Tag Archives: bread

Twisted and loopy

11 Sep

I love soft, flavourful breads. All breads are flavourful, you may argue. Well, most home-made breads are indeed flavourful but I find that  store-bought breads are mostly pretty bland and have no character (I am talking about the loafs that are pre-packed and have a 2-week shelf life!).  Since I successfully baked my first loaf about seven months ago, I think I’ve eaten store-bought bread less than five times. Why buy when you can bake, right? Sure, baking takes time (unless you have a bread machine — but where’s the fun in that?). Also, baking my own bread means I can add any herb/nut/grain/seasoning I like depending on my mood.  Now that’s really  swell especially since I love herb buns and they’re not that easily available in stores.

So, anyway. I was in the mood for some bread making and was mentally going through a list of breads I could possibly make. What about Pretzels? I’ve never made them before even though I’ve read quite a few recipes and articles about making a good pretzel. Why not? I was feeling relaxed (a  four-day weekend would get anyone to relax, right) and adventurous. So, why not?

Usually whenever I get a craving for pretzels (not very often, thankfully) I head over  to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels for a sour-cream and onion or cinnamon flavoured knot.  I like em. So the question is, could I make mine as nice?

I used a recipe I had earlier bookmarked from thefreshloaf.com, a great resource of you like making bread. I intended to make the  Laugenbrezel or the Lye Pretzel — a basic pretzel that is first dipped in boiling water+ a drop of Lye and then baked. The recipe on thefreshloaf however skips the lye bath, deeming it unnecessary for homemade pretzels. Ok, great. Am all for skipping a lye bath for it kind of reminds me of a tic bath I have to administer on my dog, Mojo, from time to time. Urrgh.

As it turned out, my pretzels weren’t as pretty as auntie anne’s but they were really tasty. Especially the ones with grated cheese topping. Not bad (pat on back, pat on back) 🙂

Home made pretzels

(from thefreshloaf.com)

Makes 6 large pretzels
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp brown sugar
2-3 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees)

1 egg (for egg wash)

1 saucepan boiling water

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer and mix until the dough forms a ball. Use 2 cups of  flour first and add more, if necessary. I used a little less than 21/2 cups. Mix it for about five mins on low speed (speed 2 on my Kenwood) and then anpther 5-7 mins on 4 until the dough is all smooth and shiny.

Remove the dough and form into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise till double the size, about an hour.

Degas the dough gently and then transfer onto a work surface.

Preheat your  oven to 220C.

Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. This makes it easier to  roll it out and stretch it.

Roll each log into long ropes about as thick as your index finger, 15cm in length. You may have to let it rest as you roll/shape them.

To shape the pretzel, form the dough into a”U”. Cross the ends and cross them again. They fold the crossed ends downwards. Confused? Check out THIS site for guidance.

Once all 6 have been shaped, bring a saucepan of water to boil.

Now, using either two metal spatulas or a big wire strainer (the kind you use to deep fry stuff) dip each pretzel in the boiling water (one by one) for about 10 seconds. Drain and place on a baking sheet.

Brush each one with egg wash and sprinkle with salt and any topping of your choice: poppy seed, sesame seeds, nuts, onion powder, grated parmesan, etc.

Bake for about 15 mins or till nice and golden.

Eat it while its hot!

Do you roll with bananas?

11 Jul

It’s strange. I don’t quite like eating bananas but give me banana cake or bread and I’d gladly gobble it up. But, being a fussy eater, even with banana breads and cakes I prefer it when the taste of the fruit is not all empowering and is instead tempered  with spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. I’ve made banana bread before but I wasn’t quite satisfied because though tasty, it tasted suspiciously like cake. I have been on the lookout  for an alternate recipe. So, when I spotted a recipe for a yeasted banana bread on My Diverse Kitchen, one that seemed more bread than cake — i.e very little sugar and a moderate measure of banana, my curiosity was piqued. Actually, more like my greed. My hopes and expectation were high as the picture of the rolls depicted  on My Diverse Kitchen was tantalising.

So, I actually made it a point to get up real early on Saturday (to beat the traffic at the morning market — believe it or not, it gets insane after 730am!) and got myself a bunch of ripe bananas: I chose the small, sweet pisang mas because I think they cook  well.  I had all the other ingredients in my pantry already: all purpose flour, cardamom, butter, salt, sugar and yeast so I was all set.

I followed the recipe to a T, with one exception: I used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast —  a small inconsequential adjustment. The recipe was easy enough to follow but let me caution you: it takes about 3 hours to make these rolls. You need to allow the dough to rise twice and the first rise is for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours. Anyhow, it was worth the time. The rolls turned out well. They were soft and fluffy and just a little moist. And, it looked like a football/soccer ball! How apt that the World Cup final starts in less than 6 hours!

The only problem was that I could hardly taste the banana; they tasted too much like dinner rolls. Delicious dinner rolls, no doubt,  but where’d the taste of the cup full of mashed banana go? Perhaps the bananas I bought weren’t sweet enough…

Told you I was fussy. No  matter, I finished the eight rolls the recipe yielded with the help of a couple of  friends and guess what I did? I  decided to give it another go, adding more banana this time around. After all,  I reasoned, I wasn’t going to eat the remaining fruit in a hurry …

Instead of 1 cup of mashed bananas, I used close to 2 cups. I added a bit more cardamom and a little nutmeg too. This time, it was just  perfect.

Here’s the recipe.

31/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup lukewarm water (plus a bit more, in case)
½ cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 cup banana, mashed
1/2 tsp  cardamom powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
Melted butter for brushing on rolls once they’re out of the oven

Whisk together the banana, water, buttermilk, yeast, salt, sugar, cardamom,  nutmeg and butter in the bowl of your stand mixer till all the ingredients are well incorporated. Fix the dough hook attachment  and,  adding the  flour in two batches, mix  the wet and dry ingredients till a dough forms, about 5 mins. The dough should be sticky and moist.

Remover the bowl from the mixer and cover with a damp cloth. Let it sit in a warm spot, allowing the dough to rise for about 2 hours. It should double it’s size and deflate. If it hasn’t deflated, de-gas it gently after the two hours are up.

Flouring your hands, gently form balls (the size is up to you; mine were half the size of a tennis ball) and arrange them (touching each other) in an 8-inch round cake tin.The balls need to be the same size: they look prettier and will cook more evenly.  Cover and let the dough balls rise again for about 30 -45 mins. Bake at 180C for 30 to 40 mins or till the tops are golden.

For soft rolls, brush the top with melted butter once you’ve taken them out of the oven. Set aside to cool. Best eaten warm.

I’m on a roll

16 Jun

I am on the hunt. I want to find the perfect recipe for the perfect dinner roll. I love dinner rolls. Love them. (Gosh, can I gush or can I gush) From the rolls you get at  Kentucky Fried Chicken  to the real nice home made ones, dinner rolls rock. Soft, fluffy and puffy, dinner rolls need not be eaten with anything. In fact, they’re best eaten alone without even any butter.

I made some wholemeal buns last week, topped with poppy seeds and they were tastey .. and healthy. But being wholemeal buns, they were a little dense. I think I still prefer my dinenr rolls with white flour.

I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that got a lot of positive reviews and so I decided to give it a go. Angie’s Perfect Dinner Rolls was what they were called — which was just … well, perfect. I read through the recipe and was happy that the process of making the dough was pretty straighforward. The only snag was that the recipe called for four rises — as in you mix the dough and then let it rise to double it size. Then you de-gas it and let it rise again; de-gass it again and let it rise; shape it into little balls and let it rise one last time.

Boy, I wondered if I had the patience or the time. Somehow, I always start my baking projects after 9pm — four rises would take me at least three hours. I decided to skip one rise — after all, some of the others who used the recipes and commented on teh site did the same and still achieved lovely results (or so they said).

I also halved the recipe since the original yielded 36 buns. What would I do with 36 buns other than put on some unsightly pounds? I ended up with 16 buns.

The buns were really tasty. They weren’t puffy and only slightly fluffy (perhaps a fourth rise would have made a difference?)  but they were soft and buttery and slightly sweet.


Adapted from Angie’s Perfect Dinner Rolls

11/4  cups warm milk

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup and 1 tbsp sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoons salt

3.5 cups high protein flour/all purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, melted

Warm milk till it’s tepid: don’t bring it to a boil. It should be just warm enough for you to  be able to stick your fingers in for ten seconds without being scalded. Sprinkle the yeast into the milk and add 1 tbsp sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 mins till yeast is activated and the mixture becomes frothy.

Beat in the sugar, eggs, softened butter (1/4 cup), and salt and mix. I used my stand mixer, using the dough hook on a low speed (4). Once blended, gradually add in the flour and continue kneading until a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place to rise. Should take 1 hour for the dough to double in size.

Punch down the dough and cover again to rise again (another 30 -40 mins) . Repeat this step. Dough will be slightly sticky, don’t panic.

Meanwhile, preheat your over to 200C.

Now, back to your dough. Pinch enough dough to form small balls (about a golf ball or slightly bigger) — roll them into shape. Don’t know how? Click here.

Place the balls close to each other in a greased baking dish. They can be almost touching each other. Cover and let rise until doubles in size — just another 30-40 mins.

Bake rolls until it gets golden: about 10 – 15 minutes. When done, remove from oven and drizzle the 1/4 cup melted butter over them. Eat them while they’re hot.

Red hot emergency

11 Apr

What a beaute, eh? Here’s the story of how this gorgeous machine ended up in my kitchen.

Last Firday, my trustee RM100 Kenwood mixer whirred it’s last breath. This is not a reflection on Kenwood but rather on how I’ve abused the machine. You see, I’ve been making bread like nobody’s business (for Crazy Juliet) and the poor basic mixer could not cope with the work load. I was midway through making my pita dough when the poor thang started groaning and moaning and finally, it just refused to work … just like any overworked employee. I was sad at first but panic soon took over. After all, I had to make 7 pieces of pita bread and two wholemeal loaves by Sunday or I would be in serious trouble.

This classified as an emergency, for sure! I had no choice but to knead the flour by hand (unlike my business partner/colleague Marty I do not find this therapeutic) and at the end of it exhaustion pushed panic aside. It was a night when emotions ran high.

Tomorrow, I vowed, I will get myself a proper, hardier machine that could stand some heavy duty baking.

And that’s how I welcomed this red beauty — the Kenwood Patissier 4L, 400 W mixer. I got it in signal red of course and have used it to make a second batch of pita, and the two wholemeal loaves. I love it. Love, love, love it.  Now I just hope my poor battered basic mixer can be saved.

Now onto the pitas and the wholemeal loafs. The key to making a perfect pita is in getting the circular bread to puff up slightly, leaving an envelope in the centre in which you can stuff with a variety of fillings. The thing to remember is not to roll the circles too thick. Roll them 7 inches in diameter but just  allow 1/4 inch thickness.  I used 2 cups high protein flour and 1 cup whole wheat and added some sage for extra flavour : an adaptation of a basic pita recipe found on The Fresh Loaf.

The wholemeal loafs are adapted from the basic Pullman Loaf, a perfect sandwich bread. The Pattisierre was a joy to use: so silent and so efficient.

For the Pullman, you need 4 cups flour (I used 50% whole wheat and 50% high protein), 1/4 cup dry milk, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp instant dry yeast, 6 tbsp softened butter, 2 tbsp honey/maple syrup, 11/4 cups tepid water. Whisk the flour, milk and yeast together. Transfer to the bowl of your mixer, attach the dough hook to the mixer, add the butter to the dry flour combo and start kneading (speed 2 or low) till butter is well combined. Add the water, salt and honey and when the flour is moist, speed up the mixer to 4 (medium).  Knead for 7 mins or till a smooth but sticky dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured surface, form into a ball, flour the top and cover with cling film for 15 mins. Once rested, deflate with your finger tips and shape the dough into a rectangle (10 x 8 inches). Given the rectangle an envelope turn (90degrees) and form a 12 inch roll and then shape it once more into a loaf to fit your pullman tin. Cover and et it rise till just an inch below the rim. Bake, covered, for 3o mins and then uncovered for 15-30 mins or till brown.

Now that the bread is all done and my house is smelling like a bakery, it’s time to make myspreads: hummus, oilve tapenade and sun dried tomato pesto. There is no rest for the wicked … but I ain’t complaining. No better way to spend a rainy Sunday.

No ordinary potato bun, Rosemary.

1 Mar

In my bread baking adventure, I am beginning to realise that practice really does make perfect. You can read heaps about making the perfect loaf and avoiding  common mishaps (bread that doesnt rise, yeast that doesnt froth, crust that’s too hard, rock hard buns, etc) but you aint gonna get it right unless you try and try again and improve your technique.

Making bread is really not difficult technically, but it does require a lot of patience, especially if you’re a novice and not a natural baker (I do believe some people have a natural ability to craft the perfect loaf with minimal effort).

So, though I had success with my first loaf — Delia Smith’s Quick and Easy Wholemeal Loaf — I wasn’t too successful with  my next recipe, Potato and Resemary buns … well, at least at first.

Unlike the Wholemeal Loaf, this recipe required some kneading and some knocking back. Also, the yeast has to be ‘activated’ by dissolving it in tepid water before it could be added into the flour mix.

I decided to try and try and until I succeeded. The obssessive compulsive in me needs to succeed. It took me three tries berfore I got it right. My first two attempts (pic below), the dough didn’t quite rise as it should have and they sorta were a cross between a biscuit and a bun .. a buncuit.

The recipe calls for instant yeast which you can combine with the other dry ingredients before adding the required liquid. I substituted it with active dry yeast and followed the same instructions.

The problem? Active dry yeast needs to be “activated” first — by dissolving it in tepid water which will cause the yeast to froth and hence get activated. My mistake?  The second time, my water wasn’t quite tepid — it was a little colder and so the yeast didn’t activate. (Tepid water, by the way, is very warm water but at a temperature that’s allows you to  dip you fingers in and keep them there for a good 10 seconds without getting scalded).

The third time, I got it right. The yeast frothed up nicely and the dough did rise.
Also important is to get the texture of the dough correct. After mixing the dry ingredients with the water and kneading, your bread dough should be sticky but  should be able to come off your mixing bowl in one lump. You should not have to scrape little chuncks from the base and sides.
And, with bread it’s better to have a little too much water than too little.

These potato rolls taste way different from the ones you get in kedai runcit or even those from bakeries. For one thing, while those are sweet buns, this one is savoury  and a little hot hot or spicy, courtesy of the ingredients: ground black pepper, salt, dried rosemary and sage. You first have to  boil and mash one potato (better with the skin on, scrubbed of course) and the mix together with the high protein bread flour, salt, butter, herbs and yeast. Mix and knead for about 5 to 10 mins, adding 1 cup tepid water. Knead till you get the right texture. Cover with a damp cloth for 60 to 90 mins. By this time it should have doubled in size (if it hasn’t you’re in trouble — as I was my first two times).

Next, de-gas the dough by  gently “punching” it and the shape them into balls (bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball) and place them on a greased and lined  baking sheet. Cover the dough balls with a garbage bag for another hour.

15 mins before the hour, preheat your oven to 180C.

Bake for 10 mins, rotate the tray and bake for another 10 to 15 mins. The bottoms should be slightly crisp.

The rolls taste great eaten alone or with a little butter. They semll wonderful while baking and you can most definitely get a herb high 😉

For the full recipe (and to get hooked onto a great link) go to http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/potatorosemaryrolls

Pumpkin + sage + butter = yummy

9 Nov

The delicious pumpkin bread-cake. It's moist and not too sweet. And it smells divine

This marks another first for me. Have always shied away from making breads because it sounded like a lot of work — kneading and kneading and more kneading? Urmmm, no thanks.

Plus, I have an inexplicable fear of cooking with yeast.

Then I came upon this fantastic recipe for pumpkin bread from Martha Stewart (yes, I do love her) in her magazine. It doesn’t require kneading or yeast and just reading through the list of ingredients made me salivate.

And it sounded pretty easy to make.

Usually, Martha’s recipes just need to be followed to a T. With this bread though, instead of dividing the mixture into 8 small loaf pans, I put it all in one big loaf pan and as a result I had to bake it for 20 mins longer than the 30 mins she prescribed. I also had no ground clove ( you need 1/8 tsp) so i omitted that. Otherwise, it was fantastic.

pumpkin loaf

Straight outta the oven.

(Almost) Martha’s Pumpkin, Sage and Brown-Butter Quick Bread

6 ounces (about 170gms) unsalted butter plus a little more to butter the pan

1 cup fresh sage, thinly sliced

1 and 2/3 all purpose flour plus a little for dusting pan

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used powder as I did not have fresh nutmeg)

1 tsp salt

1 cup solid packed pumpkin (from can)

1 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

Heat oven at 180. Grease loaf pan with butter and dust it with flour.

Melt butter over med-low fire. Add sage strips and cook till butter turns golden brown — should take about 5-8 mind. Let cool.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk together with salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk pumpkin, eggs, sugar and the browned butter with sage. Once smooth and well mixed, add flour mix gradually till all incorporated.

Transfer to loaf pan. Smoothen top and bake for about 55 mins or till knife comes out smooth.

Let cool. Garnish with some  fresh sage leaves.