Sunday, March 30, 2008

Flour Test - Shipton Mills Bread Flour
I was given a bag of Shipton Mills bread flour recently. It was a gift I appreciated greatly. Although it is 'just a bag of flour' you may say, it was certainly no ordinary bag of flour. Perhaps, more important than the exclusivity of the product, it is the token of the friendship it represents that mattered even more to me.

It was not the first time that I had tried Shipton mills flour. Another friend had given me a bag of Shipton mills wholewheat flour before but at that time, I did not have much luck with it. It was never documented because so many things went wrong that time, including a disaster with the camera.

Now that I have a chance to play with the Shipton mills flour again, I did the test with great reverance. The flour that I was given the last time was hand carried all the way from the UK. Even if this flour had been available in Singapore, I'd have to contemplate three times before I part with my limited 'dough'. My friend mentioned in passing that it was $18 a bag and that's a little too steep for me.

Using my standard test recipe for a white loaf, the flour weight was 40oz with 70% hydration. I used my lazy baker process for this test as I was expecting a plumber to relocate a pipe in the garden. The yeast used was only 1 teaspoon. Salt was 2%. The dough sat for about 12 hours in the fridge and this morning, it was given 2 folds before it was baked. During the folding, I noticed that the extensibility of the dough was markedly different from my regular flour.

The bread was baked for around 40 mins. The oven spring was outstanding and when I took them out from the oven, the crust crakled. After it had cooled, I ate a slice with butter and my conclusion is that it really is a great flour. The aroma was what I love in this kind of bread. I guess taste is something very personal and it is inevitable that different people have different tastes. However, I couldn't help feeling that those who prefer the sweet soft breads are missing out on something really good.

My verdict? The shipton mills flour is great and I'd surely use it more regularly if I had the extra money. For those who can afford it, it is worth every penny. After all, Dan Lepard and Linda Collister couldn't be wrong.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blood Orange Marmalage

I was at Fairprice finest last Friday and spotted some Blood Oranges. They were prepacked in net bags and there were bruises on some of them in each bag. When I got home, I realised that they were more damaged than I had thought. Rather than eating them fresh, I selected the good ones to make some marmalade.

The skin of Blood Oranges is rather soft and I found the flavor of the Orange itself to be more intense. It was an ideal candidate for making marmalade. The sugar used was only 1/3 the weight of the oranges. After the marmalade has been reduced, a small amount of butter was stirred in. I have to say that I loved it and will probably make more the next time.
I am still contemplating the addition of an Orange Liquer. With such an intense flavor, perhaps I should hold the liquer and enjoy it au naturel.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Potato Bread With Chives
Last week's potato bread tasted so good that I couldn't get enough of it. I made some modifications to Hamelman's recipe. Instead of the 15% wholewheat, I made it with 100% bread flour this time. The percentage of Potatos was the same but I added in a handful of chives and to complement the flavors, a dash of pepper and nutmeg was added. The aroma from the oven when the bread was baking, herald the birth of a winner (as far as my taste in bread is concerned).
I realised that I had made a mistake about the shaping of fendu loaves. A more careful reading of Hamelman made me realise that I had done the shaping wrongly. So this time, I resolved to get it right but failed again because the wood dowel that I had used was far to slim and cut into the dough too much. I'd have to do this shape again and this time with a rolling pin.

Hamelman's Roasted Potato Bread
My wife made a loaf of Potato bread recently and I was very surprised by the depth of flavor of the bread. I decided to try out Hamelman's version of Roasted Potato Bread. The bread is 85% bread flour and 15% wholewheat. Roasted potatoes was 25% of the flour weight. Since this was the first time that I had made this bread, I made a lot of mistakes including a very silly one of not mashing the potatoes sufficiently. Hamelman commented that roasting the potatoes concentrated their flavor. It was also the first time that I had tried the fendu shape and I realise that I did not have a sufficiently long dowel for the job.

A new year, a new beginning

I have finally decided to move from my website to a blog. The free web-hosting provided by Angelfire had given me endless headaches. After 2 years on it, I have finally decided enough is enough. My well meaning friends have always urged me to use a blog format but I guess I must have been a real masochist for punishment. Enduring the shortcomings of free Angelfire is no easy task. I have always thought that beggars cannot be choosers since I am too cheap to pay for web hosting. Well, maybe in the real world but then on the net, beggars can be choosers!!

Here is my first post which was salvaged from a third Angelfire spin-off. I had to do 2 other spin-offs to work around the 20MB storage limit. Starting from my initial website at

Traversing through these 2 websites is complicated enough and it would be downright silly of me to do a third spin-off especially when bandwidth is exruciating limited for free Angelfire webhosting. Publishing the updates was equally daunting. Finally tonight, after wasting 2 hours trying to upload some updates, I decided to quit Angelfire and start with a blog format. I will maintain the original 2 sites as there are some useful links and information for people to start baking bread.

I had been inspired to do a website after learning so much from fellow bakers in the US. Their websites gave me so much inspiration that I felt compelled to try out the breads that they had posted.

So now, a new year, a new beginning. First post: Operation salvage from crippling Angelfire:

Blueberry Tarts
I had some guests today and to entertain them, I made a batch of blueberry tarts to serve them. The tart shells were baked in the morning together with my Cinnamon buns. My wife made the Mascarpone cream cheese filling and they were topped with blueberries. I had to use frozen blueberries sitting in my freezer but they turned out well. These were not very sweet and still had the mild tartness of fresh berries. An apricot glaze completed the assembly. There was even a request for a 'take-away' so what more can I ask for?