Tanzanian Safari Bread

The smoke of a thousand distant fires greets us at Kilimanjaro Airport. A tangled sleep punctuated by weird animal calls in the night is broken by the scampering of monkeys  on the roof above our heads. The families gather for breakfast: eggs done several ways, bacon, cereal, fresh fruit, coffee. Any fears my kids had about Tanzanian food are instantly calmed by the post-colonial menu. And by the toast – made from white bread that is tall and mushroomed on the top.

It was the bread that surprised me most. In the tent camps, which were many kilometers from the well-stocked kitchens at Gibbs Farm and Mount Meru Game Lodge, a handful of cooks working over charcoal and acacia wood fires prepared meals for some 30 people. Their oven? A big metal box that they put on the fire and over which they scattered hot coals; it was like a Dutch oven on steroids. That simple oven provided perfectly bake loaves of Tanzanian white bread every day.

My wife the Salad Queen is quick to point out that we don’t eat much white bread  at Chez Bullhog. So why a recipe like this?

This bread is the beginning of what I see as a journey into the larger bread world. Every baker should start here:  foster a dough that is simple and forgiving, bake it into bread that’s a glory of panned beauty, and revel at the yeasty smiles around the table. It’s great with a turkey sandwich, or as an accompaniment to soup, or as toast with eggs and bacon. It also gives back: in the push against your hands as you knead the dough, and in the amazing bloom you get from the loaf when put fully ripe into a steamed oven.

But, more to the point, it’s versatile, as the Tanzanians proved to me by baking it and putting it on the table at their safari camps. And if your Dutch oven is up to it, well, give it a try!

So here you are. My take on an easy and forgiving bread, done two ways. Please note the additional yeast needed for a quick recipe.

Tanzanian Safari Bread

Makes 2 loaves, 28 ounces each

32 ounces King Arthur’s, Pendleton Mills or Stone Buhr bread flour

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

3 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ½ teaspoons yeast (more for quick method)

1/3 cup evaporated milk (I use 2%)

1 ½ Tablespoons honey

2¼ cups water at 80º

 

2 pyrex loaf pans, 1 ½ quart size

1 Tablespoon butter for coating loaf pans

An 8” cast iron skillet

Warm water for coating the loaves and producing steam

 

Quick Method: Start to finish about 5 hours when risen at 80º. Requires 1 additional teaspoon of yeast in the dough.

This yields a yeasty bread with a slightly gummy crumb, a medium crust and a high-rising bloom so long as the oven is provided with a cast-iron pan for steam creation in the first minutes of baking.   

Make the dough: Dry mix the bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt and 2 ½ teaspoons of yeast in a large bread bowl. Add the evaporated milk. Mix the honey with the warm water and add all at once. Mix with the handle of a wooden spoon and, when incorporated, knead for a minute with your hands.

Let rise until doubled: Turn the dough ball onto a lightly floured counter, let rest for 10 minutes under the inverted mixing bowl, and then knead for at least 5 minutes until soft and pliable. The dough will push back when the gluten has developed. Clean out the mixing bowl; put the dough into it, cover with a piece of plastic wrap or damp cloth and let sit in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk for 2 hours. (Warm means 75 to 80 degrees, which can be an unheated oven with the light on or a warming cupboard, if available. At room temperature, this doubling might take 3 hours.)

Punch down and rest: Deflate the dough by putting your fist down into the middle of it. Turn the edges in toward the middle, invert the dough and let it rise again for about an hour. After second rise skip to shaping as below.

Slow method: This bread is made the afternoon of the day before, punched down and shaped late in the evening to be ready for baking in the morning. Likely the one used by our Tanzanian bakers in the field, it yields a loaf with a drier composition and a less-gummy crumb, but only a medium bloom when baked. Otherwise, this is an excellent white bread that will stay fresh longer than the quick method. 

Make the dough and let rise: Form the dough as above, without any extra yeast. Knead and put into a large bowl, cover and let rise in a very cool place for 6-8 hours. Ideal temperature is 45 to 50 degrees.

Shape and let rise: In both methods, treat the dough the same way, but expect more flabbiness in the slowly risen dough.

Cut the dough into two equal pieces of about 28 ounces. Butter the bottom and sides of two glass bread pans. Knead each piece of dough lightly to exude the air without entirely flattening the dough, turn the edges in and turn the rounded side up, creating a cigar shape. Tuck the tails under and place the dough skin-side up in the bread forms.

Let the quick bread rise for about 45 minutes at room temperature, and the long-rise dough overnight in a 50º environment, covered with a cloth. 

Baking the bread:  Adjust the top oven rack to be slightly lower than the center of your oven. Put a small cast iron frying pan on the floor or lower shelf of your oven and preheat the oven to 425º for 30 minutes.

When the bulge on the resting loaves is 1” higher than the sides of your bread forms, brush the tops of the loaves with water.

Put the two loaves into the oven, pour 4 ounces of hot water carefully into the cast iron frying pan to effect a burst of steam, and quickly close the oven door.

Lower heat to 400º and bake for 20 minutes.

Turn the loaves, lower the heat to 350º, and bake for a further 25 or 30 minutes, at which time the crust will be dark brown and the bottoms as seen through the glass pans will be golden brown.

Remove from pans and cool on racks for 45 minutes before chowing down. Serve with slathers of European butter, if available.

Variations: Leaving out the evaporated milk, adding 3 Tablespoons of butter, and/or using all-purpose flour for half the bread flour will yield different results. Try some of these changes and see what happens!

Final Note: I did produce a pretty fair loaf of this in my Dutch oven yesterday, baking it on a thin layer of coals and piling about 10 coals onto the top. Fact is, it rose so well that the top of the oven pushed open, so I had to finish it inside.

Meanwhile, I thank those Tanzanian cooks for showing me a way to take my baking skills along on our next camping trip. Flame on!

 

17 comments to Tanzanian Safari Bread

  • beautiful bread looks grand!

  • Just a beautiful,welcoming bread begging little in the way of topping. I wouldn’t mind a slice with my morning coffee.

  • Really nice site! Your style is so refreshing compared to most other bloggers. Thanks for writing when you get the chance to, I will be sure to read more!

  • in a dutch oven no less – I would so love to taste this bread – very impressive.

  • looks incredible! king arthur flour is definitely a reliable way to go when making bread to :)

  • Isn’t amazing how perfect a food can be when it made simply and with care? This was a great post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Your first paragraph reminded me of the Peterman Catalog. Great post, good info and fun to read.

  • Great recipe. I will have a go at making this bread and let you know how I get on.

    Your article also brought back memories as I grew up in Kenya and I remember cooking biscuits in these strange gadgets called jiko (google images have some examples. We used to put charcoal on the grills above and below the baking tray. For lots of recipes like cake, we used to make them in a saucepan by putting charcoal on the lid of the saucepan!!

    I thought food always tasted nicer cooked this way.

    Mina

  • Tanzania-Wow! I can only dream…
    This bread looks so nice, especially in that photo on the pretty table. The purple in the flowers adds so much to the color of the bread and actually the dark table too-beautius maximus! Oh, and I see you have some King Arthur flour-looks to be the organic kind. That stuff is good, and I bet this would be awesome made with Arrowhead Mills???

  • Milk in a bread recipe is always a good thing. This is a great place to start with a bread baking journey.

    What an interesting story to go along with the bread. Of course Tanzania really caught my attention.

  • miranda

    wow…you amaze me…
    I soooo envy you

  • In the ingredients you say evaporated milk, but later refer to it as condensed milk. I want to try the recipe. Which one is it? Thanks!

  • Oops, it’s evaporated milk. Sorry for any confusion:-)

  • Trinisoul

    Like the tip with the steam. Going to give this recipe a try.

  • I am currently living in Zanzibar, Tanzania and we have to do allot of our own baking as not everything is readily available in the shops, so I will try your recipe for bread this weekend and let you know how it turns out!

    Thanks :)

  • True necessity is the mother to innovation. This improvising of an oven and final production of the delicious breads in Tanzania tells it all.. Thanks.

  • shanmcstan

    Just returned from safari in Tanzania. We were amazed at the quality of the freshly baked bread in each of our camps. The bread was all very similar though baked in different forms (even a crocodile shape!). So, I reasoned there must be a fairly standard recipe. I Googled “Tanzania Safari Bread” and, lo and behold, you’ve done all of the heavy lifting for me. Can’t wait to try this out. Thank you!

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At Woodfiredkitchen.com, Sortachef takes you on adventures in the kitchen and beyond, with tales to suit. Many of his offerings are woodfired - a flaming good recipe for pizza, bread, or something different. All recipes are original and tasty. Enjoy!
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