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Natural Leaven

Monday, March 17, 2008

Leavened bread is bread that has risen, puffed with gasses that creates a cellular network of pockets throughout the dough. These gasses are produced by fermentation, a process whereby an organism, in this case one of the Saccharomyces strain of fungi we know as "yeast", releases carbon dioxides as it assimilates and uses the sugars present in the dough. Bacteria can also ferment sugars, and are often present together with yeast when fermentation occurs.

Yeast might be found on the surfaces of grains such as wheat, or on the skin of fruits rich in sugars, or in a spoonful of an already fermenting mixture. When these are mixed with fresh water and flour, the yeasts will slowly multiple and ferment. Some bacteria will give the leaven its distinctive sour aroma and taste - as with the bacterium Lactobacillus Sanfrancisco, which has been isolated by scientists, and to which the remarkable bright flavour of the San Francisco sourdough is attributed.

Adapted from Dan Lepard: The Handmade Loaf (Mitchell Beazley Food)

#Day 1:

Mix all the ingredients in a 500 ml jar or similar container. Cover and leave at room temperature (approx. 20C/68F) for 24 hours.

#Day 2:

When you open the jar, you'll see that there is a glossy, watery film on the surface, with silt at the bottom of the jar as some separation has occurred. If you smell the contents you may perceive a hint of fermentation. Add the water to the jar and then stir in the flour. Cover and leave again at room temperature (approx. 20C/68F) for 24 hours.

#Day 3:

When you open the jar, you'll notice tiny bubbles like those that form on the inside of a Champagne glass on the surface. These show that the fermentation, caused by the yeasts and lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli), is well under way. Add the water to the jar, stir well to combine, then add flour and stir again. Cover and leave again at room temperature (approx. 20C/68F) for 24 hours.

#Day 4: Replace the rye flour with 125 grams of strong white flour if you need a white leaven.

By this time the froth of fermentation should be beginning, though the hint of acidity in the aroma is rather vague. Discard three-quarters of the mixture. Add the water and stir well. Remove the raisins by pouring the mixture through a strainer (I kept the raisins), then put the liquid back to the jar. Add the flour and stir again. Cover and leave again at room temperature (approx. 20C/68F) for 24 hours.

#Day 5: Replace the rye flour with 125 grams of strong white flour if you need a white leaven.

The fermentation should be clearly evident, and the aroma starting to become acid. Discard three-quarters of the mixture. Mix in the water, and then stir in the flour. You should have a thick paste now. Cover and leave again at room temperature (approx. 20C/68F) for 24 hours.

#Day 6 Onwards:

The mixture is bubbling and fully activated. Each day as you remove some leaven for baking, replacing it with an equivalent amount of flour and water, the aroma of the leaven will become stronger and more sharply acidic.

To keep the starter activate, alive and healthy, you will have to feed them with flour and water after discarding three-quarters of the mixture. (or using them to bake bread). Dan Lepard suggests to keep the refreshment slightly heavier on flour than water, as this slows the fermentation and stops the leaven rising and falling too quickly. It's a good idea to continue feeding and refreshing it for at least one more week before you start making bread with it.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rich, buttery, sweet or savory brioche is a French bread and often served for the breakfast. A classic brioche has a fluted bottom and an upper protruding knob, and is made in a special flute-shaped brioche pan. The bread can also be baked like a regular loaf, or braided (same as we do the Challah) or made in muffin cups. Sweet brioche is filled with chocolate or candied fruit while cheese, vegetables or meat are very often found in the savory version.

  • 360 g All-purpose flour
  • 50 g Sugar
  • 6 g Instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 Eggs
  • 100 g Butter, unsalted
  • 1 tbsp Milk to brush
  • Chocolate
  1. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add in the eggs. Mix in, then work together with a fork to make a soft dough.

  2. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until you have a shiny and smooth dough, about 10 minutes. Pound the butter with the side of a rolling pin until it's pliable. Add the butter to the dough and knead until it's fully incorporated. Cover with a plastic wrap, then a towel. Place the bowl in an oven (DO NOT HAVE THE OVEN TURNED ON ) with the oven light turned on and allow to rise for 1 hour.

  3. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press down the risen dough to release air. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Fill each with some chocolates and wrap up. Place them in prepared muffin cups.

  4. Cover them with a few layers of plastic wraps and refrigerate the dough overnight. The volume should be doubled and it crowned well over the top of the pan. Preheat the oven to 210C/410F. Brush the brioches tops with the milk and bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the preheated oven until golden brown.

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Red Bean Cacao Pastries

Friday, March 07, 2008

Red bean paste, also known as adzuki bean paste, is a mildly sweetened paste made of red beans. You can use it either for the soup or as a filling for steamed buns, dumplings, and pastries or enjoy it on its own.

Water DoughOil DoughFilling
  • 150 g All-purpose flour
  • 15 g Icing sugar
  • 60 g Shortening
  • 60 ml Water
  • 70 g Cake flour
  • 50 g Cacao drink powder(Nestle Nesquik Kakaopulver)
  • 60 g Shortening
  • Red bean paste (or poppy seed paste)
  1. To prepare water dough: Mix well all ingredients and lightly knead for about 2 minutes until a non-sticky dough is formed. Leave the dough aside 15 minutes and go on to prepare oil dough.
  2. To prepare oil dough: Mix both ingredients together. Do not knead this dough. Divide water and oil dough each into 12 portions.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a water dough. Wrap an oil dough with this water dough to form a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an oval shape. Roll the dough out and turn the dough by 90 degree to get a vertical position. Lightly flatten the dough and roll out to an oval shape again. Roll up and repeat this step for one more time. Work gently to avoid rolling the oil dough inside out or the pastry won't be flaky and layered.
  4. Gently pressing two ends of the dough to shorten it, and divide it into 2 portions. Place the cut side down, and flatten with palm of hand and roll out with rolling pin into a 3-inch round.
  5. Place one teaspoon of filling in the middle of the dough and then wrap up. Place them on the baking tray. Repeat with the rest of dough. Bake at preheated oven 180C/350F for 18-20 minutes.

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