Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kalamata Olive Bread

A friend once said that she baked on borrowed time and I am beginning to feel the same. There seems to be a thousand and one things to take care of. This is even more so with baking in a beehive oven.

I was itching to bake and eat bread again. I don't think I'll be eating scones for some time to come. That's the problem of having a big oven. Everything has to be done on an industrial scale. The advantage is that I get to eat my fill of my favorite goodies. Unfortunately there is also a tendency to get tired of them after a while. This is especially true for the sweet stuffs. I don't seem to get the feeling when eating bread.

Since the weather seem to be holding, I decided to chance it and fired the oven for lunch and for making bread. My wife bought some Kalamata olives which she used for her pasta the day before. Since my daughter loved the olives, I decided to make Kalamata olive bread. I made up a 40 oz formula with 10% semolina flour, 20% wholewheat and 70% bread flour. The hydration was 75% with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Lunch was pizza, my favorite banana leaf otah and roasted Japanese sweet potatos. The pizza came out horrible. It was a mistake baking it on a tray. I should've done it direct on the oven floor. The bread came out not too bad although it was a little pale at the top. Ideally, the beehive should be fired with larger logs but I was firing the oven with small pieces of charcoal which did not heat the roof sufficiently.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My garden in its former glory
Tumeric and Thai Basil
My Passion fruit plants grown from seeds. I was thrilled by the growing tendrills.
Lemon grass
Laksa leaf for making my favorite Laksa pesto.
Curry leaf
Sweet Basil
Rosemary grown from a sprig bought in the supermarket.

The weather has not been favorable for baking and cooking outdoors recently. Most of my baking had been done indoors and this morning I enjoyed myself with a breakfast of scones made from a recipe from Michel Suas new book on Advanced Bread and Pastry.

After breakfast, we headed down to Oh's farm to get a few herbs for the garden. With my limited floor space and not so green thumb, the herbs that I grow are clearly insufficient for my regular use. Instead, they are used only in contingencies to make up for my recalcitrant lack of planning. The herbs would be laid bald if I were to use them in daily cooking. They are very useful to have around when you suddenly find yourself needing a sprig of a herb called for in a recipe.

I had taken a renewed interest in gardening following my discovery of a wonderful website featured in the local papers. The website( has a forum with a food sub-section and populated by individuals who seem quite competent in baking bread also. The forum is also an indispensable resource for finding out the wrong things that you have been doing with your plants.

A few years ago, I had a very nice garden simply because I had learnt to place plants in their natural habitat. From a management point of view, it seems people are also like plants. They have to be deployed in roles suitable to their temperament. I had learnt that some plants neeed partial shade while others love full sunshine. Before this realization, I was doing it all wrong and was guilty of burning and killing many of my beloved plants through excessive sun exposure. After I realized this simple fact, my garden began to thrive.

More recently, I was thrilled that my passion fruit seedlings have been thriving well in the pot, sending out tendrills. I would have to make a trellis for them soon. The Rosemary which I had grown from a sprig bought in the Supermarket has been growing very well too. I attribute this to the ash from my Beehive oven.