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!