all over Europe.

They proceeded to dance for us for about three quarters of an hour. Then the men all produced handkerchiefs which they laid at the feet of the female members of our group as an invitation for them to join in.

The men were similarly invited and we all spent a few minutes laughing and trying to match the steps of our hosts. There was a wonderful sense of community, of two cultures mingling, and the whole experience shines bright in my memory.

Afterwards we were served refreshments which consisted of small glasses of schnapps – and slices of two-toned, sweet, fruit bread – Hungarian chocolate bread.

When we compared notes about the bread, later, we realised we had been served several versions of the loaf – all were two coloured, all contained dried fruit – but some said they had nuts in theirs, others chocolate chips. We reasoned that the Mayor, or someone, had said “We’ve got these English visitors coming – can a few of you make a Hungarian loaf or something for them?” So three or four loaves were made – each with their own variation.

I’ve tried to recreate it; with how much success, I’m not sure. However, it does taste wonderful!

Note: This is made with two separate doughs, one with cocoa powder and one without. When the loaf is sliced, the nuts show up pale against the chocolate bread, and the fragments of chocolate show up against the white bread. Both doughs contain dried fruit.

Ingredients for chocolate dough (1):
200g strong white flour
2 tbs sugar
1 dsp cocoa powder
100g sultanas
50g chopped cashew nuts
1 dsp fresh yeast
125ml lukewarm liquid
2 tbs olive oil

Ingredients for white dough (2):
200g strong white flour
2 tbs sugar
100g sultanas
50-100g roughly chopped good quality eating dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1 dsp fresh yeast
125ml lukewarm liquid
2 tbs olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar for a sugar glaze

Method (1):
1.     Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the cocoa powder evenly in with the flour and add the fresh yeast, crumbled, in a dip in the flour.

Method (2): As (1) but without the cocoa powder.

2.     Pour the lukewarm water over the yeast to start it dissolving, then pour the olive oil into the liquid in the bowl. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Stir the yeast, then the rest of the ingredients, with a table knife or similar, cutting through the dough as it forms. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3.     Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up!

4.     Leave them both to prove for about an hour on your worktop, covered with a dry tea towel. Or place in an oiled plastic bag until you are ready for step 5.

5.     When you are ready to proceed, place the dough on the worktop and roll each piece into a long rope – about 25-30cm. Now twist them together into a loaf. The easiest way to do this is to lay one across your prepared baking sheet and place the other at 90 degrees over it – so that they form an X. Starting at the middle, twist them over and over each other, tucking the ends neatly underneath.

6.     Cover and leave to prove until the loaf has risen appreciably. Then bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 20-25 minutes, but check after 15. It is done when it is browned underneath. If your oven is browning the top of the loaf too fast, cover with foil or baking parchment.

7.     Brush with a sugar glaze made with one heaped teaspoon sugar and 2 teaspoons boiling water.

When cooled, slice and serve with a glass of Palinka!

(There's a - not very good - pic on my daily bread thread.)

Update, 26th Feb.
Coincidentally, this morning, I bumped into two of the friends who came on the Hungary trip, Jan and Mike. Jan had seen another excursionist (is that a word?) only the day before - they spent some time reminiscing about Hungary. I have to admit, it was a very special trip - 13 years ago, and it's still fresh in the memory!

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