Nigerian Agege Bread
There are different kinds of bread in the market but the one that elicits fond memories from Nigerian people is the agege bread. Its stretchy and chewy texture makes it stand out among other loaves and leaves you remembering it a long time after eating it.
In a commercial set up the chewy effect is arrived at using permitted chemicals. These are however usually only sold in bulk so they may not be available to a small home baker like yourself. That is not a problem though because there are other ways to make your bread soft, delicious and stretchy that you can use in your kitchen without breaking the bank.
Ever heard of scalded flour? This is basically flour that is scalded with hot water (yes hot). It may not be common practice for regular bread but it serves to get the bread soft, chewy and also helps the bread keep for about 3 to 4 days. It also holds the bread molecules together and gives it structure without using eggs. This applies when making non-wheat bread too like rye bread. It will be soft, hold together and will be a little less bitter. How cool is that? You don’t scald all the dough though so remember to put some flour aside.
For the main dough
- 350gm bread/plain flour (bread flour will yield more chewy results)
- 30gm bread/plain flour (for kneading)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 50gm sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 140ml lukewarm water/whole milk (milk usually isn’t added to agege bread but this is a homemade version so you have a little room to play around with it. Milk will make it even richer and softer)
- 50gm butter at room temperature (cut into small cubes)
For the scalded flour
- 100gm bread/plain flour
- 100ml boiling water
Tools you will need
- A bread pan
- Two bowls
- A plastic dough scraper
- Prepare the scalded flour that will enhance your dough.
- Place the 100gm flour in a bowl and pour the boiling water into it.
- Quickly stir the mixture until properly combined and cover it with cling film or a lid. Let it cool slowly to room temperature. This may take about an hour but will depend on the weather. The mixture may look a little rough at first but once it absorbs all the water it will become smoother so don’t worry about that. You should ideally use this scalded flour after 12 hours but there may be no difference if you use it even after that one hour.
- Take a wide bowl and sift the bread flour (350gm for the main dough) into it.
- Add the sugar, salt and instant dry yeast. If unsure of the yeast’s potency, place it in a bowl or mug with some warm water and sugar. Pour it into the flour once it bubbles and looks creamy. If it doesn’t bubble then your yeast is bad.
- Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the scalded flour. Add the lukewarm milk/water gradually and mix everything together until you have sticky dough. Let it sit for about 15 minutes so that it absorbs all the liquid.
- Place the sticky dough on a lightly floured surface and then stretch, fold over and slap it onto the table. Repeat this until it is less sticky and stretchier. This is where you use the scraper to bring the dough together. Don’t add too much flour because it’ll make the bread hard.
- Knead in the butter for about 20 minutes and you have smooth and stretchy dough.
- Form it into a ball, place in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp towel for about an hour until it doubles in size.
- Punch it down and divide it into smaller balls. 3 or 4 will do. Cover these balls with a damp cloth for about 10 minutes and grease the bread pan.
- Shape the balls into rolls of your choice, place the rolls on the pan and cover again with a damp cloth for them to double again in size.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C for five minutes.
- For a lovely shine, brush the risen rolls with melted butter or a mixture of a raw egg and two tablespoons of water and throw them into the oven for about 30 minutes or when golden brown.
- Once out of the oven, let the bread cool and then place it on a rack. Enjoy your fresh agege bread!