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Jamaican Hard Dough Bread

Servings: 1 or 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaves
Oblong-shaped and made in various sizes. Hard Dough Bread is everyone's choice in Jamaica. It's moist and can be eaten alone or with butter, pate, jelly or any kind of spread. It is very good for sandwiches because it will not become soggy.

Bread which is to be served in eight hours must be left unwrapped. For longer storage, wrap in moisture-proof bags to retard staling. Bread must be thoroughly cooled before wrapping or moisture will collect in the bag. Wrapping and freezing maintains quality for longer periods. Refrigeration on the other hand increases staling.

1 1/2 lbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 oz. fresh yeast OR 1 rounded tsp. dried yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening (optional)
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 pint warm water
2 beaten egg whites OR milk, for brushing tops of loaves

Note: Commercial hard dough bread recipe includes 30 grams (2 tbsp.) shortening and the same amount of egg white. (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). It takes 40 minutes for the loaf to bake.

All ingredients and utensils should be warmed to assist the fermentation.

1. Dissolve the yeast in some of the liquid and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Leave it to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. This activates the yeast and starts the fermentation process.

2. Sift the flour and salt together. (Rub in the 2 tbsp. shortening, if being used).

3. Add the yeast liquid and the rest of the liquid all at once.

4. Mix quickly to a soft dough which is elastic and pliable.

5. Knead the dough vigorously either by hand or in an electric mixer, using dough hook. Kneading ensures thorough distribution of yeast in the dough so that it is in contact with the natural sugars in the flour. It also helps to develop the gluten so that it is capable of stretching during fermentation.

6. Cover the dough with a damp cloth to prevent the formation of a skin and leave it to rise or 'proof' in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. During this time the process of fermentation takes place. The temperature inside the dough should be about 77ºF (25ºC) to work efficiently.

7. Knock back (punch) the dough by kneading it again to bring the yeast into contact with more of the flour.

8. Shape the dough into loaves or rolls. Place in 9 x 5-inch greased loaf pans and leave to rise again for 40 minutes so that more Carbon Dioxide gas is produced.

9. Brush top of loaves with milk or beaten egg whites.

10. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30-40 minutes or until set and golden brown in color, and bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Sources: Food and Nutrition by Anita Tull and Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen.

Source: West Indian Times
Date: October 29, 2002