There are some places you visit, some foods that you have the pleasure of tasting, that never leave your memories. On our visit to Babylonstoren last year, we had the privilege of being invited into Karen Pretorius, head baker’s kitchen. Amid learning about the gentle ebb and flow of life at Babylonstoren, she also shared a treasured recipe with us, her special recipe for beetroot bread. Watching the slow formation of this pink dough into a warm loaf covered in rosebuds, and then tasting the broken bread covered in melted butter — it’s an experience we couldn’t wait to share with you.
Karen made this for us as a beetroot bread, because they were in abundance then (and Babylonstoren always make use of what they have a plenty). But really this is a vegetable bread and you could use whatever vegetable flavour you wanted. Spinach, for example, would be lovely too.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Rise & bake time: 1.5 hours | Makes: 1 large loaf
2 tsp instant dry yeast or 30g fresh baker’s yeast
350ml water, room temperature (use slightly less when using pumpkin and sweet potato)
500g flour, white bread flour
2 tsp sea salt
250g grated beetroot/ carrot or baked pumpkin / sweet potato / spinach
30ml good quality olive oil
The beetroot for this recipe can be raw or cooked. It’ll grate easier if it’s cooked and produce more of a pulp and also integrate into the batter better. If you prefer to add you beetroot raw, grate it on the finest setting you have. It will produce more of a grainy texture in the bread but be equally delicious.
1. Mix together all your ingredients and knead for a good 10 minutes. If you find you need a little extra flour because your dough is still very sticky, sprinkle in a bit at a time until the dough kneads smoothly. Then leave to rest in a warm spot for 1 hour.
2. Preheat your oven to 210°C.
3. After the rise time is up, gently knead the dough again and then portion and shape the dough into one large chunk for the main body of the loaf and two smaller balls which you’ll use to make the rosebuds.
4. Place the larger ball of dough into a deep cake pan. Then, on a well floured surface, roll out one of the smaller balls of dough to about 1 cm in thickness. With a pizza cutter or sharp, floured chef’s knife, slice the dough into about 3 cm wide strips.
5. Now, starting at one end, simply roll them up into coils. Give the ball of dough already in the cake tin a light brush of water and start fitting your smaller dough coils on top.
6. Starting at the outside, keep fitting in coils until the surface of your bread is covered. They don’t have to be compressed tightly against each other, as the dough will expand during baking.
7. Now leave the dough to double in size for about 15 minutes and then bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden.
As the bread bakes your coils will rise and open up into lovely rosebuds, or in this case dough buds.
So, bake this bread. Bake it for the love of baking or for the love of bread, or for the love of someone special that you can’t wait to share this creative and humble meal with.
Then when your kitchen is wafting of wonderful homely aromas, and with your apron still tied around your neck, pull up some chairs to the kitchen counter, get out the butter, maybe some cheese and a full glass of wine and share in the simple pleasure of breaking bread and swopping stories.