Two days ago I went to Spar, the grocery store in Melville, with my friend Anita. Anita noticed something in the refrigerated section near the bakery.

“Look at that!” Anita shouted.

There was a row of plastic bags, each containing a ball of dough. The bags weren’t sealed or anything — just sitting there, open, with dough inside.  Each bag cost R10 (about $1.20).

“You can make bread with this,” Anita told me.

“Really?” I was skeptical. I’m not the bread-baking type.

“Really.”

I picked up a dough ball and inspected it. It felt pleasantly springy in my hands. I dropped it into my basket.

The rest is history.

This:

Dough ball from Spar. Would this happen in an American Safeway? I think not.

Became this:

Spar’s Magic Bread.

It was so easy. I went home, typed “baking bread” into Google, and clicked on the first link that came up. I tore the dough ball in half, put one half in the fridge and the other one on my cutting board. I kneaded the dough for a minute or so, put it in a ceramic bowl, covered the bowl with a plate, and left it overnight.

The next morning I punched down the dough. (That’s right. I punched it!) Then I kneaded it again, shaped it (badly), put it on a cookie sheet and let it sit for 20 minutes under a towel. Then I baked it for 30 minutes at 375°F.

If you look really carefully you can see some steam coming off the bread where it was cut.

It was delicious. I got so excited that I baked the other half of the dough the very next day. This time I photographed the process.

Raw dough, before kneading.

Ready to rise.

Same dough, different day. I let the dough sit overnight but it only needs an hour or so.

Punching the dough down. Sorry for the bad photo, it’s hard to punch and shoot at the same time.

Ready to bake. My bread-sculpting skills need work.

Done.

Two fresh-baked loaves of bread for R10. What a deal — one loaf of the crappy pre-sliced stuff costs R8.

I baked bread. This would only happen in South Africa.

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