Laos, ‘Nam and jam.

Jam in Japan?  Loaves in Laos?  Well, yes, actually, it’s not all noodles and rice.  Western travellers can enjoy the delights of local cuisine the world over, but sooner or later, the comfort of home comes calling.

You can thank the French for bringing their beautiful bread to Laos.  After jungle treks, boat rides and back packs, believe me, you will.  In Vietnam, street snacks often take the form of small baguettes smothered in  La vache qui rit. I can almost smell the freshly baked, crispy baguettes!

It’s a very personal thing, so I guess that everyone will have their own image of that go-to comfort food.  For my wife, no matter where we go and what we eat, eventually, that yearning for something familiar comes calling.  When it does, there’s nothing I can do to dissuade her; only spaghetti in a rich tomato sauce will do.  Try ordering that in the Mekong Delta.

I’m easier to please.  When I’ve had my fill of local dishes, I think of bread.  Good, fresh bread with butter and jam.  Plenty of jam.  You don’t have to travel to appreciate good bread though.  Recently, a friend (who knows me very well) bought me a beautiful loaf tin filled with very tasty jams, spoons, ribbons, recipe cards and wax discs.  There’s everything needed to make jam and a simple bread recipe to make a loaf too.  Needless to say that I’ve been dying to give it all a try.  Yesterday I got stuck in and made a gorgeous loaf to slice up and pile jam onto.

I used the recipe card that came in the set, but adapted it (the dough was too wet to work with at first).  The loaf came out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  I’m not a master bread maker, but I’m very happy with it.  Looks like I’ll be eating bread and jam every day this week.

Observe, if you will, the beauty of bread baked at night. Time to fetch the butter.

Honey bread

700g white flour

1 pint warm water

1 tblspoon honey

1 tspoon salt

1 tspoon dried yeast

Sift the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl.  Stir the honey into the warm water until dissolved and pour into a small well in the middle of the flour.  Use one hand to hold the bowl and the other to mix until you have a dough that will come away from the sides.  If it is too wet, add more flour.

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead it gently.  Place into the large prepared loaf tin.  Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for an hour or so.

After an hour, run a sharp knife down the length of the loaf and drizzle more olive oil on top.  Place in an oven at 180C for about half an hour.  To check if the loaf is done, tip it out carefully and tap the base.  It should have a hollow sound when ready.

Let the loaf cool on a wire rack for a little while.  Then, of course, it’s time to slice it thickly and let butter and jam do the rest.  If you’ll excuse me, I’ve left my loaf unattended and in my house, that’s what is known as a “schoolboy error”.

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