Monday, May 05, 2014

The spice of Life

Selection of Spices from Spice Voyages: Whole Mace, Gourmet Cloves and Black Pepper. All products from PT Agri Spice are HALAL certified.

 Clove essential oil, Nutmeg essential oil and Patchouli essential oil
Cinnamon Vanilla sugar, Clove Vanilla sugar and Vanilla sugar
 Selection of spice including unusual oblong Nutmeg and Long Pepper
Homemade Chai Tea mix

As I walked  towards the Spice Voyages booth at FHA2014, I heard some ladies calling out my name. In that instant, I was caught between utter surprise and moved by the gentle gesture of friendship expressed by the Spice ladies of PT Agri Spice Indonesia.

I first met these ladies at FHA 2010 when I first bought some of their Green Coffee from various parts of Indonesia. For those who really know coffee, Indonesia coffee is one of the best in the world. This is due to the unique set of God given conditions for growing great coffee, Grown at higher altitudes in rich, fertile volcanic soil in lush shady areas, is there anywhere else in the world where these conditions come together.

Indonesia is located at the Pacific ring of fire where the SEA tropical rain forest is twice as old as the Amazon rain forest. Having roasted the Green coffee from these Spice ladies, my personal opinion is that it is the best in the world, contrary to some marketeers who scoff at the quality of Indonesian coffee.

I usually buy my supply of Vanilla beans from these ladies and they were kind enough to give me some spices which I have put to good use by making Chai Tea,

PT Agri Spice Indonesia
Klaten 57437 PO Box :221
Jawa Tengah Indonesia
(All products are HALAL certified)

Thanks!! Spice Ladies. Looking forward to seeing you again in FHA 2016

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pineapple tarts 2014

It is that time of the year again, where I indulge in my favorite Chinese New Year snack. Come to think of it, this is the only CNY snack that I love and cannot seem to get enough of. I never fail to sample that at every home I visited, especially if they were completely homemade. People usually make their own pastry but settle for commercially made filling. I find commercially made Pineapple filling  too chewy and cannot be compared to freshly prepared homemade filling.

For this year, I added some pork lard to the dough and I have to say, the pastry turned out quite well. In hindsight, I should have done some research into rendering lard first but even though I had not done the rendering correctly, I did get lard that was snow white. Correctly rendered lard is through wet rendering but I missed out on that. Fortunately for me, I started with the frozen fat which helped to lower the rendering temperature. The next time I do some lard rendering, I am going to find myself some leaf lard and do it the correct way.

Now, what should I do with the rest of that lard? Perhaps I should take a leaf(pun intended) from my cousin and do some char kway teow at home.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May Day Guiness Loaf

There was some leftover Stout after my wife made Guiness Beef Pies for dinner last evening. It was a good excuse to use the remainder for making bread. For this bake, I used my basic white recipe which is 70% hydration. The Poolish was made last night with 300g of flour. Waiting for it to cool down to eat with some butter and coffee for afternoon tea.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

 A little bit of automation to keep the fire going while I was busy preparing the dough for the Pizza
 Fire going strong.
 6 balls of Pizza dough resting before they are shaped
Pizza cooking in the beehive. The intense heat cooked the Pizza in minutes.

Wood Fired Oven Pizza

The recent weather was possibly the worst time to have an outdoor party and yet we threw caution to the wind and just went ahead with the plan to make pizzas in our wood fired beehive oven. Two days earlier, I had checked the weather forecast for the week and it was supposed to rain every day of the week.

The day before the party, I came home drenched as I was caught in a very heavy downpour. The heavy drenching made me confident that the following day would be dry enough for lighting up my oven. (It turned out eventually that that day was the only dry day in the week.)

I decided not to bake any bread as I wanted to focus on the Pizza. I made some improvements in my loading of the Pizza using a flat metal sheet. The Pizza was assembled on this sheet which can then be transported with ease. The Pizza attempt was a great success as our guests finished off all the 6 Pizzas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

 Completed Brotform compared to one ordered from Birnbaum (pale one). I made mine from red cane.
 My oval brotform was way too large. I made it from looking at pictures on the net.
 Another view
 Another view
 yet another view
 Completed Brotform
 Cane is nailed after bending in the heat of a heat-gun
The cane is soaked in water for a day to make them pliable.


I get occasional email queries from fellow bakers about the ring patterns in some of my bread. In the early days of my bread making adventures, I too, had wondered where those patterns came from. I found out eventually that they came off special proofing baskets called Brotforms.

Back then, it was not possible to find them in Singapore so I tried making my own. The pictures above were salvaged from an old blog which I fear will shut down one day and the postings there will vaporise. This posting was promted by a query that I had read in my favorite bread forum The Fresh Loaf. It stirred back fond memories of the fun I had while making my own Brotforms. I hope it will help fellow bakers gung-ho enough to make their own.

Brotforms can also be ordered online from

The link to my original posting in Angelfire

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Foccacia with Laksa pesto

A busy weekend with baking on Saturday and Sunday. I promised my favorite Durian seller with something Italian. I have been on a Durian binge this season and a whole month of Durian kaya is surely enough for anyone, even for a hard-core Durian lover like myself. Who else will have Musang King Durian for afternoon tea?

This foccacia is modelled after Dan Lepard's which calls for the addition of some levain. As I have lost my recipe for the Laksa pesto, I had to wing it. The ingredients included Laksa leaves, 7 bulbs of roasted garlic, Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts as I did not have pine nuts on hand. The pesto was seasoned with sea salt. ground black pepper and a dash of lemon juice. All were added by feel assisted by the tongue.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

 Propolis honey from Trigona Stingless bees
Breakfast in  Bentong en-route to Raub - Coffee on brazier inside a quaint coffee shop
 Mao Shan Wang(Musang King) durian - So close and yet so far

 The durian plantation in Raub
 Young Musang King
 Trigona Stingless beehive
Sucking Propolis honey off the hive

Visit to Raub durian plantation

I came across these photos taken in May when I was in Kuala Lumpur to learn guitar making. This stirred up wonderful memories of the fantastic 2 weeks I spent up north. During a week end break, my host brought me to a durian plantation but unfortunately, the durians were still too young. They say that Musang King durians from Bentong/Raub area are the best in Malaysia. I was very, very disappointed that I was not able to feast on those beauties hanging from the branches. That is why I have been making up for lost opportunity now that the Musang King season is here now. It helps that I know a friendly durian seller near my work place. I was able to sate my insatiable appetite for the King of the King of Fruits.

We made a stop over in Bentong. I knew that this was a hot bed of CPM activities in the 50s/60s. I felt that I was transported into a time warp. The coffee shop still had coffee on a charcoal brazier. How rustic can it get.

When I was at the durian plantation, I learnt about tropical stingless Trigona bees and their miraculous Propolis honey. In the wild, they make their hives in hollow tree trunks. The enterprising bee-keepers cut the nest off the tree and placed boxes on the trunk. The bees will expand their hive in any hollow space. They seal the hive with bee resin called Propolis which has many medicinal properties. It is a natural antibiotic, antifungal agent. I had the opportunity to suck the Propolis honey off the hive.


Although the Tartine country loaf is a very nice bread, the only problem with it is that it requires the baker to be at home the whole day. The three hour bulk fermentation with stretch and folds every 30 minute and the final proof of 2-3 hours leaves you stranded at home.

To overcome this little problem especially for those who have to go out and make a living, I came up with a work-around so that I can still bake something similar when I get home from work.

This bread uses a ripe starter as flavoring agent but uses commercial yeast to boost leavening. Nothing original about this as many people do that(and get flamed by sourdough purists). In the morning before work, I feed the starter with 100g of flour and water. This will yield 200g of ripe starter when I return from work. I usually feed my culture with whole-wheat flour. This will form the 10% whole-wheat component called for in the Tartine recipe.

The main dough is just 900g of type 55 flour. As the starter is100% hydration, the amount of water to be added is 650g. This makes it a 75% hydration bread. The formula calls for 2 teaspoons of dry instant yeast and 3 teaspoons of sea salt. Oil is optional but recently I am starting to favor adding some oil into the dough. This helps to mitigate crust deterioration in the tropics where I live. Without the oil, the crunchy crust deteriorates into elephant hide. With the oil, the toughness is reduced. Of course all these problems can be eliminated with a bit of refreshing in the oven before consumption.

With the aid of the commercial yeast, the bulk fermentation is just 2 hours. The final proof is 1 hour. In this way, the bread can be completed in the evening when I am at home. The baking is done in a dutch oven for best results. The result is very similar to the Tartine country bread.