The best bread for a braaibroodjie
The braaibroodjie is not simply the best thing since sliced bread – it’s better than sliced bread and coincidentally, a consequence of sliced bread. There are rare exceptions for some of the more exotic variations of braaibroodjie in this book but a braaibroodjie is almost exclusively best made by using plain, straightforward white sliced bread.
When I was a kid, these breads were sold as a single unit and either in the bakery area of the supermarket or close to the payment points, the store would have a machine for you to slice your own bread. These machines sliced the whole loaf in uniform slices and the slices were also typically thinner than if you sliced that same bread with a bread knife at home.
Nowadays, most supermarkets sell a few commercial brands of white sliced bread. And that is what I almost always buy to make braaibroodjies. I say ‘almost always’ because sometimes that is not available in a supermarket and on those rare occasions, not by choice but by force, I buy something else.
My knowledge of sliced white bread does not extend to having any idea why some commercial bread suppliers make an oversized version but frankly, there is no justification for that, nor any place for it in the making of braaibroodjies. These oversized slices do not hold up when building the braaibroodjies, nor when moving the braaibroodjies from your chopping board or similar vehicle of preparation to the braai grid. Due to their non-perfect outline, they also do not pack as neatly into a braai grid and thus, should be avoided.
Commercial bread suppliers also sell to supermarkets a sliced bread similar in shape and size to the real plain, straightforward white sliced bread – only it’s not entirely white and it’s polluted with bits of bran. Very optimistically, they call this ‘brown bread’, which it certainly is not. More accurately, it’s off-white with speckles. I frankly find it disgusting. I can only hazard a guess that this is a misguided attempt to make it more healthy but there’s a look, flavour and texture that I find unappetising, to put it more mildly.
I am no dietician and there is no medical basis for anything I say, but I do believe that if sacrificing braaibroodjies made with perfectly beautiful white sliced bread for this so-called ‘brown bread’ version is your last hope at getting enough roughage into your digestive system, then you are beyond salvation anyway. Eat your fruit and vegetables in their natural state like you should, and enjoy your braaibroodjies properly – made with sliced white bread.
For the record, I have no problem with actual wholewheat and other breads with more personality, inherent taste and darker colours. I really enjoy proper bread from shades of caramel or brown like sourdough all the way to German Schwarzbrot. Just not for a braaibroodjie.
Of course, we’re generalising here and in an emergency, absolutely any bread will work for a braaibroodjie because obviously any braaibroodjie is better than no braaibroodjie.
A last word of bread advice, entirely non-scientific, with no basis in fact and purely from personal observation: sliced white bread loaves usually contain at least 20 slices of usable bread and the least I have ever counted was 18. This means that I’ve yet to encounter a normal supermarket pre-packed sliced white bread loaf that cannot make at least nine braaibroodjies. Most can make 10.
A FREE RECIPE FOR YOU
For the cover of this book, we needed a supermodel. Now, unlike beauty and fashion magazines in the days when beauty and fashion magazines existed, you cannot simply phone up the managers and agents of superstar braaibroodjie cover model agents. The greatest braaibroodjies in the world are all in this book. The book you are holding is the catalogue of models. And so my colleagues and I (the ‘Jan Braai Dream Team’ as I call them – without whom this book would not have been possible) set about to create a supermodel braaibroodjie, fit for the cover of this book. This is it.
WHAT YOU NEED
12 bread slices
butter or olive oil
1 red onion (sliced)
1 green bell pepper (sliced)
1 yellow bell pepper (sliced)
2 wheels (about 150 g) feta cheese (crumbled)
240 g Cheddar cheese (sliced or grated)
3 big red tomatoes (sliced)
salt and pepper
1 tot fresh parsley (stemmed and chopped)
WHAT TO DO
1. Build the braaibroodjies: Spread butter or olive oil on one side of each slice of bread (these sides will be outward-facing in the assembled braaibroodjie). Pack half these slices buttered-side down and layer with red onion and peppers, feta cheese, Cheddar cheese and tomato slices. Season with salt, pepper and parsley. Close the braaibroodjies with the remaining bread slices, buttered sides facing upwards.
2. ‘Braaibroodjies is draaibroodjies’. Braaibroodjies should be turned often and are braaied in a closed, hinged grid. If you don’t have one, buy one – preferably with adjustable heights to compress each unit perfectly. You want medium-paced, gentle heat and the grid should be relatively high. Your aim is for the cheese to be melted and all other fillings to be completely heated by the time the outsides are golden brown. Slightly opening and closing your hinged grid a few times after each of the first few turns of the braai process helps the braaibroodjies not to get stuck to the grid.
3. Once done, slice each braaibroodjie in half. Generally, I believe that the correct way to slice braaibroodjies is diagonally and the correct time to serve is immediately.