Thursday, August 11, 2011

Winter Braais – Stick bread

Winter weather is no reason not to braai in South Africa. In fact, still, cold winter nights, when you huddle round the fire toasting hands and faces while your back freezes, are often better for braaing than summer evenings, which are rarely still and often have a roaring south-easter blowing. In summer the braai-master is often abandoned to the heat of the fire, sweating and toiling against the rising wind, ash blowing everywhere, while everyone else disappears into the shady house on the pretext of making salads.. .OK that’s an exaggeration, but the lure of a fire in winter really does make it more companionable, drawing everyone outside to warm themselves as the sun dips below the horizon and the darkness falls.

Stick bread is the perfect way to keep kids and adults occupied while the rest of the food cooks. I’d never made it until we went to a friend’s house recently. She had made a batch of bread dough in advance. All the kids had spent the afternoon finding and refining sticks of the right diameter, so as we adults arrived we were sent in search of our own sticks too. They had to be smooth and about the diameter of a cooked piece of boerewors (our coriander spiced South African sausage). The idea is that the dough is wrapped around the stick, cooked by rotating it slowly over the hot coals and then is pulled off the stick to leave a hole just big enough to slide in a piece of boeri. Simple but brilliant!

Also great fun for kids and adults alike.

Here are step by step instructions in case you’d like to have a go next time you braai.

1. Make a batch of a plain white bread dough.
2. Find a smooth stick for each person eating at the braai. Make sure it is clean with no splinters! The diameter isn’t too critical but it should be about as wide as a cooked sausage if you will be eating it hot dog style.
3. Once the dough has risen and been knocked down you can start, as soon as you have the go ahead from the braaimaster... make sure he has been warned that you will need extra coals for your bread baking, so that it doesn’t interfere with the far more important task of cooking the meat! It actually works best if you have two fires, one for the meat and one for the bread, so they can both be cooked at the same time without too much crowding.
4. Now the fun bit -  break off a piece of dough and roll it into a long sausage shape. Wind it around the stick, coiling from the top down with no gaps. Firm it up and press it all together.
5. Go to the hot coals and hold the dough over the fire slowly rotating the stick. It helps if there is an edge to rest it on. The dough will gradually puff up and then turn the golden brown of the perfectly cooked loaf. Remember to keep turning the stick so that it cooks evenly on all sides.
6. Once it is cooked, slide the bread off the stick carefully – steam will pour out from inside and it will be HOT!
7. Put in any sauces, mustards and chutneys then slide in a piece of boeri cut to the right length and enjoy!

One of these is enough for anyone, as the bread can be a bit indigestible for anyone without a cast-iron stomach, but it is delicious with the smoke flavour of the braai and the crunchy crust, and there is something about everyone standing around the fire cooking their own bread that is the essence of the South African braai – togetherness!

It may still feel like winter but National Braai Day is coming up, (24th September) which heralds the start of the spring braaing season, so it’s nearly time to start thinking of marinades for steaks and sosaties. Check out Cooksister’s post on Braai the Beloved Country last year, which is a definitive blog post on the braai and has a great round-up of recipes. And the official National Braai Day site has loads of good braai tips and is giving away one free lamb every day until the 24th September to anyone in South Africa – you just have to comment on their National Braai Day Facebook posts to get in the draw.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so enchanting and delicious... I love the fall, and fires, and the stick bread with braai sounds amazing! Wish I could be there.


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