Friday, December 12, 2008

build your own minibar

i like woodworking a lot too but haven't done as much as baking bread. making your own furniture makes a lot of sense as store bought furniture typically won't fit 100% into your existing deco as well as space.

ever bought a bookshelf with gaping space at the top? can't seem to find a bookshelf that goes all the way to the ceiling? i really hate seeing the little gap there between the bookshelf and the ceiling. and the top of the bookshelf does nothing but collect dust!

hence i strive to build as much as possible.

furthermore, if you ever bought furniture from IKEA, you'll notice that assembling them isn't that difficult. the difficult part is designing them right, cutting and gluing to right measurements and sizes.

to that end, you need appropriate tools. now power tools don't come cheap but over here in malaysia, we are lucky to have so many china made power tools which are not only cheap but perform very well too! i bought a rm200 mitre saw before and using this mitre saw, with some help from friends, managed to saw off the ultra hard resak wood for our staircase. the savings from asking someone to saw for you more than made up for the price of the mitre saw.

anyway, showcase here is one of my more satisfying "handiwork".

it's supposed to be a minibar but at the end of the day, this furniture only holds 2 bottles of liquor and all sorts of other stuffs! it has become something like a food storage furniture (there's supposed to be word for it...).

notice that the sides store the glasses/mugs. the side door is detachable should you decide to change the look one day...
it's supposed to be a minibar you see. the wood is finished with polyurethane.
it's supposed to be a safe material but then to be absolutely sure, i'd rather have a layer of plastic film between the polyurethane and my mugs. also, with the plastic layer under the mugs, even if you slam the side door, the glasses won't even clatter.
doesn't look like a minibar anymore right? my wife hijacked it and now we store all our food stuffs here.

the top is not glued down. this way it's "modular". you never know one day when your wife says "this is too small for our needs now"!

credit goes to gabriel for helping me complete the unit. i built it over several months as i got stuck couple of times. in the end, gabriel helped me get "unstuck".

Monday, December 8, 2008

multi-seed rye with pics

when i bake bread, i don't think along the lines of baguette, ciabatta etc. i just do it without much of an expectation. whatever bread turns out, i'm delighted it turned out well! this way i'm never disappointed. and because of this, every home made bread is a great bread.  :)

okay, this is similar to the multi seed wholemeal baked last week except i used more rye and less bread flour this time.

overnight starter
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • less than 1/4 tsp instant yeast
12 hours later, we get this mess. smells nice though.

if you wait till 16 hours, it's fine too, but i haven't tried longer than that.

on baking day...

mix with
  • 2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 seed mixture - flaxseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • adequate water until the dough feels sticky.

 2 hours later...

i could have waited longer but can't wait to start the next process.

well, take it out, proof and shape for another rise before baking.

another 2 hours after shaping it. the dough has grown a lot more.

you could wait longer but i had enough!

remember, slow rise = great bread. teaches us, the new generation of instant gratification spoiled brads, the value of being patient...

before baking, put more sunflower/pumpkin seeds on top. you could put raw ones here as once baked, they'll be delicious!

simply delicious!

they grow a bit more in the oven.

what do you call this? ciabatta?

i couldn't be bothered. i call it a great bread!

dipped in thick stew, soup or butter, all taste good!

oh yeah, someone asked what does the chinese characters below the title mean? literally translated, it means "an idiot making biscuit". meaning someone who doesn't know what he's doing but making a go at it. sounds like me baking bread! ha ha!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

multi-seed wholemeal with more pics

told you i can't have enough of those multi-seed bread...

this time i made 4 loaves, using the same method but with different ingredients.

multi-seed wholemeal
overnight sponge
  • 1 cup of wholemeal
  • 3/4 cup water
  • slightly less than 1/4 tsp instant yeast
i mixed this about 9pm saturday nighte.

this is what it looks like 9am sunday morning.

it has risen and collapsed. it has a faint sweet smell.

on baking day, mix with
  • 1 cup wholemeal
  • 2 cups of white bread flour
  • 3/4 cup soaked in warm water mixture of flaxseed, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • and suitable amount of water until dough "feels sticky"
after kneading for about 20 minutes, here it is in a dusted plastic container.

 2 hours later...

you could see the dough has grown quite a lot!

so take it out, proof it, shape it... you should know the drill by now. otherwise click on the "basic bread recipe" tags on the right.

baked at 180c for 20-25 minutes, or until desired "golden browness". 
bread baking is so easy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Work harder on yourself than you do on your job

i was reading some articles when i came upon this quote. attributed to jim rohn who is a motivational guru, i couldn't agree more!

most folks' personal development come from their day job. i'll say most are unplanned for, just "follow what my boss has for me".

it's fine if you want this approach but not everyone is so lucky to have a boss who sees to it your personal development. most are just tied up meeting company goals (and not to mention their personal goals). if you want to be sure you are making the right progress, you just got to take matters into your own hands.

you want to learn something? why wait for the opportunity? search for online articles (wikipedia is wonderful), grab a book, network with friends/associates...

besides, learning on your own, at your own pace, fueled by your interest, gains a hell lot more mileage than learning from a classroom. learning by doing, making mistakes... that's all part of learning and you only come out stronger from it.

thus jim rohn's words is so true. work harder on yourself than you do on your job!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

have you seen this watch

well, i collect vintage watches too. i find it utterly fascinating and am always awed by the complexity and level of craftsmanship shown in vintage watches. have some swiss variety but this one completely surprised me. it's a made in china watch!

yeah, while we are used to low quality china goods, this watch... is finely made it rivals its swiss peers. it's a handwound unit so it could be 30+ years old. make is "dongbao". never heard of it.

"17 JUAN" means 17 jewels. "ZHONGGUOZHIZAO" - made in china. the chinese characters at the bottom say "china" and "shanghai".

back of the watch. literally translated, "stainless steel shanghai supermarket". 

despite its age, it's condition is still beautiful. the design is best described as classic. doesn't look dated at all!

this is one of my favourite watch!

Monday, November 24, 2008

multi-grain wholemeal again but using biga

i think it's time i try out new stuffs. again, i'm baking the multi grain bread. seems that we can't get tired of this stuff.

  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

baking day
  • 1 cup wholemeal + 2 cup white flour
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast 
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup simmered-for-5-minutes amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, sunflower seed, flaxseed, pumpkin seed
  • about 1/3 cup water. add more/less until dough feels "sticky".

for added pizzaz, sprinkle the top of the dough with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

 actually when making this bread, i forgot to account for the 1 cup of rye flour in the "ferment". so i had 4 cups of flour on baking day.

so had 5 cups of flour in total! not a problem, just add more water till it feels right.

told you bread baking is easy. it's very forgiving.

as you could see, good to eat on its own!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

went crazy with wholemeal and biga!

using the "better basic bread recipe", i went nuts and got on a bread-baking spree.

since this method is so much more fun, i decided to redo all our favourite bread recipes using this method and see how it goes.

all i can say is it works well with all our bread recipes! told you bread baking is easy!

first off, tried the rosemary raisin. used 1/2 wholemeal and 1/2 white. excellent! still our favourite bread.

then tried a plain wholemeal bread. my wife's company organized a potluck and they asked for my bread. hmm... either i'm doing something right or they are just to size me up. see whether i'm all hot air!

2 cups wholemeal flour

2 cups white flour

then tried the multi-grain again. again! but this time, went a bit nuts. went 100% wholemeal!

if you ever bake bread before, you know it's always a better idea to bake with some portion of white bread flour as it develops gluten better.

100% wholemeal is more difficult and the dough needs lots of encouragement.

i dared to try this as we have yeast on steroids! yes, using the pre-ferment method, the biga method.

pleased to tell you that this bread turned out very well. denser and chewier than those made with some proportion of white flour but it sure tastes divine!

all in all, this is the method i'm going to use for all future bread baking. highly recommended!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

a better basic bread recipe

i wrote a basic bread recipe some time ago. and have been using that same recipe with good success for so long.

however, after trying the pre-ferment method, i'm sold! this is better, works faster and tastes better. only snag is the work is now spread out over 2 days. if you don't mind this (hey, good bread comes to those who are patient), then try this. i assure you you won't be disappointed.

[btw, it's called the pre-ferment method as a small quantity of dough is left to "ferment" overnight, then mixed with the rest of the ingredients. this method was in use when commercial yeast first came about as commercial yeast was expensive back then and this method utilizes less yeast. also, said to have some "sourdough" qualities. what i know is, it works fast! like yeast on steroids! and taste better. so i'm sold!

sponge, biga, poolish are all different variations of the same technique. the method shown below is about 100% hydration (meaning equal  weight of flour and water), so it's more like a biga.]

the day before
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 tsp of instant yeast (after using instant yeast, i find dry yeast a hassle)
mix above ingredients and let it sit in a bowl, overnight. of course, covered with a plastic cling film. it could sist for 8-16 hours, it's all fine. overnight is best.

the next morning,  it should look wet, with holes and smell mildly acidic. what happened is that the dough has grown until its max, then collapsed down. if the dough looks like the same as yesterday, you can be assure the yeast is dead!

notice that no salt is used above. so we encourage the yeast to grow and grow until it collapses. hence you get a mild acidic smell.

baking day
  • 3 cups of flour
  • about 1 and 1/4 cup water (mixed with 1 tsp of honey). add more if dough feels dry
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: 1 cup of "extras"
on baking day, mix all the ingredients above together with the overnight dough.  note that this differs from the basic bread recipe in the sense that we use more salt than before.

the amount of water needs to be estimated. the best feel is this :  the resultant dough feels sticky but doesn't stick much to your hands. some add more flour if too wet, add more water if too dry. if not sure, let it be a bit wet.

the optional 1 cup of extras could be anything of your fancy. it could be
  • 1 cup raisin, 1 tsp rosemary for our favourite rosemary raisin
  • 1 cup of grains like amaranth, quiona, buckwheat, millet, flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed for another favourite of ours, the multigrain bread.
hey hey! anything to your fancy! you could slice open the dough before baking and put in some slices of ham/cheese...

anything goes!

even the flour mixture, you could vary. it's a good idea to use a "stronger" flour for the pre-ferment. i usually use rye or wholemeal. the other 3 cups of flour could be anything of your fancy!

so after you have mixed up everything, hand knead vigorously for about 30 minutes. machine knead is too much trouble for me. i hate the washing!

then put aside and let it grow.

within an hour, you should see some substantial growth!

once doubled in size (just slightly more than an hour needed)... gently "press down" the excess air and stretch the dough somewhat, so that the yeast will work for you again. be gentle here.

shape it to whatever shape you want to, then let it sit for another 45 minutes, then bake it!

i usually bake at 180c for about 23-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

easy peasey!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

multi-grain bread, again? more than that...

remember the multi grain, multi seeds bread? the one where i used the organic ancient grain mix from "radiant whole food"?
it is a favourite here so i baked this again. but it's no fun doing the same thing same way again.

hey, even great bands like led zeppelin don't play the same song the same way twice. i guess this is how we learn, by doing the same thing in different ways, then observing and learning from there.
i varied 2 things differently here. 
first of all, after all that terrible problem with my moisture-contaminated yeast (just chucked it away), i'm using a new packet now. this time it's instant yeast, not dry yeast.  instant yeast is easier to use as you could mix into the flour directly. no need to proof it with warm water to get things going.

[to store instant yeast, pour out into a small container than pack, reseal and air tight the rest into the fridge. next time when you bake, take out from the small container.]
the second thing i tried this time, is the pre-ferment method.
usually we leaven with instant yeast and that's about it but the pre-ferment method consists of 2 parts, the night before and baking day.
the night before, mix a small quantity of yeast into some flour and water. let it sit overnight.
the next morning, you'll find the previous night's dough has risen and collapsed. now mix in the rest of the ingredients and flour to  previous night's mixture. and so on... here has as nice step-by-step tutorial. it so happens that my favourite flour mixture is quite similar to pumpernickel [i love this word!].
i used the method above, but instead of bran flakes, i used almost a cup of grain mixture (consisting of buckwheat, quinoa,  millet, amaranth, flax seed, sunflower seed and pumpkin seed)
i used 2 tablespoons of honey instead of malt extract.
i didn't use any cocoa powder.
for the baking day mixture, i used 1/2 teaspoon of instant yeast rather than 1 teaspoon.
well, the dough works much better! much more active!

if before i had to wait for 2 hours for the dough to double, this time it was only an hour and half! second proofing was only 40 minutes but it was an hour with dry yeast before.
and for the first time ever, the dough grew and grew until it almost touched the cover of my plastic container. something that has never happened before.

nah, it's not some mutant yeast here, but more of "yeast on steroids". left to sit overnight, the yeast has grown and multiplied till there's enough of them. then even though you don't add much yeast the following day, as the yeast is already healthy and active, it works a treat.

taste wise, there's some hint of sourdough. don't know about you but i like it.

and i'll be trying more of this method from now on!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

hand knead or machine?

i was browsing through some bread books lately when i recalled reading this experiment from a team of bakers.

the bakers were divided into 2 teams. both teams baked bread using the same ingredients with the only difference being one team kneaded the dough by hand, while the other via a mixer (man vs machine practically).

the resultant dough was then compared, then the bread.

the result was interesting.

the machined processed dough had more gluten, stretched further and rose higher compared to the hand kneaded dough.

doh! this is a disappointment for me as i just love to knead! in fact to me, the most fun part of bread making is the kneading process.

a friend confirmed this as well. so this explains why the breads i bake still aren't as soft/supple as store bought breads. grrr...

so i got to try this. when making the 10-grain bread, i used our food processor's kneading function. as the machine started to spin the dough, i realized something. if your dough is rich, heavy and wet, then there is no sense of kneading at all. the dough just "couldn't come together" in the food processor.

the resultant bread? still heavy. so i guess this depends on the type of bread you make. if you are making a light sandwich bread, then it makes sense to go for machine. the result will be soft and supple. 

if you are going for heavy breads, enriched with fruit/nuts/grain or what-else-you-can-think-of-putting-in, then i'd rather go for the manual method.
of better still, develop the dough first, then after the dough the first rise only you put in the ingredients. i'll say this is the proper way to go.

at the end of the day, i still went for manual, as the cleaning of the food processor is a major turn-off! 

also the only time i tried this with a food processor, i have no idea the motor is so weak. it worked just for a few minutes then gave up. sigh... 

but... i'll try the machine again some day... or when i get sick of kneading...

i bet this is strong enough for any type of dough!

Monday, November 3, 2008

more grains! more seeds!

bread with grains and seeds is fast becoming a favourite here. it's nutritious, packed with fiber and because we use so much grains/seeds, it screams "premium". you know for sure it can't be store bought as it's just too expensive to do it commercially.

baking this bread was very eventful too. more on that later.

first of all, i bought this "organic ancient grain mix" by radiant whole food from hock choon. the description on the package says

"ancient grain mix is nutritious and has not undergone modern technology of hybrid nor genetically engineered. grown mainly in the andes in south america, africa and central asia, ancient grains can be referred as "super grains" or "mother of all grains"."

interesting eh? i can't vouch much for the above as i have not been around for THAT long ok? but this package is said to contain organic buckwheat, organic millet, organic quiona and organic amaranth.

spot the grains!

can you identify which is buckwheat, millet, quiona and amaranth?

neither could i!

well, i know buckwheat is the largest fella in the group. millet is the tiny yellow colour grain. not sure about quiona and amaranth though.

let's face it, these grains are generally nutty flavour... like wheat and rye so they don't stand out in your bread. so for added flavour, fun and texture, i mixed in sunflower and pumpkin seeds (bought from bake with yen).

  • 4 cups of bread flour (i used 2 white + 1 wholemeal + 1 rye. going all out for grains.)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 or 1.5 cup of grain mix (here we have buckwheat, millet, quiona, amaranth, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • adequate amount of water

as before, boil/simmer the grain mix for about 5 minutes to soften them up first. soaking overnight doesn't soften them enough.

i'll advise to stir in the grain mix into the flour first. i didn't make an attempt to drain them dry and just let the flour soak up the excess water. after i mixed in the yeast mixture (i used dry yeast so if you use instant, your procedure should be different from mine), then i mixed them up well and only added water as required.

then knead as usual until you get that ubiquitous "dough feel" --- smooth like a baby's bottom but yet a little sticky.

then we wait!

however, this time my "waiting" period got pretty eventful. i waited for 4 hours but the dough hasn't risen much. it did a little but too little. as it was already 10.30pm and i was already feeling sleepy (i have no idea what i did the whole day), i thus put the dough into the fridge for a slow slow rise. after all, slow rise makes better bread.

i woke up at 2.30am (body clock has gone all haywire), took out the dough (hasn't risen much either) then waited for it to rise. while waiting, i read paulo coelho's the alchemist, a book recommended by a friend. so who says men can't multi-task?

5am and still the dough looks the same to me! alright, time for "dough express"! heated up the oven to 60c and put in the dough. 6.30am, still the dough looks the same.

it is then i realized something is SERIOUSLY wrong. SERIOUS.

i recalled the last few bread baking sessions... they worked but the dough was having trouble rising and i had to resort to "dough express" couple of times. the only possibility is the yeast is bad...

well, i bought a packet of instant yeast a week ago so seems like this is the time to salvage my dough!

mixed a teaspoon of instant yeast into 3 tablespoons of flour + water. then spread out flat the "almost dead" dough and spread the new yeast mixture on the dough as evenly as possible. then roll out everything like a swiss roll. knead for a few minutes.

put back oven and set to 60c again.

2 hours later... signs of life! the dough has risen somewhat.

so proof the dough, and let it rise for another 2 hours. then bake!

so what's the conclusion here?

reading is not recommended while baking bread?

i think you need to take care of your yeast. for this new packet, i took out aboout a quarter and stored in a small jam jar. the rest, i packed it nicely, sealed it into a plastic bag, then kept it in the freezer.

i doubled above recipe. so about 2 cups of flour per boule.
(i onced baked without dividing into smaller boules. the bread looked impressive but the center was gummy. so go for smaller boules.)

we ate one. gave 3 away to friends and relatives.

no wonder everyone loves us!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bake With Yen

in another post, i blogged about where to buy bread flour in malaysia. actually, it's more like just kuala lumpur to be exact.

what i didn't mention is that you could buy all the related stuffs in those stores as well.

however, when my friend, ew, told me about this shop in puchong, i just had to take a look!

as ew is not free around here, it took me quite a while to find that place. but i'm glad i took the trouble!

like hock choon and chun ship, "bake with yen" also buys flour in bulk and repackages them in 1kg bags. prices are about the same like the other 2 shops. what makes them different (and interesting) is, they do the same to many other stuffs too!

i almost can't believe that i could buy dried herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil and parsley leaves at such fantastic prices! why heck, they'll even sell you 1kg of dried rosemary leaves if that's what you desire. i saw the 1kg package there!

white chocolate? dried raisins (best prices here), sultanas, almond flakes, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed... boy, i just couldn't resist. from now on, you can be sure my breads will have lots of nutritious seeds. :)

and not to mention all tthe other baking paraphenalia too, whether you bake cakes, cookies or bread. as you should know by now, i have no interest in the rest, but only bread.

why heck, they even had a website, though it's pretty basic. bake with yen

if i were them, i'll do mail order!

my only snag is the flour offerings isn't that great. if they sell organic flour as well, then i'm sold!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

whole lot of fibre!

i was at the market and came across this stall where this young chap was selling lots of grains. most interestingly, he also sells this "10 grain mix", supposed to be very nutritious, full of fiber etc.
well, i can't help it so had to take a look. the 10 grains are... barley, oat, quinoa, buckwheat, flax seed, sunflower seed, millet... and 3 other types of which my poor memory couldn't grasp. 
hmm... very interesting indeed! so i bought some and said to myself, "this makes excellent bread"!
now, you are supposed to soak the grains over night before you include them into your bread dough the next day but i wasn't keen on waiting, so i had the grains (about 1 cup) boiled/simmered in hot water for about 5 minutes.
now, if you don't do this, you'll be in for a culinary adventure! every bite could potentially damage your tooth! if you are keen on this sort of "fun", go ahead!
[actually on another occasion that i did this bread, i tried the "soak overnight" method. the grains didn't soften enough, so i recommend the boiling/simmering.]

to have more fun, i used rye flour, so that's 11 type of grain! and if you include the white whole wheat flour, that makes it 12!

  • 4 cups of flour (i used 2 cups rye + 2 cups white)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup stout + adequate amount of water
i used more honey here as since the dough will turn out dark (thanks to rye), might as well make it darker!

i added in stout as i just love rye + stout.

beware that this is a very heavy dough. the usage of rye only makes it worse. this dough needs PLENTY of encouragement. don't be suprised if it needs 4 hours to rise appreciably. if you can't wait, heat your oven to 60c and put the dough in. that's bread making the express way!

if you are short on fiber, it doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

goji berry and dates

i got tired or raisins, mixed fruits, rosemary... so i decided to make something different this time. but typical of me, i didn't plan ahead so i did not have much ingredients at home to try out something different.

however, as i opened the fridge door, hmm.... saw those packets of goji berries (or known as wolf berries). since my wife wasn't around,  so in it went into the bread!

but goji berries by itself isn't exactly tasty. makes sense to add another ingredient.

since the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr - the end of Ramadan, has just ended, hypermarts everywhere is giving big discounts on their stockpile of dried dates. ahem... so why not include them in our bread? it so happened that we have some at home, so this makes perfect sense. besides, both ingredients are red in colour.

goji berries are supposed to be very nutritious.

so too are these red dates.

  • 4 cups flour (i used 2 white + 2 wholemeal)
              • 1 tsp yeast (i used dried, so had to active with warm water first)
              • 1 tsp honey
        • 3/4 cup of dried goji berries. (soaked 10 mins in warm water)
              • about 7 dates, pitted and chopped into small pieces

as usual, i had it baked at 180c for about 20-25 minutes.

of course, feel free to vary the ingredients!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

where to buy bread flour in malaysia?

yes, i'm based in malaysia, kuala lumpur to be exact.

if you are in malaysia as well, and want to bake bread, you'll probably encounter the very pertinent problem of where to buy bread flour. so i'll try to surmise my findings here. feel free to add to it!

currency is ringgit malaysia. at time of writing, around 1 euro dollar = rm4.70.

i prefer organic flour so the findings are geared towards organic flour.

Carrefour - the french hypermart. not all branches stock these though.
Brand name : Country Farm Organic
Organic Rye Flour 500gm rm3.90
Organic Unbleached Wholemeal Flour 500gm rm4.10
protein content not listed so you can't tell whether it's suitable for baking bread. i have used them though and it's ok! listed as product of finland.

Jaya Jusco - supermart from Japan
Brand name : Country Farm Organic
Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour 500gm rm4.10
Organic unbleahced Wholemeal Flour 500gm rm4.10
same offering as carrefour but have this additional product.
Organic semolina flour 500gm rm10.70. note the much higher price! said to be product of usa

Cold Storage - cold storage is more known as purveyor of imported foods
Brand name : Country Farm Organic
Organic Unbleached Wholemeal Flour 500gm rm3.19
Organic Rye Flour 500gm rm3.89
same offering as carrefour and jusco but the prices are better!

Brand name : Waitrose
Organic Stoneground Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour 1.5kg rm14.99 13.6% protein content
Organic Strong White Bread Flour 1.5kg rm14.99 12.9% protein content
Very Strong Canadian White Flour 1.5kg rm14.99 15% protein content!

Brand name : Hovis
Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour 1.5kg rm11.99 14.2% protein content
Granary Malted Brown Bread Flour 1kg rm11.99 14.7% protein content

Cold Storage definitely is the place to go! lots of choices there!

Justlife - organic food specialty shop. members get 10%.
Brand name : the bites
Organic High Protein Wholemeal Flour 1kg rm10
Organic Wheat Flour Unbleached 1kg rm10
these are listed as product of australia

Brand name : Alce Nero
Wholemeal Spelt 500gm rm15.6 [ouch!]
Wholemeal Kamut 500gm rm17 [ouch!]
listed as product of italy

now you know why i haven't tried spelt nor kamut. they also sell organic active dry yeast 100g rm5.90

Hock Choon - a mini market specializing in imported foods. store in jalan ampang, kuala lumpur.
Brand name : Radiant Whole Food
Organic Bread Flour Unbleached 1kg rm7.75
Organic Wholemeal Bread Flour 1kg rm7.75
Brand name : Harvest King Better for Bread Unbleached White Flour 2.26kg (5 lbs) rm15.55
brandless bread flour 1kg rm3.70
brandless wholemeal bread flour 1kg rm3.70
brandless semolina flour 1kg rmm3.70
i really like hock choon they open early (operating hours 8.30am-8pm), have lots to choose from and prices are reasonable. they even sell italian flour '00', the super fine all purpose flour favoured for italian breads.

Chun Yip - a shop specializing in baking paraphenalia. store in jalan sultan, kuala lumpur.
brandless bread flour 1kg rm3.75
brandless wholemeal bread flour 1kg rm3.75

i believe hock choon and chun yip buy flour in bulk, then pack them in 1kg packs. they don't brand them so there's no info whatsoever on protein content etc. i listed these as brandless flour above.

my favourite of all is hock choon. maybe because i'm an early riser. maybe because they have almost everything you need there. maybe because their prices are good...

there you go! my little summary on where to buy bread flour in malaysia. comments welcomed!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

4 seed bread

hee hee hee. such a rich, heavy and nutritous loaf!

you have to give credit to the guy (or gal) who thought of combining seeds/nuts into bread. the added dimensionality, bite and subtle taste transforms the basic bread into one hell of a nutritious meal!

there are so many variations you could do, depending on what's easily available. first time i'm trying this and i'm already thinking of other combinations. this is another "keeper" and i'm sure we'll be baking this from time to time!

  • 4 cups of flour (since i like rye so much, i used 2 cups of rye + 2 cups of white)
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1-2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ~1.5 cups water
  • 1-1.5 cups of seeds (your choice here)

i had some leftover poppy and flax seeds. so went to the store and, to keep the theme consistent, bought some sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. so there are 4 types of seeds here!

combine them anyway you like. i had the poppy seeds soaked in warm water for 10 minutes first before adding to the other seeds.

there are 2 ways to mix the seeds into the dough. you could mix all up first, then pour in the yeast + water mixture. or you could add the seeds to a rather active dough which has grown considerably for an hour.

i prefer the latter as i like to knead the dough a little first. you know, make sure all the flour/yeast/salt is pretty well mixed up first. also, to let the yeast grow considerably first.

then spread out the dough (but not flatten), pour the seeds mixture and knead like crazy.

boy, this will be one wet messy dough. it won't be like kneading anymore but more like just stretching the dough. [if you are unsure whether your dough is too dry or too wet, err on the side of wet.] the seeds (especially the smaller poppy and flax) will be everywhere, sticking to your fingers as well. boy, they do have a knack of hiding in the space between your fingers.

but don't worry too much about this. let it be a wet messy mixture. after mixing them up for a few minutes, leave it aside and let the yeast work its magic.

an hour later, you'll find the dough has grown more and has "taken in" the seeds. now it'll be really easy to stretch or do whatever you want with the dough. the seeds won't fall out anymore. they behave!

such a heavy dough, it won't rise much, so forget about looking for big holes in your bread. in fact, it rises pretty slowly...

[i cheated here. i had to leave early so i had the oven heated up to 60 c, then switched off, and placed the dough inside. boy, in 20 minutes, it grew a lot!]

placed at the middle rack of the oven and had it baked 180 c (about 350 f) for 25 minutes.

it's a beautiful loaf and tastes fantastic! you could chew and savour every bite and taste.

i better stop here. got to take another bite!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

rosemary raisin

farmgirl fare introduced me to the excellent pane di ramerino - rosemary raisin bread hailing from tuscany, italy. this recipe's been around since the early 16th century. i hope i get the chance to visit tuscany some day!

the combination of rosemary and raisin is simply awesome! this is one of the favourites here and my wife regularly shares this bread with her work colleagues. smells good, looks good and tastes good! Never had enough to go around!

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • around 1.5-2 cups of water
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried rosemary. if using fresh, go for 2 tablespoons. 
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

i didn't add milk nor eggs. feel free to add them as this would result in a smoother dough.

if you use white flour, you'll get more of the olive oil taste and rosemary flavour. i however prefer wholemeal (i'm a wholegrain nut!) so used a combo of wholemeal plus white flour. this depends on your liking. if you want a lighter dough, go for 3:1 wholemeal to white. if you prefer a heavier dough, go for 2:2 wholemeal to white (as in 2 cups to 2 cups).

[since i wanted to give some to friends, 1 scaled the recipe to 6 cups of flour. used 1.5 cups of raisin. if you maintain the same amount of yeast, it'll just take longer to grow.]

the first few times we did this bread, i had lots of raisins on the surface of the dough and they got slightly burned. burned raisins don't taste good!

to improvise, i now do up the dough first. after kneading (it's much easier to knead without the raisins), wait for 1 hour for it to grow, then i take out the dough, spread out flat (but don't flatten), and put in the raisins. then roll them up like a swiss roll. this way, all the raisins will be inside the dough. when you bite into the bread, you'll bite into juicy plump raisins!

you could also cut up the doughs into smaller sizes then seal them up into rolls. either way you can't go wrong with this recipe.

as you bake, the smell of rosemaryy emanates into your whole house. god! this is awesome!

as this is a pretty rich dough, it won't rise much. from the pic you could see, it expanded more sideways than upwards. it's rich and heavy, brother.

i had it baked in 180 c (about 350 f) for about 30 minutes. until the crust turns into an even lovely golden brown.

it's very difficult to wait for it to cool down! it's truly a test of resolve!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

poppy seed + mixed fruit

i read about the polish poppy seed roll in linda collister's "bread - from ciabatta to rye" and got interested.

the polish version uses some rum (2 tablespoons)
but since i didn't have any at home, i went without it.

i wanted to bake using just plain wheat flour but stupid me ran out of flour so had to sub with wholemeal. thus the heavy loaf.

i used 3 cups of wholemeal + 1 cup of wheat but you could use 4 cups of wheat. no problem there.

as for the fillings, this depends on how much you like. i used slightly more than half cup of mix dried fruit and about a quarter cup of poppy seeds.

the poppy seeds have to be soaked in warm water for a few minutes, then drained out.

as the mixed fruits is already sweetened, i didn't add any sweeter. i added some olive oil though (2 teaspoons).
  • 4 cups of wheat flour (i ran out of flour so went 1 cup of wheat + 3 cups of wholemeal)
  • 1/2-1 cup of mixed dried fruit
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of poppy seeds. soaked in warm water then sieved.
  • as again, 1 teaspoon of yeast, 1 teaspoon of honey
  • and finally 1 teaspoon of salt

follow the "basic bread recipe", but after the initial rise (~2 hours), take out the dough and stretch/spread out to as big a piece as you could but still maintaining thickness of around 1cm. if spread too thin, it won't be strong enough to hold all the fillings. it'll break when you roll it up. a mess with all the poppy seeds all over the place!

the fillings consist of the poppy seeds, mixed dried fruit and optionally some honey. as my dried fruit mix already has castor sugar, i didn't bother to sweeten it. add some olive oil if you wish. the original polish recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of rum as well.

spread the filling evenly over the spread out dough to almost the edges. then roll up the dough from one side like a swiss roll.

let it sit and rise again for 1-2 hours. bake and enjoy!

PS :  yes, poppy seeds contain trace amount of opiate, from which some quantity is needed to produce drugs like morphine/heroine. however, to have any such "high" effect, you need to consume at least more than 300 grams. the above recipe uses less than 100g in the whole loaf. so you need to bake 3 times as much and consume ALL within a day! i bet you'll be feeling something else rather than a "high"!

poppy seeds are pretty nutritious. described as "a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and copper.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a tale of 2 foccacias

i was browsing peter reinhart's book on bread baking and got me interested in his foccacia. a search on the net shows a few folks have baked it, ate it and blogged it! best instructions came from annie's eats so i'd rather not repeat here.

i did 2 versions though, both the white and wholemeal versions. at the same time.

i started at 6pm and took out dough from oven at 12.30am! my wife said if only i work so hard in my day job... hate what do you mean?!

white foccacia
  • 5 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups water, at room temperature
  • ¼ to ½ cup herb oil 
i used less salt and less yeast, and also less herb oil. having made foccacia couple of times, the herb oil is new to me. however, messy/disorganized me have only rosemary and oreganos, so have to make do with just these 2 herbs.

white foccacia just before baking.

during second rise, i spread out the dough as wide as possible, then made all the dimples using my fingers. herbed olive oil goes on top.

there were hell more dimples i made but after 90 minutes, the dough grew more and obscured some of the holes.

 wholemeal foccacia
  • 4 cups of wholemeal (i didn't have enough wholemeal so went for 2 cups wholemeal + 2 cups white)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups water (actually you need a little less than this)
  • ¼ to ½ cup herb oil 
for the wholemeal foccacia, i made a mistake and used 2 cups of water. it was a very wet dough and i had a mess trying to knead it! in fact, it wasn't kneading at all, just stretching and keeping dough off my fingers.

wholemeal foccacia just before baking.

oh yeah, sprinkle some salt (table salt or sea salt, up to you) on the dough before baking.

the salt brought up a bit more flavour to the whole mix.

the recipe calls for quite a lot of herb oil on the dough. err, it's better to go less. just sufficient to cover the dough.

white foccacia!

wholemeal foccacia!

both taste wonderful! 

feel free to sprinkle some salt before serving.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

stout + rye bread

my wife once commented, if i could bake bread, anyone could!

she's right, of course! bread baking is sooooo easy.

if you have read my previous post on my "basic bread recipe", then it's easy to just move on with variations of the recipe.

now here's something which really intrigues me. i have been reading about beer bread and it looks really interesting but i have never tasted one before.

not available locally and i didn't even know there is such a thing when i was in the usa back then.

so why not make it yourself and see if it's really that good?

since i prefer stout over beer, hey, let's go for it! and since i like rye a lot, let's do that as well. so here we go.
  • 2 cups of rye flour
  • 2 cups of unbleached wheat flour
  • a 330ml can of guinness stout or beer if you like
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of honey (feel free to use more)
the process is the same as described in "basic bread recipe" but instead of using water, use stout! or beer! heat up to lukewarm (use the finger test. if you can't dip your finger into it for more than 5 seconds, it's too hot.)

i have made this bread 3 times and each time i used slightly more than a can of stout. the last time i did, a can of stout was just nice. but i already opened the other can. oh well, what to do, but to drink it! even though it was only 9 in the morning! see, bread baking is fun!

now rye flour doesn't form gluten well, that's why we need the wheat flour. substitute with all purpose or just plain white flour if you want to. i go for unbleached and the one easily available is of the organic unbleached variety here. excellent...

the dough is a bit heavy to knead but what the heck, kneading by hand is so enjoyable. whenever i bake bread, i do 2 doughs separately, each with a different recipe. so i knead twice. that's how much i like kneading! :)

if you worry that the dough is too heavy, experiment yourself! try 3 cups of wheat flour and 1 cup of rye. or 2 cups of wheat flour, 1 cup of wholemeal and 1 cup of rye... don't worry, nothing much can go wrong here. that's how easy bread baking is!

some recipes call for an acidic element to be introduced into the dough, to break down the starch and let water be absorbed into the dough. i've seen recipes calling for 2 tablespoons of yogurt or some ascorbic acid (vitamin c) into the mixture. some use sourdough starter but i don't want to go there... but feel free to experiment.

anyway, such a heavy dough needs plenty of encouragement for the yeast to grow. i let it sit in a cool place for up to 8 hours and let it slowly, very slowly grow.

after 8 hours, dough is slightly more than doubled. proof it and wait for another hour, then bake it!

the long hours really help in developing the flavour. the resultant dough is pretty dark and has a very nice aroma. you could smell it when baking! the flavour is not unlike wholemeal as rye it a type of wholemeal too but the stout adds complexity to the taste. there's nothing to worry about the alcoholic content as it evaporates during baking. hey, at 200 C, alcohol doesn't stand a chance ok?

this is one of my favourite bread which i keep on baking. even if my wife doesn't like it... hee hee!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

basic bread recipe

baking your own bread is very simple. the ingredients are cheap and easy to source. the basic recipe consists of only 4 ingredients, namely flour, yeast, salt and water.

yeast plays the leavening role here though you could substitute with baking powder for "quick breads".

of course, you need measuring cups, spoon and an oven too!

my first 2 attempts at bread baking was an utter disaster. i got interested after reading all those "no knead bread" blog posts around the net. tried it but instead of getting soft fluffy bread, all i got was tough hard-to-chew bread, if we could still call it bread.

i later traced this to the mistake of not paying attention to the yeast i bought! i bought active dry yeast but thought it was instant yeast.

be careful here! you could make this mistake too!

there are 3 types of commercially available that yeast i know of, fresh yeast, dry yeast and instant yeast.

both fresh and dry needs to be "activated" first before mixing with flour. activation requires mixing the yeast into lukewarm water and then wait 5-10 minutes where you'll begin to see the water become cloudy and bubbly. this is when you know your yeast is ready to begin work.

instant yeast could be mixed into the flour right away but not dry yeast. be careful here!

okay, here's my basic recipe. works every time. every bread i've baked is just variations of this.
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • approximately 2 cups of lukewarm water (read on)
to begin, heat some water (preferably filtered water as we don't want chlorine here) until boiling point. then mix into equal quantities of room temperature water. total volume of about a cup.

this will be about just nice for yeast to grow. about our body temperature. to test, put in your finger. it should feel a bit warm but not uncomfortably hot until you need to pull out your finger. easy test huh?

then pour in 1 teaspoon of honey. the purpose of honey is for the yeast to feed on. you could substitute with sugar or malt extract. understand the rationale here. once you do, then you understand it wouldn't matter at all even if i were to put in one tablespoon of honey.

once your lukewarm water + honey mixture is ready, put in your teaspoon of yeast. stir it. 5-10 minutes later, the mixture will be cloudy and bubbly. excellent!

now if you are using active yeast, you could skip all the above and just go to the next step. i prefer to use dry yeast as i could test whether my yeast is alive. with instant yeast, you only know it's dead when it hasn't risen in hours!

now it's time to mix into your flour mixture. put the 4 cups of flour into in a large bowl and make a little well in the center. pour in the yeast mixture. then stir...

okay, here's where i get a little unscientific here. i don't care how much water any bread recipe calls for as i don't care whether the resultant bread is more french or italian, or has a higher water extraction blah blah blah... my other hobbies are wood working and electronic stuffs, so permit me to be a little unscientific here. baking bread is very relaxing for me and i surely don't want all that details to curtail my enjoyment.

to me, bread is bread! so i usually just add more lukewarm water until the resultant dough is slightly sticky on your hands. if it's too sticky, add more flour! if it's too dry, add more water! see? so simple! but add 1 tablespoon at a time, so that you don't overdo it.

most likely you'll have to use your hand here to mix everything up. don't worry if it looks like a mess. once you mix everything up, we'll stop for a break here and wait about 20 minutes. this process is called "autolyse" - a rest period giving everything to settle down together and let the yeast grow a little. you could skip the autolyse process and add salt into the flour first but autolyse helps you develop better bread and reduces kneading time. here's one important point to remember. never never mix salt with yeast. the idea of salt is to slow down the yeast fermentation process. if you mix salt into yeast directly, it'll kill it. remember this!

so after the autolyse period, you knead the dough and knead in the salt, little pinches each time.

here's a pretty good video on kneading.

YouTube - Kneading Bread Dough

after kneading, put into a large bowl and cover with cling film or a moist towel. then wait... magically after about 2 hours, the dough would have doubled in volume! however, if it hasn't risen much, do not despair as yeast activity is greatly affected by ambient temperature. i usually place in a cool place and let it rise slowly. with rich doughs, sometimes i wait up till 8 hours. it doesn't matter as the longer the yeast works on the bread, the better the overall flavour.

then you need to do "proofing". this video explains so well!

YouTube - Second Rise (Proofing)

the idea of "punching down" shown at the beginning of the video is to distribute the trapped air bubbles inside the dough so that the resultant bread won't have just large holes at the top but little holes everywhere inside. the dough is then stretched so that the yeast can be exposed to more starch and let it feed on again, and thus release more air into the dough.

then finally bake into an oven at about 200 C for 20-25 minutes.


why bake your own bread?

as i write this, i have been baking bread for the past few months. nothing can be a simpler purer pleasure that a loaf of good freshly baked bread!

in this age of instant gratification and supermarket convenience, bread baking not only provides a lesson in humility, it teaches to connect another level with our food. the connection that for ages, for centuries, our ancestors have been baking bread using more or less the same time tested techniques.

also, can you imagine teaching your kid to look for information in the library? flipping through thick thick pages of encyclopedias in this age of google and wikipedia? get them to bake bread together and learn learn learn!

well, enough about this first blog post. i'm so inspired by bread baking i have to start a blog, to document what i'm doing and also, sharing what i'm doing. right or wrong, you tell me! 

as time progresses, i'll probably veer to other topics. but it's bread for now. 

let's begin!