Sunday, December 20, 2009

current favourite bread recipe

have been baking over 30 loaves with this recipe and absolutely love it!

baked various types too, ranging from rosemary raisin to multi-seed to 100% whole wheat. and this recipe just works great. no wonder richard bertinent says it's his favourite bread recipe.

actual recipe is for a ciabatta but found that could be used for all types of breads. it's a very wet dough so you need a dough knife/scraper as well as the "stretch and fold" technique shown by mr bertinent in this video here.

350gm flour
180gm water
2gm instant yeast  (i use less than 1/4 teaspoon)

baking day
450gm flour 
360gm water
50gm olive oil  (okay to use less)
10gm instant yeast  (i use slightly less than 1 teaspoon)
15gm salt  (i use only 11gm)

mix all the ingredients of the ferment and let it sit for 17-24 hours. it's quite a dry ferment as it's only 50% hydration. if it's too dry, add a bit more water. try 2 tablespoon each time.

mix everything on baking day, then "stretch and fold". it's a very very wet dough so you definitely need a dough knife.

do not flour the work surface. the dough will stick somewhat to the surface but as you work on it, it slowly gains shape and less and less of it sticks to the table. [watch the video!]

let it prove for an hour, then divide and prepare to bake!

the oven should be pre-heated to 250c. before placing dough in, squirt at least 15-20 times of water into the oven to create enough steam.

place dough in and squirt another few times. 5 minutes later, reduce heat to 220c and bake for additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.

note, no honey/sugar is used but bread still has a golden hue. this is due to the natural solutions developed during the fermentation process.

mr bertinent recommends 20gm less water for rainy days (humid weather) but his recipe is all white flour. if you use whole wheat, you may use same amount of water. when i bake with 100% whole wheat flour, the consistency feels a bit "dry". it's still a wet dough by any standards but after working with wet dough, this feels a little "dry"!

there you go. enjoy this recipe! enjoy the crust, the most delicious bread crust!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

japanese women don't get old or fat

read this book few months back. thought it's relevant to comment.

japanese women don't grow old or fat

if you are foreign to the asian diet, then you should read it. otherwise like all asian diets, the japanese diet is rich in rice, vegetables, bean proudcts and lean in meat.

what differs from other asian culture is that
  • the japanese do not view meat as the main dish. veggies are the main dish. meat is secondary. and when meat is consumed, it's usually sliced very thin, just for the flavour.
  • the japanese consumes lots of seafood due to the buddhist belief of not consuming land based animals, given a choice.
nothing new really. we know this already but the first point of treating veggies as the main dish is something new to me. i believe this is where many asian food culture is wrong to treat meat as the main dish. this thinking alone, i believe, contributes to the much lower cardiovascular related diseases in japan.

the other thing to notice is that the author also feels that despite the japanese diet is working well, some tweaking is still necessary. incidence of stomach and colon cancer is very high in japan and it is believed due to the high amount of salt intake. hey, shoyu (japanese soy sauce), miso etc are all high in salt.

and when you consume meat, naturally salt will be added. perhaps not directly but indirectly through seasoning, soy sauce, fish sauce etc.

so all in all, this book worked for me as it taught me not to regard meat as central during meal time and also go slow on salt intake.

Monday, November 30, 2009

my blood test result

just got my blood test results back. i ought to do a medical check up every year but due to laziness... the last one was done in 2005! of which i lost the results. sigh... so the only reference i have is from 2002.

nothing unusual though the reading that concerns most is cholesterol as my family has not so colourful history in this aspect.

                           2002       2009
Total cholesterol     5.7   4.7
HDL                  1.12    0.97
LDL                   4.2      3.45
Triglycerides       0.8    0.63

overall, 7 years later, my overall cholesterol level has dropped significantly though the LDL is still a bit high.

i believe the diet of less meat, high grain, whole wheat bread, olive oil-instead-of-butter do work!

Monday, November 23, 2009

world meatless day

this wednesday nov 25 is world meatless day.

a bit about us.

we have been slowly reducing our meat intake over the past few weeks. this effort isn't a conscious decision, it's more of subconcious decision as we slowly veer towards organic food.

and choosing organic food is a result of my baking our own bread! hey, if you want to bake your own bread, might as well use the best ingredients possible. if you are going to have a go at it half heartedly, might as well forget it.

now after testing organic bread, you appreciate what's real bread is like and you look down at the commercial variety, especially what goes into it! armed with this insight, now everything we buy, we make an effort to scrutinize what goes into it.

and through bread baking, we got to know mustaffa (of mardia and mustaffa). mustaffa gave us a bar of his organic soap made of coconut oil. boy! this is the best soap we ever used so far!

it doesn't dry our skin. it lasts so long, it cleans so well and it lathers beautifully! so this is what real soap is all about! now we consider the commercial variety as detergent! (which isn't a far off description.)

think about it, out of all the food and consumer products we use every day, even the most basic - bread and soap, couldn't pass the test. what more other food products?

so going organic is for our own health. it's also for the environment as we really don't need all that chemical out there. there is such a thing as a "filler" even in soaps!

now if you care about the environment and your own health, going meatless is the way to go. if you find this too drastic a step, then reducing your meat intake is already going to do wonders.

we still take meat, but less so. when faced with a choice between veggies and meat dishes, we just go for more greens and way less meat.

over the past months, we feel lighter, sleep better and overall a lot more energetic throughout the day.

so it all comes together. go organic, use/eat natural food products, support the organic food industry, reduce your meat intake - and you have a healthier you!

a healthy lifestyle is wayyyy better than trying to cure a sickness.

so let's start off this wednesday with the world meatless day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

whole wheat shortbread butter cookies is quite an interesting site if you want to learn about eating healthy. the more you read about what goes into our food, the more you want to do it right - and cook/bake it yourself.

found an interesting recipe on this site, it's for a whole wheat shortbread butter cookies.

now i don't quite favour cakes nor cookies as it's usually really greasy (usually it's baked with the much cheaper and way inferior tasting margarine) and toooooo sweet. also, it uses baking powder, a chemical i hate to use. what's the point of going organic if you end up adding some baking powder in it?

anyway, that's just my thinking.

so this recipe is interesting as there's no baking powder. and it uses whole wheat flour!

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
the recipe calls for all organic ingredients. i adhered except didn't go for organic butter, just regular variety. turbinado sugar is really expensive here! could have used raw sugar for the same effect.

mix everything, form into logs, then refrigerate for half an hour to help solidify it.

then cut into slices, place on parchment paper, on baking sheet and bake at 180c for 18-20 minutes.

all this is from the recipe on the site.

as you could see above, some of the sugar was a bit burnt. i overdid it but still liked the cookies.

not too greasy but whole wheat cookies just taste right!

go whole wheat!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

new findings

been baking bread for over a year. tried various stuffs, various recipes, various methods...

current favourite method is the "stretch and fold" technique on very wet doughs, learned from richard bertinent's book "crust".

one thing that i could never quite get right is that the holes on the bread tend to be a lot smaller on the bottom side compared to the top side of the bread. this is directly related to my baking bread with a cold, as in room temp, baking sheet.

ideally, would like to place the very wet dough on a very hot baking sheet and let it bake but could never get this right as how do you handle very wet dough? what kind of peel can do the job?

seems like we need to flour it a lot, but flouring too much destroys the delicate (and delicious crust) while flouring too little... might as well don't flour it.

this bothered for quite a while until i read on some italian pizza baker's forum, this suggestion to use rice flour!


nevertheless, you only know it works if you try it.

see made myself a wooden peel (just a piece of 2mm thin plywood), oiled it with food grade mineral oil, then let it dry. to use it, flour it generously with rice flour.

place the wet dough on it and...

works like magic! the very wet dough has no problem sliding in any direction i want it to!

so finally baked bread - for just the second time - on a very hot baking sheet and the dough responds magnificently!

the sides of the bread "curl up". it doesn't even stick to the baking sheet as the heat bakes and seals the base. inside, the holes are more evenly spaced and the whole bread seems a lot more tender. even better half commented it's much softer to slice.

above is rosemary raisin 80% whole wheat bread. goes very well with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

found this great bread spread too - black sesame spread. simply delicious! goes well with the multi seed, multi grain bread.

there you have it!

ps :  i like my wooden peel so much, if you tell me you need one, i may make one for you!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

a loss to the malaysian bread baking community

few months back, we visited mardia and mustaffa's artisan bakery. it was enlightening for me as we learned so much from a real bread baker!

so it's kind of sad when i got a call from mark (our mutual friend) that mustaffa is leaving malaysia and returning to his home country.

managed to visit him 2 sats ago, just days before he left!

like before, gave lots of good tips and advice on bread baking. i managed to bake 2 loaves the previous day so brought a loaf over to solicit his opinion on my bread.

phew! was glad the master said "it's okay". he mentioned it's a bit crumbly though and pointed out could be due to over-proofing. yes, he is right in this regard. i think i do over-proof the dough as i tend to use less yeast and let time do the rest. but as i'm so absent minded, many times i forgot i got a bread dough waiting to be baked!

so will definitely try less proofing next time.

oh yeah, was overwhelmed by this little gift mustaffa gave me.

it's a grain mill so i could mill my own flour now!

according to mustafa, bread baked with freshly milled flour tastes better and is more tender in texture.

can't wait to try this!

so thanks a lot mustafa for all the advice and this gift.

hope you and your wife the best of your endeavours. wish to meet you again some time in future.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

bread flour at rm6.20 a kg!

you know, i've been scouting around for organic bread flour and found quite a few places selling it. prices range from rm7-rm10 per kg.

lowest price so far is the country farm organics bread flour. this flour is sourced from turkey's karahan flours. this product is new as it's not shown on their website yet. (the website isn't great either).

for your info, ampang's hock choon also sells this flour at rm6.90 a kg but what tips the edge in country farm's favour is if you join their membership program, you could buy at 10% off, so that's only rm6.21kg. fantastic!

and it only costs you rm5 for lifetime membership. or you could purchase up to rm50 worth of products and you'll be awarded the membership right away.

oh yeah, unfortunately, this discount is only available through country farm organics retail store and currently there's only one at bangsar shopping center...

Monday, October 26, 2009

video showing bertinent's method

as you know, when it comes to baking bread, good ingredients play an important role, but the rest is all technique, the baker's technique.

have been experimenting with bread baking for a while now but had the most fun lately when i learned about richard bertinent's "stretch and fold" technique of working with very wet dough.

yes, it's true that very wet dough makes good bread, but try working on it with your hands!

now this video illustrates very well on how to work wet doughs ala the bertinent technique.

remember, no flouring of the work space. you just got to have faith. after 10-15 minutes of stretch and fold, the dough really takes shape!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

another version of wholemeal ciabatta

aha! i'm getting a hang of mr bertinent's technique here.

stretch and fold, stretch and fold...

this time, used up to 70% wholemeal and 30% white flour. the crust is simply delicious!

Friday, September 18, 2009

build your own jewellery case

inspired by the designspongeonline's diy contest winner, i just got to build one for our own usage!

here's angie johnson's jewellery case.

this is done using ikea's fira chest.

cost only rm49 from ikea and if you need more drawers, just add to it!

when i purchased from ikea, i was surprised to see that the plywood is actually from russia.

now even though i'm based in malaysia here, it's extremely difficult to purchase good quality plywood. the good ones are usually exported! leaving only inferior grade plywood with lots of voids for local usage. grrrr!!!!!

so it's nice to know the plywood used here doesn't have any void.

so after 2 rounds of staining (used gel- based teakwood stain) and 2 coats of satin polyurethane finish, here's mine!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

wholemeal via mr bertinent's technique

in a previous blog, i mentioned about using richard bertinent's technique to "stretch and fold" the very wet dough rather than (trying to) knead it. i tried his recipe using a biga and made a ciabatta out of white flour. the crust was really good, as mr bertinent said it would. the bread was full of holes inside. there's a lot to like about this bread except that... it's made out of white flour!

so i redid this bread but this time with wholemeal. actualy the biga portion is wholemeal while the rest is white flour.

i made a slash on top but as it baked, it rosed so much the slash "made its way" to the left instead. that's why you see the "crack" there.

as you could see, there's lots of volume! this is from just 750gm of flour.

previously when i tried his cibatta, i made a mess out of all the wet dough. well mr bertinent did mention that if your environment is hot and humid, you should use less 20gm of water. hey! hot and humid, that's malaysia!

so i retried this method but with 20gm less water. it could be because of wholemeal or just less water as this time, the dough came together quite well. i was able to get a good handle on it and "worked" the dough via stretch-fold, stretch-fold, stretch-fold...

and the crust... awesome! smells good and tastes even better!

has less holes than using white flour but then this isn't surprising as there's about 40% wholemeal flour here.

can't wait to try with 70% wholemeal flour this weekend!

Monday, September 7, 2009

enjoyed 2 movies here

enjoyed 2 awesome movies lately.

the first, courtesy of my neighbour, The World's Fastest Indian.

now Indian here refers to the bike. we all know that Harley Davidson comes from the US of A but there's another bike manufacturer there, and that's the Indian motorbikes.

the movie is based on a real person though the story's dramatized but what really happened was Burt Munro did set a land speed record which still stands today!

played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie, Burt was 68 years old and riding a 47 year old modified Indian. No joke.

whenever i come across my peers complaining about their age (or imagined age related ailments), i want to ask them to watch this movie!

you are only as old as you feel.

the only movie is from japan and relates the "career" of a "encoffinment" job. the english title of the movie is "departure" while its japanese title is "okuribito".

as death is considered a taboo topic in japan, the career of the protagonist wasn't well received by his wife and friends but he persevered as i realized though it's a difficult job, it's satisfying for him as well.

watch the movie to see how beautiful this ceremony is. it shouldn't be surprising that rituals are big in japan and this movie shows how japanese places great emphasis on rituals.

as the movie progresses and people around the protagonist start to accept and respect him for his job, he finally had the chance to make peace with his estranged dad.

though the movie deals with the topic of preparing the dead for burial, there's so much more about life that you could learn from watching it.

so here you go. 2 movies we enjoyed tremendously here and these are, in essence, a celebration of life.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

reached an impasse in bread baking so have to try new ground

i have reached an impasse in my bread baking. been baking for about a year now but have stopped experimenting with new stuffs. been using the same basic recipe over and over again.

so need to try new stuffs.

it so happened that i bought 2 books on bread baking recently during the book fair organized by popular about a week ago. kuala lumpur bookworms have been having one hell of a time as there have been so many book fairs etc. i have acquired more than ten books in the past few months and have had hell of a journey devouring them!

one of the bread book i bought and just finished reading is richard bertinent's crust.

this book was sold at half price (hardcover!). it comes with a dvd too as no amount of text written could describe better the techniques used by mr bertinent than watching him in action.

and so, i tried one of the recipes in his book.

baked the ciabatta...

of course, this is all done with white flour, not my favourite at all, as i'm for wholemeal bread.

followed the recipe to a tee, as i wanted to see how it would turn out in the end.

mr bertinent recommends to weigh all ingredients (even water) rather than use spoons or cups as this is far more accurate. but he also acknowledged that some adjustments have to be made to cater for your local environment, say it's a hot sunny day or a cool rainy day etc.

now this ciabatta consists of 2 parts, a biga and then the real thing. this biga is unlike previous biga i did before, as it's a lot drier and consists more than 1/3 of the flour.

instead of the usual kneading, mr bertinent recommends the "stretch and fold" technique. it's quite interesting but could be very very messy as we are dealing with a very wet dough here. i do agree him that wet doughs still turn out better bread than dry doughs even dry doughs are easier to handle/knead.

needless to say, i made a mess on my kitchen top. got wet gooey dough all over the place!

the other difference in technique is that mr bertinent prefers to preheat the loaf pan to 250c and sprays mists of water into the oven to create steam. something which i never tried before! he suggests to preheat the oven to 250c, then once you place the dough in, let it bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 220c for an additional 20 minutes.

compare to my tried and tested 180c over 40 minutes, this is interesting!

well... after all the work... i can say the result is worthwhile!

please forgive the pics. took with my phone as can't resist taking a bite! 
look at the holes! look at the beautiful holes!
look at the crust! look at the beautiful crust!
even wifey agrees this is a wonderful bread. smells lovely and the crust is just heavenly...
my only complaint is that white bread absolutely sucks! so will be trying the same recipe but with wholemeal bread this weekend.
stay tuned...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

sungai pelek dragon fruit farm

brother yh told me about this place, so i just got to check it out!

sungai pelek is a cowboy town just a 10 minute drive from sepang. yh spilled the beans about the goodies of this little small town.

of which, the favourite has to be this dragon fruit farm!

this is how the fruit is planted. this is quite a large farm...

anyway, we went there mainly for the dragon fruit enzyme. the prices we get in kuala lumpur is couple times higher than buying directly from the farm.

other than dragon fruit enzyme, there's papaya enzyme, pineapple enzyme and aloe very enzyme too.

best seller and best tasting is of course, the dragon fruit enzyme.

curiously, they managed to grow grapes too!

some "malaysian" variety. quite tiny and quite sourish i was told.

this farm is very interesting as other than dragon fruit (and grapes!), they managed to grow passion fruit as well.

oh, did i mention their pineapples are the best pineapple i have ever tasted?

bountiful of dragon fruit!

these are quite large and go for rm10 for 3.

so far we have been to this farm twice and all i can say is the trip is definitely worthwhile.

the folks at the farm are very friendly. these are nice decent hardworking folks who toil the earth and harvest such beautiful produce from mother earth.

unlike bankers... or engineers... ha ha!

perhaps one day i'll grow my own fruits too!

my gratitude towards yh for recommending me this place!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

why does my bread crust turn out so tough?

a friend tried baking bread recently and found that the crust of her bread always come out a bit too chewy. it's like biting leather!

i then realized she was using a regular pan like those you use for baking cakes.

well, if you desire a softer top crust, apparently you need to give it some "moisture" during the first few instances of baking. err, not quite like this...

what you want to ensure is when the bread initially starts baking, you want to have some moisture in the oven. i guess this way come at the end of baking time, the top won't lose too much moisture.

some folks put a pan of hot water to create steam during baking. not only is this arduous, i'm not quite sure i want to handle hot water when i'm opening the oven door.

a better solution will be to use something like a "dutch oven" where you bake the bread inside a covered pot, then remove the lid almost at the end of baking time.

better still and the one i uses all the time, is to use a lidded bread loaf pan like the above. keep the lid on for more than 2/3 of baking time and remove the lid at the remainder 1/3 of baking time.

as i usually bake at 180c for 45-minutes, i usually have the lid on and place the dough + pan into the oven for 30-35 minutes, then remove the lid for the remainder 10 minutes.

through this, i found out that if i desire a chewier crust, take out the lid earlier.
if i want an even softer crust, leave the lid on longer.

quite easy eh?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

movies i'll watch again and again 2

the first time i watched "legend of 1900" was more than 10 years ago but when i chanced upon the dvd in a shop nearby, i just had to revisit it!

10 years later, i'm still enthralled by the story of "the world's greatest pianist". click on the pic to read more about the story.

most memorable are the few scenes of "movie magic" to me. the almost surreal "piano playing while dancing with the ocean" and the "piano duel". i assure you, if i were to write more on this, i'll be spoiling the movie for you!

i also later realized that the director of this movie, mr giuseppe tornatore, also directed another favourite of mine --- "cinema paradiso".

this is basically a love story, but with a lot more depth than all that angsty, petty, "love at first sight" that seems to be the favourite of most love stories out there. pathetic!

the most poignant thing about this story is near the ending when the protagonist realizes the source for his greatest love in life is also the source for his greatest sorrow in life.

do yourself a favour. borrow, beg or steal. watch these great movies!

ps: oh yeah! mr tornatore also directed another movie which i enjoyed very much - malena. starring the muse to my best selling digital analog convertor!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

just discovered this make of organic flour

i haven't been to juslife for a while so i was pleasantly surprised to see they have an addition to their product line now. it's this range of organic flour from this turkish company, karahan.

the website's here though i'll say i wished they did a better job on the website!

i haven't used the flours yet but the price is good. there are a few varieties of wheat flour but too bad no rye etc. maybe juslife should just bring the rest of the product range here!

oh yeah! the price. it's rm7.90 for a 1kg pack. but if you are a member, you get 10% off each purchase. membership fee is rm20 a year so if you bake quite frequently, it makes perfect sense!
same price for wheat flour, whole wheat flour and "luxury wheat flour".

i have no idea what's the "luxury part" of the last item but for bread baking, it's easy. just go for the higher protein count variety. usually these are expressed in terms of percentage and anything above 11% is good. some of the flours labeled high protein could go as high as 14%. i think i've seen 15% before but don't trust me on this. i'm not good with numbers!

ok! will report more later...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

more sourdough bread!

got to retry our other breads with sourdough now!

on the left, rosemary raisin bread. on the right, multi-seeds which we have done countless times.

both were done using sourdough starter.

i realized some folks don't like the tangy sourness of sourdough bread. one of the way to control this is not to use a pre-ferment and let it sit overnight. unfortunately i realized this after baking these 2 loaves. so will explore this next baking time.

i think sourdough bread will compliment savoury fillings, say ham or bacon etc, where the saltiness from the meat neutralizes the sourness of the dough. oh well, so many things to try, so little time!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

bread stick

of all the various mailing lists i'm on, very few i look forward to. most are just sales talk, hype etc. the only one i really look forward to, and the only one which i learn a lot every time i read them, is the king arthur flour's mailing list. the last issue that came into my mailbox talked about baking soft bread sticks.

that seems like another excuse to bake bread! but typical of me, went for 100% wholemeal.

i used basil (just love this herb!) and oregano as dried herbs and sprinkled olive oil and some sea salt before baking.

then cut them into slices (the scissors tip is a good one!) and baked them again for 5-10 minutes.

these are great for mopping up sauces, gravies, curries... or just slath on some jam/butter. or just eat it on its own!

actually come to think of it, if it's a little thinner, it's pizza bread!
if it's a little thicker and not cut into slices, it's like foccacia!

anyway, there'll be kids coming over to our house later this afternoon. let's see how they like it. let's see if i could bribe them to keep quiet and stop bumping my stuffs around... tall order i know!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

sun dried tomato bread via sourdough!

this is my first ever bread done using sourdough starter instead of instant yeast! recipe is like my previous blog on this sun dried tomato bread. read also on how to make your own sun dried tomatoes. it's really easy...

followed the same recipe but with sourdough starter now. as mentioned before, got some sourdough starter from mustaffa. mixed it with some 2 cups of rye flour (as i wanted to bake 2 loaves) and 1.5 cup water. if one loaf, that's 1 cup flour + 3/4 cup water, which is exactly like the biga method. if you are scientific, you'll notice we are mixing equal weight of flour and water. nice...

anyway, then mixed with the rest of the remainder 6 cups of wholemeal (3 for 1 loaf), sun dried tomatoes etc, but the main difference is, i took out about 1/3 of a cup and stored this in the refrigerator for the next round of baking. hey, otherwise got to go look for mustaffa again for more sourdough starter!

the yeast and bacteria colony (basically this is what the sourdough starter is) is fairly active. took just slightly longer to rise compared to say 1/2 tsp of instant yeast. mustaffa recommends only 20% sourdough in a recipe even though most european bread books go for 40% or higher. he reckons our higher humidity here helps. hey, he has baked more bread than i have eaten them my whole life so i'll listen to him!

so how does it taste? the bread has a slight sourish taste to it. just a slight subtle sourishness. that's the first impression on taste. texture wise, seems softer too though i'll have to evaluate again after couple of loaves to be sure it's the sourdough doing this. nevertheless... interesting!!!

as this is the first time i've tasted sourdough, i can't comment much but it sure is interesting! will have to try again on other loaves.

once again, thx a lot to mustaffa!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

mardia and mustaffa's organic artisan bakery

i was surfing for some info when i came across this website and was pleased to discover they are based in malaysia! in sungai buloh! after some emails here and forth, we managed to visit mardia and mustaffa's organic artisan bakery over the weekend.

mustaffa (or martin) is one cool guy. my kind of guy. not only he encourages/uses organic ingredients but he prefers wholewheat too. but he's right in that the malaysian market isn't ready for 100% whole wheat yet. i guess later in future.

after communicating him, i just got to visit him. got to try those sourdough starter! and also the coconut soap!

as for the bread, you don't have to visit him. you could buy from the juslife chain of organic shops. yes, mustaffa supplies them.

i've heard/read a lot about baking bread with sourdough starter but never tried it. even considered importing some sourdough starter but never got round to it. guess what? it's just some 30km drive away...

so i got some sourdough starter from mustaffa. you may have heard of the famous "san francisco sourdough"? well, here's the famous "sungai buloh sourdough starter"! no need to use yeast anymore, just refresh the starter, use however much you need and save off a little for the next batch. as i bake every week here, this works out nicely. the above shows the starter in whole wheat flour and water.

mustaffa does provide instructions on how to get there but a friend of mine knows him personally! so i ditched those instructions and just got mark to navigate us there. it's in the middle of a kampung alright, with many wannabe mat rempits along the way. spotted some nice old cars along the way too.

mustaffa's work place is just next to his house. he has the conventional oven and also a clay style fire wood oven! i don't think he could use this for his commercial production.

mustaffa welcomes visitors and bread baking students! so if you prefer a hands on approach with a guru over your shoulders, you should contact him.

you know what i'll be doing soon... got to put those sourdough starter to work!

Monday, May 11, 2009

what is real bread?

i didn't know there is an organization supporting "real bread" until now!

and check out their definition of "read bread".

i guess i'm a bit more extreme as i insist on 0% white flour these days!

What is Real Bread?

Real bread has nothing to hide. It is made with simple ingredients – only flour, water, yeast and salt - and no additives. It tastes good and is naturally nutritious and easily digested. It is an important part of a balanced healthy diet. It is produced in ways that are honest, ecologically and socially responsible and designed to conserve the vitality of the ingredients for our benefit and enjoyment.

Real Bread:

  • must be made of flour, water, yeast (natural or processed) and salt (optional)
  • must not contain ‘improvers’, additives or processing aids (including enzymes) of any kind
  • may include other natural food ingredients such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and fats, providing these themselves contain no colourings, flavours, emulsifiers, humectants, stabilisers, fillers or additives of any kind
  • must not be made only with refined white flour; stoneground white flour is permissible and higher extraction rate flours are recommended
  • must be fermented for a minimum of four hours
  • must be mixed, fermented and baked in one continuous operation, i.e. part-baked, bake-off, frozen & re-heated and similar products are not allowed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

89.9... The Business Station


when i was studying in the states, my tuner was only tuned to 94.9, the classic rock station! it was a blast! i had it playing almost all the time, and it introduced me to lots of rock dinosaurs!

but back home in malaysia, i'd rather listen to chinese than english radio stations. they are just so bad, so juvenile, so silly... it seems that the people behind the radio stations only cater to youths. it's all just today's hits, silly boybands, hopeless singers doing inept cover versions, and silly deejays! i really think many of these stations hire radio deejays from some circus. they are THAT bad!

so i was pleasantly surprised when i first listened to bfm 89.9, the business station.okay, call me jaded but the music selection from these folks is soooo refreshing. perhaps i'm biased towards rock music (and this station plays mostly rock) but the whole "attitude" of the station, the programming, the interviews, the deejays and even the website shows folks behind this station really give serious thought to what they do.

the daily interviews are just great! it's a great learning opportunity for everyone to learn, not just from the business end but also about life as there are sessions by life coaches too. heck, the interviews are even saved in mp3 format as podcasts and could be downloaded from the site. i've saved a whole bunch of them and just cycle thru my ipod during some days when i commute by train (and still keep an eye on the occasional pretty lass i come by). so who says guys can't multi-task?

then of course, unlike other radio stations run by seemingly juvenile deejays who think what's going on with britney spears life is more important than issues that may affect your life directly, the deejays here don't yak too much! one of my major turn-off is deejays who just love the sound of their voice, sometimes yaking over nothing and laughing loudly just to fill the airwaves with some noise. grrrrr!!!!!

i also like the way they play with the bfm acronym. there's the finance related "bankers, financiers, money-makers", "bring forth money". there's also other fun acronyms like "bmw, ferrari, maserati"...

but the one i like best is "bond frustrates moneypenny". nice pun!

to me still, the best thing is the music. it's not perfect but it's already a great step in the right direction for malaysian radio. get ready for some ccr, pearl jam, u2, led zep, acdc, sting, eric clapton (early stuff), jimi hendrix, grateful dead, inxs, nirvana...

so tune to this station if you are in kuala lumpur. if not, visit the website, you could hear it live from there too.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

sun-dried tomato bread

in a previous blog, i talked about how i sun dried some tomatoes. it was really fun! and our car smelled nice for a few days...

so the next step is to bake bread with it.

the thing with me though, i never really plan out things to do. just go with the flow! so this time just before baking bread, found that i dont' have enough flour for the regular 2 loaves of bread. dang! so had to improvise.

  • 5 cups of flour - 3.5 cup wholemeal + 1.5 cup rye  (because i ran out of wholemeal)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2.5 cups of warm water
the above is your basic bread recipe. i usually bake 2 loaves so have to use 6 cups of wholemeal but have so little left, so opted for just a single bigger loaf with more rye. of course you could use your regular basic bread recipe

it's the next part that's interesting.

  • 1/2 cup or more of sun dried tomatoes. cut into smaller pieces. a pair of scissors is very handy here.
  • 1 or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced.
  • some dried herbs. went for 1 tsp oregano + 1 tsp basil. use whatever you have.
  • some olive oil from the sun dried tomatoes. after a day or two of soaking the tomatoes, the oil now has a slight reddish tint to it.

knead in this ingredient to the bread combo. actually, it's more like "squeeze" rather than knead in. of course you could vary with more tomatoes or garlic, depending on you!

the resultant dough should be fairly wet and oily. and smells heavenly!

an hour or two later, the dough should have doubled or even tripled in volume. cut into 2 equal portions, shape it, place on an oiled pan (or loaf tin) and wait for another hour or so.

then bake it! i didn't use a loaf tin here so baked it at 180c for about 25 minutes,  or until desired "golden brownish".

this bread tastes fantastic! somehow the flavour of the tomatoes, herbs, garlic and oil all seap in to the bread and you have one hell of a good tasting bread! smells and tastes great!

this is another of our favourite now. no doubt about it! will do more in future.

will also list out our favourite breads here soon...

make your own sun-dried tomato

the first time i tasted sun-dried tomato was via dome cafe's excellent vegetarian sandwich. a host of veggies aside, 2 items stand out in taste and texture - the saltish feta cheese and the flavourful sun-dried tomatoes. the latter also stands out due to its chewier texture, unlike the rest of the veggies.

the thing about sun-dried tomatoes is the strong burst of flavour as you bite into it. it's yummy! makes sense as the process of dehydration results in a very condensed "tomato essence", if you could call it so.

unfortunately i haven't tried sun-dried tomatoes in any of my bread as the cost is too prohibitive! a 100gm pack goes for rm10 upwards. if soaked in oil, be prepared to pay more!

but how difficult can it be to make your own?

well, thanks to tony, who also uses sun-dried tomatoes in his pizza, i finally learned how to do so. later i checked on the net and there's lots of articles on how to do your own too.

this is really easy. whichever variety of tomatoes you choose, just cut it up into pieces then sun bath them! needless to say, the smaller the pieces, the easier the "drying" process but too small, it's not fun to bite. for the first experiment, i used small cherry tomatoes and cut into quarters. will try with bigger varieties next time.

line them up on a baking tray and off it goes in the sun!

if you are in malaysia or been to malaysia lately, you'll know the sun is so unforgiving these days. whenever you go outdoors, it's like walking into a giant oven! despite this, 2 days in the hot sun (sat and sun), yet the tomatoes aren't dried enough. so how dry is dry? some folks on the net advise "the tomatoes should loke like dry shriveled prunes". dang! that's what i look like in the morning after a night of drinking!

then i thought of this. why not have them "baked" in the car? if you park outdoors, you know how hot the interior of the car can get, especially under our hot blaze here.

so that's what i did!

arranged them on a baking tray, placed nicely on the dashboard, 3 hours later on a monday morning and they are ready! [you could also use your oven, but we have an abundance of sunshine here, so...]

other than successfully drying up your tomatoes, you gain another benefit here. your car now smells good! a natural car refreshener! though this didn't last more than 2 days but only gives you another reason to do so again.

so what's the next process? depends on what/how you want to use the tomatoes. i soaked them in olive oil with some oregano and basil. tony suggested some birdeye chillies, hee hee, he's more malaysian than us.

subject this tomato-in-oil to another day in the sun and you are ready to use it!

you could eat it on its own, use with salads, pizza, bread and so on...

guess what i did? i baked bread with it of course!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mai Muang, Chiangmai

we went to chiangmai last month and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. this is our second trip there!

the highlight of the trip, to me, is when we visited this local restaurant where this power couple performs every night. this husband-and-wife team owns the restaurant and draws in the crowd via its excellent food and the top notch singing.

as you can see above, it's music at its minimal. just a guitar accompanying her voice. and i can tell you this... she sings beautifully!

music transcends borders. playing mainly thai folk songs, her singing has an ethereal quality to it. maybe it's her elucidation, or those little inflection she incorporates into the phrases. but then hey, i don't know enough of thai to be able to tell!

but rest assured, we were in awed by the performance.

before we left, i bought 3 cds and she's kind enough to autograph all for me.

if you ever go to chiangmai, check out this place. the restaurant is called "mai muang". it's a type of tree local to chiangmai. i don't think i remembered to take down the names of this power couple but then with thai names, this isn't easy!

once i find more info, will update here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

best pizza in kuala lumpur i ever tasted

i like pizzas but don't go all the way out to search for the "best". at least not yet.

however, when my neighbour william told me about this italian guy baking pizza right here in oug, kuala lumpur, i just got to give it a try.

just imagine this. this shop sells chinese mixed rice during the day, and italiano dishes during the night!

just imagine this. you are savouring pizza (or spaghetti), sitting on plastic stools, and in the dead center of the shop, there is the deity figure of guan yu.

so in a locale setting more commonly associated with low cost chinese mixed rice, you are enjoying your pizza made by this true blue italian and sipping wine!

got it?

the locale just adds to the experience! and of course, the pizza... tony, the proprietor of pinos, has a day job right here in kuala lumpur but when night falls, he morphs into one hell of a pizza chef!

been there twice so far and the pick has to be "tony's special". sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, capsicum, olives... etc plus his own recipe of tomato paste and lots of lots of mozzarella... my wife's favourite is his calzone, the "folded" or "pocket" pizza.

it is also the first time i tasted pizza with bird's eye chillies! yes! so is this a malaysian style? i asked tony and he told me he did this back home in italy too. the addition of bird's eye chillies add a dimension to the taste. it sure complements well with the mozzarella!

yup, all this plus wine (tony will join you for a sip if he's not too busy), in a totally unexpected shop in a totally out-of-place neighbourhood - oug is a premodinantly chinese neighbourhood, more known for its choice of chinese food.

guess what? we were chatting and after picking up some tips from tony, i told him i bake bread. tony wanted to try them so i brought some the next visit. he seems to like it!

to get there, heard of steven's corner? the popular indian stall? pinos is just a few doors away. you can't miss it. colours of the italian flag could be seen from far away...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

movies i'll watch again and again... school of rock

i enjoy movies a lot. in fact i almost do not watch any tv at all, except for dvds. so figured why not share some of those movies which i'll watch again and again?

hey, if i'll watch the second, and third time, there has to be something to it right?

alright, will start off with a decidedly low-brow recommendation...

school of rock. wont repeat the plot here. read about it in its wikipedia listing.  

if you love music, you'll enjoy this movie!
if you love rock music, you'll love it!

especially classic rock. there's ac/dc, led zep, cream and all the works.

varoius scenes were really memorable. i like the part best where jack black asks the students for their musical influence. what we have is... christina aguilera, liza minelli and puff daddy.

his response? what shit are you kids listening to these days?  exactly!

so like the ac dc song... for those about to rock, we salute you!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

have not been experimenting much with bread these days...

... probably because i've been baking the same recipe over and over again!

can't seem to tire of current favourite. with more practice and experience, every loaf is getting more and more consistent! also, realized that we have gone 100% white flour free!

100% no white flour, wholemeal and rye bread
  • 3 cups of wholemeal (whole wheat) flour
  • 1 cup of rye flour
  • 1-2 tbsp of honey
  • 1/2 tsp of instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • about 1 cup full of seeds - sunflower seed, pumpkin seed and flaxseed.
  • approximately 2 cups of water
have been using the same  recipe above for couple weeks now. only differ in the technique.

  1. if you have time... try the biga method. mix 1 cup of rye flour, 1/4 tsp of yeast and 3/4 cup of water. let it sit overnight (12-16 hours). then mix the rest of the ingredients the next day.
  2. if you don't have time at all. use the same above but increase to 1 tsp instant yeast. go for single rise.
  3. if you have some time but not too much. then mix all the above. let it sit for 3 hours or until doubled in size. then stretch the dough and let it sit for another hour. go for 2 rises.
in all cases, i don't knead at all! there's not much gluten as there's no white flour at all so save your energy. instead let the yeast, water and father time do the work. you'll notice the dough will be kind of wet anyway so you still want to knead this glob of mess?

err, the amount of water is just a rough guide. the dough should feel kind of wet. if it looks a bit dry, add 2 tablespoons of water. in any case, should you decide you need more water, add in increments of 2 tablespoons.

before baking, sprinkle a liberal dose of seeds on top of the dough. some rolled oats look really good too!

as before, bake in a covered tin pan at 180C for 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake for another 15 minutes.

sorry, no pics. by the time i finished this loaf, it was kind of late. but it looks not much different from the other loafs of the approximately same recipe.

the current economic crisis is forcing companies to retrench people...

 ... like this.

the financial crisis is forcing companies to make tough decision.

there is a risk that we might need to lay off Andre...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

which vegetable/food has the most pesticide?

environmental working group (or ewg) has published a list of 47 vegetables/fruits tested for pesticides. so which score the worst?

nectarine, peach and apples are the worst while pineapple, mango and avocado are the best in the fruits group.

for veggies, the worst are sweet bell peppers, celery, kale, lettuce, and carrots. asparagus, sweet corn and onions are the least  affected.

here's the full list. 

1 (worst)Peach100 (highest pesticide load)
3Sweet Bell Pepper83
10Grapes - Imported66
13Collard Greens60
16Green Beans53
17Summer Squash53
21Grapes - Domestic44
28Winter Squash34
31Honeydew Melon30
33Sweet Potato29
41Sweet Peas - Frozen10
45Sweet Corn - Frozen2
47 (best)Onion1 (lowest pesticide load)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

the nice folks at novotel siam square agreed to my request for a visit to their bakery. 

i like their walnut-raisin rye and asked the bakery chef for more info on this. well it's a combination of rye + wholemeal + white flour. they use 25gm of instant yeast for 1kg of flour which is a higher ratio than the breads i do. 

but then i have the luxury of time, they don't! they have a strict schedule to meet so they rule out sourdough etc. you can't bake daily, at such volume, with a tight schedule using the sourdough method. 

i was there in the afternoon and they told me they usually knead/bake at 10pm every night. so i missed the kneadng part! but the chef told me there's nothing much to see as they use 2 big kitchenaid mixers to do the job.

so at that time, at 4pm, they were baking pizza doughs. i'm relieved the method i used, learned from kingarthurflour, is the same one they use here. read my other post on pizza. 

so all in all, it was a good trip, though i didn't get to use them knead. my appreciation towards the nice staff in this hotel!

too bad i didn't take any photos. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

i'm still in bangkok on biz trip. so have to forget about bread baking now. 

but this hotel, novotel bangkok on siam square, i'm surprised to find rye bread here. walnut-raisin rye bread. i bake with a lot more ingredients than this but for a commercial bread, how can anyone make money baking the way i do? 

anyway, found this on the net. a humorous critique of what we malaysians already know.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

my first pizza!

i think it's only natural if you have been baking bread, that you start to explore further and then try baking pizza. likewise if you start off with pizza, one day you might try bread baking.

so i decided to try pizza one day. wanted to have it for lunch. i've been baking bread for almost half a year now so how hard is it to do pizza?

and you almost can't go wrong with this pizza crust recipe from king arthur flour. why, they even guarantee you'll get good results! what can i lose here?

but i modified the recipe a little.

  • 3 cups of white bread flour - preferably unbleached of course
  • slightly more than a cup of water
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
since this is the first time i'm doing pizza, i didn't want to go wholemeal yet. next time, i will go full wholemeal! never tried a wholemeal pizza before...

also, i happend to have some "00" all purpose flour at home. this is the italian grading of flour, with "00" being the finest grain. now to make a pizza with "00" italian flour... i think this is authentic!

like how you'll do bread, you'll mix everything together first, then knead for couple of minutes, then let it rest for about an hour. it should grow quite a lot. wait longer if want to, bread baking is very forgiving.

then this is when you decide how big/thin you want your dough to be. according to the recipe, if you divide into 2, you'll get 2 1/2" thick 14" round pizzas. since i'm a fan of thin pizzas, i divide the dough into 3s.

oil your pizza pan (or baking sheet, or whatever your fancy) with olive oil, then place your dough on it. stretch each dough gently (but do not flatten) until desired shape. let it spring back. wait couple of minutes, stretch it again. after couple of tries, the dough should be able to cover until the edge of your pizza pan. wait about an hour for it to rise.

then put into the oven! bake at 200c until the edges start to brown, but the centers are still pale looking.

take it out and now is the time for you to go crazy with your toppings!

my friend ew, who has been doing pizza for couple of years now, advised me to go for "hunt's tomato paste". other brands use too much vinegar resulting in a very sour tomato paste. so that's what i used. i mixed 1 tsp each of oregano, rosemary and basil into the tomato paste. oh yeah, some olive oil too.

as you could see here, went crazy with tomato paste, mozarella cheese (according to ew, other types of cheese smell/taste "funny"), capsicum, tomatoes, mushrooms and shredded ham. don't forget to drizzle some olive oil on it. by the way, "bake with yen" has a good deal on mozarella cheese.

then back she goes into the oven! within minutes, the cheese would have melted and you could smell a very nice "pizza" smell.

take it out as the edge starts to turn dark brown or to your desired crispiness.

look at the crust! see how thin it is!

i love thin crust pizzas with moist tomato paste. couldn't believe it's so easy!

next time will try wholemeal pizza crust, with more toppings, more tomato paste...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

capsicum feta cheese bread

inspired by chuck's spinach feta cheese bread, i decided to do a similar version but my experience with vegetables in bread has been mixed. some were really good, some were soggy, some were tasteless... like chuck said, you almost can't taste the spinach. i didn't want this so i went for capsicum. in one of my earlier bread, i did include capsicum along with other veggies. my oh my, only capsicum stood out. the rest just "blended into oblivion"...

so we have the capsicum + feta cheese bread. feta cheese, also known as white cheese, is derived from goat's milk and for some reasons, you could get them here in kuala lumpur from hock choon for a great price. in fact, cheaper than other types of cheese!

note the speckles of white and yellow? the whites are the feta cheese and the yellows are the capsicums, diced of course.

  • 4 cups of flour, i used 1 cup rye + 2 cups wholemeal + 1 cup white (trying to reduce consumption of white flour...)
  • around 1.5 cup of water. this you really have to adjust it yourself. go for 1 cup first, then slowly add more. the dough mixture should be sticky.
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of diced capsicum. ripe ones are best.
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese. you could go more for a stronger taste. i used only 1/2 cup as that's all i have and the bread has a subtle feta cheese flavour. go more if you prefer a stronger taste.
that's all to it!

i wanted to go the biga, pre-ferment method but started so late i just skipped the whole process and just mixed everything together ala the "grant loaf" method. that's why i used a loaf pan here.

baked about 40 minutes at 180c.

the bread tastes very good! you could taste the capsicum and the subtle feta cheese. if you include more feta cheese, then you'll get a stronger feta cheese taste.

yup! so good you could eat it on its own!

Monday, January 5, 2009

more reasons to go wholemeal

the original grant loaf called for 100% wholemeal flour. i went half wholemeal, half white for a lighter loaf but she is right to call for all wholemeal.

on this site, found out this interesting bit about her.

In the case of the nutritionist Doris Grant, who lived to be 98 and advocated the consumption of organic vegetables and wholemeal flour, it might be said that she practised what she preached. The inventor of the ‘Grant loaf’, she advised British women that ‘if you love your husbands, keep them away from white bread ... If you don't love them, cyanide is quicker but bleached bread is just as certain, and no questions asked.’

ok, i was an idiot to assume she's a housewive. sorry.

but she is certainly right! now 100% wholemeal is quite chewy and won't be as light as store bought bread but the additional fibre and nutrients (and great taste!) more than makes up for it.

if you have to use white, then at the very least go for the unbleached type. many organic stores sell this variety so you really have no excuse.

unless you intend to benefit from a big fat insurance policy at the expense of your better half...

no kneading required!

ok, back in the 40s, an american housewife by the name of doris grant came up with this recipe. no kneading required! perfect for working housewives. hey, back in those days, i guess this is women empowerment.

i actually did a combination of the pre-ferment and the grant loaf method. why, i haven't baked for 2 weeks due to all the pesky biz trips, so am suffering from "not-having-enough-of-own-bread" syndrome. also, i started at only 3pm and wanted everything done the day itself. the "pre-ferment" method gives very active yeast and i enjoy working with them (before i kill them off in the oven).

as the norm lately, went with the favourite multi-seed bread, namely flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, don't seem to tire of this at all!

  • 4 cups of flour - anything you like! i went for 1 rye, 1 wholemeal + 2 whites
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp honey (more is fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseeds.
  • about 1.5 cups of water
at about 2.50pm, i mixed 1/4 tsp of instant yeast into 1 cup of rye flour and 3/4 cup of water. this "pre-ferment" is supposed to sit for at least 12 hours but i wanted to complete everything that day itself, so at 7pm, i mixed the rest of the ingredients together.

it's mixing and not kneading as the whole mixture is a bit too wet to knead, so your aim is to ensure the ingredients are mixed properly. if it looks dry, add more water! i always feel that when in doubt, err on the "wet" side.

then dump everything into a well-oiled 4" x 4" x 8" loaf pan. just scoop them up and dump into the loaf pan. doesn't have to look nice as the dough will grow nicely into the loaf pan. it's nice to use a loaf pan here as this recipe calls for only a single rise and the loaf pan helps maintain its shape. the whole dough mixture filled up to about slightly more than half of the loaf pan.

at about 10pm, time to heat up the oven! actually i should have waited more, till  it's almost touching the top of the loaf pans but i'm too sleepy... before i put into the oven, i sprinkled some rolled oats and almond flakes on top.

using a loaf pan, a hotter temperature of 200C is better but i went for 180C so i had to wait for about 40 minutes. dang... if you use 200C, i'm sure you could call it a day earlier...

and voila! we have bread!

actually i baked 2 loaves at the same time. one was a bit dry. the "wetter" rose better. the top isn't curved, i guess it's due to all the rolled oats and almonds i sprinkled on top.   hee hee...

once the bread is done, remember to remove it from the loaf pan. don't wait till it's cool! use a bread knife and through the sides, gently separate the bread from the loaf pan. then turn over the loaf pan and gently tap it till the bread comes out. when it does, you'll see lots of steam. nice! then cool on a wire rack like above.

ha! guess you have no excuse not to bake bread now.  :)