Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making bread on a sailboat

 I have to admit - i like to eat. The food is important to me, so i try to improve my cooking skills all the time and enjoy good food in restaurants, especially if it's different and local. 

 Food on a sailing trip was one of my biggest concerns even before i started sailing  - it came from hearing the stories of crews eating pasta with canned tomato sauce each and every day of the week. In my mind it was obvious - how could you prepare anything more complicated in the tiny kitchen equipped with only two post and three spoons while boat was bouncing and rolling on waves? But no way would i eat pasta with tomato sauce for seven days in a row. So the first time i went sailing i made a plan - in the week before sailing i cooked food for three meals and froze it and for the rest of the days i chose restaurants on different Dalmatian islands (Croatia), where we would eat. Crew was a bit surprised about my plan, usually wind and weather determine where and how you sail and not the restaurants, but they went along. And afterwards agreed, that this week of sailing was one with the best food ever - we just didn't call it a sailing week any more but "traveling from one great restaurant to another, from one great meal to the next".

 With the time, as i spent more time sailing, i got more used to using the boat kitchen or galley, as it is properly called. Before first sailing vacation in the Caribbean, i decided it was time to try to start baking bread - it is annoying to have to leave some pretty anchorage just because you ran out of bread. I practiced at home a couple of times, trying to simplify the process to make it easy (i don't like long kneading) and "sea worthy". I took dry yeast with me - this was the only ingredient i was in doubt if it's available everywhere. And it worked perfectly.

So here is the "Original Caribbean bread recipe" - also works anywhere else in the world :-)

 The ingredients:
- 1 kg of plain white wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- dry yeast - enough for 1 kg of flour (check the information on the sachets)
- 0,75 l of tepid water (not to hot or you'll kill the yeast)

Sunset is optional :-), but you'll also need a big bowl or pot, preferably with the lid, and an oven.

 Put the flour in the pot (on charter boats i used a biggest pasta pot), sprinkle salt and sugar on top and put the yeast in the center. Start pouring in the water while working the dough with the spoon - from the center outwards. I'm a person of habit, i always do it this way - it might also work if you just throw everything together and mix it well.

After you poured all the water in, it's time to get your hands dirty - well, perhaps not dirty, but definitely sticky.

Knead the  dough well for about a minute to mix the ingredients. It should be soft and wet, without the lumps of flour.

Cover the pot and leave the dough to rise for about an hour - if you are not in the warm climate, you might want to cover the pot with the blanket and maybe leave it to rise a bit longer.

After an hour it should look like this - stringy and soft and at least twice in size.

 I knead it once more to "deflate" it. And then let it rise for another hour.

Then pour it into a baking tray or form (this pyrex one was not most suitable, but it was the biggest available on charter boats) and put it in the oven. I preheat an oven for 10 minutes. I bake the bread for an hour on maximum gas in gas oven with heating only from below (at home i bake bread at 200 degrees Celsius also for about an hour).

And this is the final product. I leave it in the form for couple of minutes, then it's easier to get the bread out. Don't leave it in for to long, or you'll have to chisel the bread out - at least from this kind of form.

Bread will keep well for couple of days - if it lasts that long :-) For longer storage keep it in fridge, especially in warm climate.

 Through the time and more sailing trips i made some modifications to the basic recipe. Now i am using my own baking forms, nonstick of course, so i don't have to chisel and scrape bread out any more. I still leave the bread in the form for couple of minutes after taking it out of the oven, then i just turn the form and bread jumps out. Putting dough in two forms shortened the baking time to 45 minutes (time might depend on your oven, you'll have to experiment).


 And one very important improvement - i always wished to have fresh warm bread for breakfast but didn't want to  get up in the middle of the night to make it. So i make a dough in the evening, let it rise for the first time, then knead it again and then put it right in the forms. And then i put it in the fridge for over night. In the morning i take it out of the fridge, preheat the oven for 10 minutes and put the bread in. And bake it as usually for 45 minutes. It has a bit different taste, more like farm bread and captain likes it even better than original recipe.

I use the same dough for rolls or pizza. You can experiment with other types of flour, but if you take wholegrain or rye you will need to mix it with white flour and knead it for longer. Use your imagination.

All the photos for this post have been taken on sailboats, first nine in Seychelles in 2009 on a chartered boat and last two in Sardinia in 2010 on Heron. Thanks to Simon (  ) for contributing the photos from Seychelles.

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