Saturday, November 21, 2009


Another attempt at Dan's Foccacia. Since type 00 flour is not easily available, I was interested in finding a flour available locally that will do the job. It seems that just about any lower protein flour will make pretty good versions of the bread.

I was making this bread again as it was well received. My mother loved it and because it was so soft, my father had no trouble eating it. I was able to get a very good flavorful, open crumb. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Storing flour in the tropics.

I was told by a friend about the dangers of storing flours at room temperature in tropical Singapore. I remembered reading about this a couple of weeks ago. In the article, 1g of plain flour left out in the open can have as many as 1750 dust mites crawling in it. The problem is that even when dead, the mites can cause serious problems among asthmatics. This is because the bodies of these mites can still trigger asthma attacks even when the food is cooked at high temperatures.

For me, the preferred storage area for my flour is the freezer. The freezer is great, especially for wholemeal flours. At room temperature, the oils in the germ can turn rancid rapidly. However, this is greatly inhibited at freezer temperatures. I use up flour quite rapidly also as I bake very regularly and in larger quantities than most homebakers.

The following is a link to that article that appeared in the Straits Times.

Foccacia with Type 00 flour

After many rounds of the foccacia, I finally got to do the foccacia using the type of flour used in Dan Lepard's demo. The friend who gave it to me told me that it was the last bag at Culina. This was the reason why I couldn't just squander it. It had to take 3 practice bakes before I would contemplate using it. The dough smelled fragrant during the mix and now, I am wondering if it really was the flour that gave the bread that wonderful aroma.

I am really glad to have learnt first hand from Dan how this bread is made. It is a bread that will be welcomed in any party. Given the Singaporean preference for soft bread, it will surely be preferred to the other types of bread that I make.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dan Lepard Black Pepper Rye
I have been thinking of doing this bread ever since a friend in a bread forum posted his attempt. The recipe is from Dan Lepard's column in The Guardian. This bread is unusual in many aspects. Using coffee as the liquid is unusual in itself. Using it to boil part of the rye with the spices is another touch of brilliance. 

I used fennel as that was the only spice I had on hand. The resulting bread had a very interesting flavor. I believe it will go well with the toppings suggested in the column.

Update: We had it for breakfast this morning and everyone in the family gave it the thumbs up.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Foccacia again.
Today's attempt is my third attempt at Dan's foccacia. I have been thinking about how I can improve on the previous 2 bakes. I was sure that it will work well this time. This time round, I followed the recipe to the letter. True enough, the bread turned out very well and I was able to bring it to another friend who was with me for coffee the other evening. I did not give him the sourdough version as it was really terrible. I mentioned that I will bring him a loaf the next time I baked so since I baked today, I had to make good my word.

The result was very encouraging indeed as the flavor was quite good. It was light and fluffy with very good crust texture. It even passed the severe home critics at home. I am sure the flavor will be more enhanced with a little more retardation.

Sourdough foccacia
I was one of the participants at Dan Lepard's demo and I was glad to have had the opportunity to learn from him. He demonstrated a foccacia served at Locatelli in London. It included malt and a levain.  The flavor took me by surprise after I took bite of it. 

I would never have imagined a bread made within that short period of time can have such a deep penetrating aroma. Needless to say, I left the demonstration very inspired. I was sure that the flavor did not come from the levain brought by me. It was a source of embarrassment for me as it was not its usual self. I thought that if the bread had turned out bad, I would have done Dan a great disservice. Surprisingly, the bread made by Dan had such a superb aroma that everybody who sampled it expressed their approval with uums, and other expressions of delight. 

For the demonstration, Dan used a Type 00 flour, malt and my levain. However, for this bake, I omitted the yeast just to see the difference the yeast made. It was made using my usual sourdough process.

The outcome: The bread was flavorful but the texture was pathetic. Unfortunately, I promised a friend that I would bring him a loaf of bread for our meeting. After seeing the way the bread turned out, I hesitated in bringing it. However, as I have already given my word, I had to bring it for him. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dan Lepard Foccacia

This bake was a just dry run of the real thing for reasons best known to myself.  It included malt which I had made myself. Unfortunately, that batch of malt was not optimum so for my next attempt at this bread, I have resolved to make a better batch of the malt. This time round, I am going to watch the process more carefully and not let my schedule wreck it.

It also included a levain which was not at its optimum. I am still trying to figure what happened exactly and I experienced Murphy's law at it's worst. I thought I was going to embarrass an important guest and in turn embarrass myself even more but thank God, I was spared that. On the contrary, everything turned out very well.

Since this bake was done without the correct ingredients, I did not expect it to taste like the real deal but it was acceptable. Talking about the real deal, the flavor was beyond my expectation. After eating it, I wondered if it was really possible for me to recreate it without using the same kind of ingredients.

After the bake, I realised that I had forgotten to scatter some salt on top before the bake. Well, at least I did not forget the Rosemary.

Poilane Miche

Anybody who loves bread will dream of visiting Poilane in Paris.  Their bread is exported to many parts of the world and even to Singapore.  I had the chance to eat the last slice available  at a cafe once but I was rather disappointed because it tasted like cardboard. The entire miche retailed for $50 at that time, possibly making it the most expensive loaf of bread in Singapore.

Recently I received a call from from my friend asking me pick up a couple of slices of the miche. It was not at its freshest but at least it was better than my first experience with it. Having eaten it, I was inspired to make one in the near future. The recent gift of Bacheldre Mill flour should come in handy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quantity vs quality

I wanted to use up my surplus of wholewheat flour so it was yet another batch of 40% wholewheat again. Being an environmentally conscious person, I have always felt guilty about using all that energy to bake the breads in my large oven. So it was always down to squeezing maximum capacity with minimal preheating of the stone. As a result, my breads have never been baked to its optimum.

I was usually the person consuming the bulk of the bread so the aesthetics of the bread was secondary to me. However, ever since I baked the breads in my friend's place, I have been doing a rethink. There is absolutely no doubt about the joy one gets when a beautiful loaf comes out of the oven. So life is short, why not do the best that is possible.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baking session at friend's place

For the past week, I had been rehearsing for a bake at a friend's house. It was a first time for me to bake bread in an oven other than my own. Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive because I will be working with unfamiliar equipment.

I brought along 5 loaves for the dinner as backup just in case the bake did not work out. The bread that I chose to demo was a 40% wholewheat bread. After the first loaf came out of the oven, I was able to breathe a little easier. It was a very enjoyable afternoon spent among friends. We were treated to a splendid spread prepared by the host. 

For the bake, I prepared enough dough to let my friends do some hands on practice. The breads from their efforts were outstanding. While the loaves were proofing, I showed them the method for mixing. This dough was brought home by one of my friends. 

The following day, I got an email from my friend showing the results of her bake in her own oven. I have to say it was outstanding for a first time effort. The pictures speak for themselves.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Rehearsal time

I have been invited to a baking session at a friend's house. This will be the first time that I am baking in another kitchen so needless to say, I am hoping that the bake will turn out well. My friend has a preference for whole-wheat bread. It was time to do a little practice before the show. For the next couple of weeks, I will probably be doing a lot of whole-wheat breads to refresh my memory. 

I decided to do another fruit and nut bread again since the last bake was so delicious. However, this time round, I used a 50% Atta as the base. The fruit and nut portion consisted of Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds and 2 types of raisins. The 1.5% spice mix was the same used in the last bake. Hydration was at 72% with 3% olive oil.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Article by Tan Hsueh Yun. Straits Times Urban supplement. Click on the article to read.

Durum Double Raisin Bread with Pumpkin seeds

I was in the Aljunied area and decided to check out the an organic products outlet. They carry a wide range of organic products, including flours such as rye and spelt. I love their products, which I feel is good value for money. I have been using their Himalayan Pink rock salt since I started baking. I gave a bottle to a food writer friend once who subsequently featured it in the Straits Times Urban supplement. Another product that I love is their organic Demerara sugar. Since I love good coffee, I couldn't possibly just use any sugar. So whenever I was at the supermarket at Fairprice Finest, I will load up with a dozen of the salt and sugar. This never fails to earn some stares from the people in the queue. 

While I was at the outlet, I chatted with the salesperson there. She let me sample the three types of organic raisins sold there. They were huge and tasted fantastic. Most of the raisins out there are soaked in oil which imparts a taste but the oil in these raisins was minimal and the natural taste of the raisins was more pronounced. Needless to say, I left the shop with 3 bags of goodies for my bread making. I have to add here that I am not paid to endorse their products nor am I related to anyone in the company.

I got some Durum flour from Phoon Huat store at Sims Place on my way back. This was different from the gritty semolina sold by Prima. Durum flour is used in Sicilian bread but Amy Scherber has a Semolina Fennel Raisin bread which I used to make. It is one of my favorite. Since I had all these ingredients on hand, I wanted to make a special Double Raisin Durum Fennel bread. I was looking high and low for my pack of Fennel but alas, it had been thrown out by my wife because it was past its expiry date. Fortunately, I had a pack of German bread spice given to me by a friend. The spice mix consisted of Fennel, Cumin and Coriander.

For the bake, the Durum flour was one-third of the flour used. The hydration was 70% and included 5% olive oil. I used both Black and Green Raisins with the pumpkin seeds. The bread was delicious. My only regret was that I did not add in enough raisins. However, the main reason why I did not overload on the raisin was because I was afraid that the kids would not touch the bread. My wife also dislikes the burnt raisin sticking to the crust. Fortunately for this bake, my daughter actually complimented me for the bread. What more can I ask for?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Flour Test - German Ciabatta premix

I am very happy to have received a gift of flours from some friends recently. The 4 bags included a Ciabatta premix, Volkonbrot mix, Spelt and Rye flour. I started with the Ciabatta premix because it was a bread that I was familiar with. Moreover, I did not have the time to translate the German instructions for the rest of the flours. 

Thanks to the internet, language is no longer a barrier. I was able to figure out the contents of the package with minimal effort. The premix contained sugar which is one ingredient I seldom use. As a result, the bread turn out a little darker than usual. I tweaked the hydration up to 70% as the specified 65% was dryer than the Ciabatta dough that I was used to handling. Even so, I felt that the bread might have been better if I had adjusted it up to 75%. I did not follow the instructions on the package as I preferred my own method. Besides, it was a working day and I only had 30 minutes to make the dough.

The verdict? The flavor was good considering the fact that it was just a 12 hour bread made without preferment. The bread was a little more salty that what I was used to making so it would be better to go with unsalted butter. The crust was a little different from bread made with my regular flour. It was crunchy and was easier to bite off, exactly the quality of crust that I had been looking for. I wonder how I can tweak my regular flour to get this kind of crust.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Baguettes with poolish and levain

I was in major baking overdrive this weekend, baking a total of 10 ciabattas and 6 baguettes over a 2 day period. For the 6 baguettes, I was in a situation where I had a ripe poolish and a starter which was in its first build stage. Since I didn't want all that flour to go to waste, I decided to incorporate both the poolish and levain to make some baguette. The main dough was mixed at midnight and I made the baguettes after I returned from my yoga session.

When it came out of the oven, my wife remarked that it had a very beautiful color. It was a good chance for me to thank my neighbor for his gift of the original Tarragon sprig which has since multiplied. Another loaf went to my French neighbor. I hope the bread was good enough him. After all, he must grown up eating really good authentic French bread in France.