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Rambles' Ramblings

Ramblings, a salve for any hurts

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baking

Sourdough bread: Success!

As of today, my starter is a week old. Two days ago I started the process of making bread using it after feeding it and leaving it at room temperature for two days. It is rather vigorous, able to double up within two hours. Hence, the decision to bake using my relatively young starter with no added yeast.

The recipe I got from Breadtopia.com. It is rather to my liking as it is quite simple to make. Making the sponge dough takes 12 hours at room temperature, then the first rise for 24 hours in the fridge and a final rise after shaping for 5 hours at room temperature. The timetable makes it easy to schedule it around the working days and the fact that it does not require a very specific temperature is great in my opinion. Of course, I have my doubts since I am pretty sure that temperature plays a major role in proofing. Nonetheless, without a proofing oven or even a banneton, I would not be able to do much about temperature even if I want to.

I could not resist peeking as the dough rise. I did my sponge dough in the oven as it keeps it covered without fuss. Using the same bowl, I covered it with a large plate and dumped it in the fridge for 24 hours with regular peeking. The last part is the most difficult. After shaping it, I left it on the table to rise covered with a damp towel. First mistake: the towel stuck to the dough, necessitating several minutes of delicate disengagement to prevent deflating the bread.

Second mistake: leaving it on the counter. After 5 hours, the dough has relaxed so much that it is very soft and unwieldy. It proves near impossible to maneuver onto the baking sheet. I deflated the first two loaves before discovering that using a flour covered spatula to slowly remove it from the table top is the best technique to avoid deflating the bread. Even so, oven spring was great and even the deflated loaves turned out with good crumbs.

Of course, I made some adjustments to the recipe I got from Breadtopia.com. It is virtually impossible to get spelt flour in Malaysia and you will have to shell out a pretty buck for rye flour. Hence, instead of those flours, I used only whole wheat flour, bread flour (in lieu of rye) and all purpose flour (in lieu of spelt). My novice mistake: I poured all the water recommended into the flour before realizing that the different flours used may have affected the liquid required. Hindsight is always 20/20. I ended up using nearly 200g extra flour to create a manageable flour. Oh well, at least it is savable.

The bread itself is rather sour, a pleasant surprise considering my starter is quite young. It, of course, lacked slightly in flavour due to the mix of flours used. Nevertheless, I am heartened by it turning out quite well, especially since I read so much about failing he first few loaves of sourdough bread because of a weak starter.

I guess that’s all for my first sourdough experience. One side note, the dough was supposed to be for one boule. My oven is small and will definitely not fit. Therefore I quartered it and still ends up with huge loaves. Next time, I must at least halve the recipe as I really doubt we will be able to finish it before spoiling. Goodnight!

The One Ingredient I Cannot Stand: Cinnamon

Most of the recipes I saw online fore any type of baked goods include cinnamon as one of the spices. As we don’t actually use a lot of spices in my house, we naturally don’t actually have cinnamon in the house. I finally decided to go and get a small bottle of it from the local supermarket. It costs me nearly RM10, which is rather expensive. But I don’t mind too much since recipes only asked for a small amount and it should be able to last quite a while.

This afternoon, I decided to make baked oatmeal clafoutis which asks for a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Thinking this as a good place to start using cinnamon, I broke open the seal and measured out one teaspoon exactly and incorporated it into the mix. Bad idea.

The clafoutis smelled heavenly in the oven. However, when I went to cut it, it is more steamed than baked, though it may have be that the oven is just too hot and hardened the outermost layer before the insides are able to release their steam. No matter, we can always re-bake it later.

I took a bite out of a piece I just cut out from the main piece ( I always try some of my goods warm). YUCK! The overpowering smell of cinnamon hit me so suddenly that I felt nauseous. Like almost puking type of nauseous. Nobody would eat ’em and the entire batch ended up in the trash. What a waste of time and ingredients!

At any rate, I have at least rule out cinnamon as an ingredient disliked by the entire family.

On a side note, today I bought 6 kg of flour from the local baking ingredient shop, 2 kg each of all purpose flour, whole wheat flour and bread flour. Since I am now feeding an extra mouth (my starter. haha), and I am getting tired of running out of flour every other week, I just decided to add more flour to the store room. Oh well, I am pretty sure the cashier suspected me of small bakery or something with nearly RM20 in flour when the most expensive is whole wheat flour is RM3.60.Well, I don’t care either way and the flour only makes me feel safe when I am baking recipes using huge amount of flour..

Sourdough starter: Success!

FINALLY! A starter that succeeded. I am so thankful to Breadtopia for their excellent instructions on how to create one and actually explaining why. Second step: add more flour and orange juice and should see activity within 48 hours. 7 hours later, my starter is already bubbling. I fed it another 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 1/2 tablespoon of water and it has gone on bubbling.

It smells excellent, slightly vinegary and yeasty, which was NOT what my last attempt smelled like. My last attempt was rancid by this time and stunk up the entire house. Ugh. Now, with this starter, I can actually see myself baking a loaf of sourdough bread next week. I plan to keep it on the counter and feed it daily for a week before refrigerating it in order for it to mature a bit.

Time to search for sourdough bread recipes I guess. Oh well, I am getting tired of regular bread anyways.

Baked oatmeal bars

A few days ago, I got myself a small packet of rolled oats instead of the inexpensive Quaker oats we have been eating. I wonder what to cook/bake it with since I get tired of milk soaked oatmeal rather quickly.

A quick search online for recipes involving oats that I can make ahead should yield quite a number of potential recipes. For my test recipe, I decided to try out a oatmeal-raisin bars recipe. Of course, being me, I did not actually follow the recipe exactly. In fact, I merely used the recipe as a rough guide, changing up almost everything.

Where the recipe asked for butter, I used olive oil as it is the only fat I have on hand. Then I switched out raisins for cranberries. Adding in whole almonds and chia seeds, I began to worry about the liquidity of the mixture. So, instead of an egg, I put two and added nearly 1/3 cup of milk.

Even so, the mixture was rather thick when I spread it on a greased baking tray. (Note: use aluminium foil next time as it sticks terribly.) Due to all the additions, instead of the 20-25 minutes required, I baked it for 30 minutes. It smelled heavenly in the oven!

Once cooled and cut into bars, which are rather ragged because of the sticking problem, I had my first piece. Delicious! The sweetness of the sugar is offset by the tanginess of the cranberries and the almonds and chia seeds gave a crunch to an otherwise chewy bar. I guess I will be making this quite often in the future as both my parents are fans as well.

One side note, I accidentally burnt my finger on the oven door when I opened it to place the tray within. It is a very small wound, yet is very very painful. There is a mini boil on the finger as I typed. I figured that it is kind of inevitable that I burnt myself since I have been baking quite often recently.

Anyway, that’s all for today. I have nice oat-cranberries-almonds-chia seeds bars to get to. I will post something soon on pumpkin baking since I already have some pumpkin puree. Cheers!

White bread vs Wholemeal bread

All this while I have been baking wholemeal bread since I started baking bread. Even the occasional rolls and buns have some all purpose flour mix in. However, we really miss our sandwich loaf which was soft and fluffy (though possibly not as healthy as the much denser wholemeal bread). Therefore, I decided to try my hand at baking a pure bread flour bread that is titled The Sandwich Loaf in my beloved bread recipe book.

The recipe calls for 100% bread flour, which, by now, I always have some at hand. A little yeast, some salt, some sugar, water and olive oil are the rest of the ingredients.

After mixing it all up and kneaded the dough which was rather wet (which makes it quite a challenge to knead without it sticking to my hand), I left it to proof in a pot. Boy, it rose so magnificently that I wonder whether there’s still enough yeast activity for the second rise.

I do not need to worry. By the time the bread went into the oven, it has risen to heights never before seen in our house. It makes a singularly HUGE loaf.

Now that I think of it, it makes sense. Since bread flour contains such a high percentage of gluten, it would have help the flour to keep its shape and support it enormous rise. Next time round, I am going to divide the dough even further to avoid the sides touching my small oven.

No Knead Bread

I have the idea of having homemade bread for breakfast as a means to save money (and using it in other areas). Only problem: bread needs time to bake and obviously I couldn’t bake it just before I get out of the house. No, it must be pre-prepared at least the night before. So I thought to bake a whole lot of bread on Sunday and eat it throughout the week. Good plan, but for one flaw: usually by Wednesday, all the bread I made is eaten. Any bread not eaten after Wednesday tends to just sit and harden. Not exactly breakfast material. Plus, eating the same type of bread throughout the entire week makes me tired of it.

Solution: Freeze half the bread dough and bake it in the middle of the week, preferably on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I have full day classes on Wednesday and simply do not have the time or energy to bake. So that’s it, or so I thought about my brilliant plan to have homemade breakfast.

Casting around the internet in search of fresh ideas, I saw the phrase ‘quick bread’ for the first time. Promising to eat up comparatively little time, it sounds just like what I needed. Until I saw that among the ingredients is baking powder. I had bought many packets of yeast and really need to use them all up before they expire and so could ill afford to add yet another ingredient to my baking shelf. Then I saw the tab titled ‘No Knead Bread’ which sounds interesting.

Curiosity made me clicked on it and I am introduced to bread not shaped before baking. One of the most interesting type of no-knead bread I saw is ‘batter bread’ in which the dough is whipped instead of kneaded and has the consistency of cake batter. It sounds so easy that I thought I have finally found the solution to my problem. Plus it uses yeast as the leavening agent.

Whipping up a batch is easy since I have all the ingredients right there on my baking shelf. Within an hour, the batter bread is ready to be baked. I was so very disappointed when it failed. Instead of warm, soft and fluffy insides, I found the insides to be sticky and very moist, to the extent steam is released when we cut through the crust.

Thinking back, I do not think the failure has anything to do with the recipe, but instead with oven temperature. As my oven is quite small, I have come to realize that for most recipes I need to reduce the temperature by 20 to 40 degrees. This time round, I reduced it by only 10 degrees and it is entirely possible that the temperature is too hot and cooked the crust first, sealing the inner part of the dough, which resulted in the insides being given a steam cooking.

I will certainly try this again as it is so easy to make. Once I master this technique, I will be able to customize it and bake it easily for different flavours during the week. But I will only have the time to experiment during the Diwali holidays. So I shall speak more of this at a later date. Goodnight!

Soap and Baking, Oh My!

It is really interesting how interests evolved and grow. I, for one, would not have pegged myself for being one of those ‘make it yourself’ type of people. Even when we got the oven, it was mainly for my sister. I got curious about baking, went to research on cake (because everyone loves cake and commercial cake is really bad for our family – parents with diabetics and us two at a hereditary risk). I found myself falling into that world so fast that my head still spins until today.

I started off making no-bake cookies and cakes and quickly upgrades to baking them. At that point in time, I am still wary of altering recipes and so found myself with many too sweet cookies and cakes. Once I started to cut down the amount of sugar required in the recipes, the products become much more palatable.

Then I discovered bread. I first started to make bread using recipes from a real cookbook, the first one I got. I was apprehensive of using yeast and kept on checking whether it rises. It rose beautifully and it was delicious, though being such a large batch, it took us some time to finish it. I will admit, I went a bit crazy, making three different batches in just three days. We were heartily tired of bread by the time we finished them all.

For me, bread is one of the easiest thing to bake, until one batch failed so utterly that it is more brick-like than bread-like. Then I realized that ambient temperature is as important as they always tell you. Even in hot and humid Malaysia, rainy days still meant failure to bread left to rise on the counter top. A tip I found on allrecipes.com worked well for me: pour a pan of near boiling water into a baking pan or a large plate placed at the bottom of the oven and place the dough inside to rise. It works out every time and I no longer has the trouble of failed bread. I thought that is all to my obsession to homemade goods.

Of course, then I am introduced to soap making by a friend. While soap making may be much cheaper in other countries, it is ridiculously expensive in Malaysia where it is very very very difficult to get hold of one of the essential materials: lye, or sodium hydroxide. After that, the different oils and essential oils as well as colourants do not make it any cheaper. To date, I have only made one batch of lemon-scented soap which should mature in about 2 months. Although I have been meaning to make a second batch (chocolate soap!) today, I forgot to get the materials needed and so my plans are thwarted. Oh well, it will keep.

The same friend asked me about gluten-free bread (she has a nephew who was put on a gluten-free diet for health purposes) which I neglect to research for such a long time. She has heard of flourless bread, which to me sounds quite impossible until I checked it with Google and finds that not only is it very possible, but probably tastes as good as normal bread.

There’s only one problem: the recipes frequently asked for coconut flour or almond flour, both of which, again, is quite difficult to source in Malaysia. So off I went again on another research binge: how to make coconut flour. It turns out to be quite easy, though tedious. Why not almond flour, one may ask. Well, it is because coconuts are cheaper than almond here and it make sense to go the inexpensive road although I might make some almond flour for just for special occasions.

Seriously, I have too many interests when I should be studying. But then, I wouldn’t have as much fun without all these projects. So I guess I will just have to learn to manage my time well.

First Taste of Sourdough Bread

Yesterday I got a loaf of sourdough bread from a deli. It is expensive! Where a normal loaf of bread of that size costs around RM4 – RM5, sourdough bread costs nearly RM10. It was good though, so very good. I eat it plain since it is already so flavourful.

I was a bit worried I would not like the taste, but it is great! The indescribable blend of taste give the sourdough a unique taste. It is now my favourite bread aside from homemade wholewheat bread. Now I am more anxious to learn to bake this sourdough bread since I foresee much eating of this bread. If I buy instead of bake, my budget for food is going to acquire a huge hole.

Now, first thing first: work up courage to ask for a starter or attempt another starter by my own. Let’s see how it goes then.

Sourdough Starter: FAIL!

I threw out my entire container of starter. It had already started to smell really bad and I don’t think it could be saved any more. Aah….. No idea where I went wrong, but I had definitely went wrong somewhere somehow.

I will wait a few days before starting again. If anyone has any good recipe for a starter, I will appreciate it very much. Thank you in advance.

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