Category Archives: Bread

Lard bread, second time round

Lard bread

Lard bread

When I was in Italy, I had thinly sliced lard on toast pressed upon me…at 8 in the morning. Waving aside my protests that I don’t usually have savories first thing in the morning, much less lard, the lard maestro looked me in the eye. “It’ll go down on its own, you’ll see.” I dutifully ingested. He was right of course. The lard, from pedigree pigs, studded with rosemary and coarse salt, was not in any way greasy or porky. It was just nutty and delicious. So he made his sale and I entertained notions of regaling guests with lardo aperitifs…except the people seem around us seem to have gone on funny restrictive diets overnight. I can imagine how they would recoil with horror (“meat! fat!! gluten!!!” Is she trying to poison us!?!?”). So it’s lard bread again. The irony of using this beautiful expensive slab of lard in something that, from what I’ve read, was a poor man’s bread meant to stretch the slaughtered pig to the max, is not lost on me.

Lard bread (recipe adapted from here) (Makes one big ring loaf)
170g      Leaven, 100%
480g      T80 [bread flour in original]
255g      Water
144g      Lard diced very finely [226g cold rendered lard in original]
11g        Salt
2 tsp     Ground pepper [4 TBS in original]
Salami [283–340g cracklings in original]

Original recipe calls for mixing water with leaven, then rubbing lard into flour before combining all.
The first time I made this, I melted the lard and incorporated it after working the flour, leaven and water to some gluten development (and chickened out from adding all the lard at the sight of the very slippery, oily dough).
This time I played with the idea of mixing the dough, then almost laminating in very finely diced or even semi-flattened lard, like croissant dough—mind you, this is someone who has NEVER even tried her hand at laminated dough! But after an accident whereby i sent flour flying all over the kitchen, I tossed the idea of laminating anything and crossly diced the lard and threw it in with the rest.
The dough was rearing to go because my leaven was very active, but after all that lard and salami, it almost came to a halt. It was a very hard dough to judge; it hardly rose at all.
1st proof of a couple of hours, then it was popped into the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I shaped it into a ring and the second proof was about two hours, before baking with steam. Again it had hardly risen but thankfully it was not dense, as I had feared, nor greasy and disgusting. In fact, the crumb was amazingly tender—actually should I be amazed, what with all that lard… Needless to say, the kitchen smelt like bacon without the icky factor and it was near impossible to stop eating.

Bench notes to myself:
* Perhaps I should finally try it the right way the next time, with the right type of lard to be smeared in. If using hard lard again, definitely, definitely dice it as tiny as possible, so it melts into the crumb and not show up as white nubs, which much as one might like lard, is not the most appealing texture to bite into… And maybe give the pseudo-lamination idea a shot??
* I used good lard that came with some rosemary and coarse salt, and there was a difference between this and the first loaf with ordinary lard.
* I found 2 tsp of pepper quite enough for the taste of pepper to be quite sufficient. I don’t know how the original poster managed to incorporate 4 TBS! But I had also used assertive salami with a bite to it, so I would say adapt to ingredients! Aim for a lightly pepper-speckled dough? But incorporating some coarsely ground pepper would be a good idea too.
* I wanted to finish up the salami and didn’t measure the qty but don’t stint on it!
* A bit of herbs like rosemary was quite nice, but there shouldn’t be too many competing flavors.
* Even at room temp, this was irresistible but when warm out of the heaven with the crackly crust contrasting with the tender crumb… i chuckled at my newly ‘abstinent’ friends not only reaching out for it, but even spreading butter on it!

A most lardy tender crumb

A most lardy tender crumb

Rye/wheat sourdough with rye berries

2014-09-06 09.14.58

Rye/wheat sourdough with rye berries

My bag of rye berries stared back at me with a sneer.
Knew you wouldn’t get round to it.
I stand admonished.

I had bought it with every intention to make a vollkornbrot or some German-style bread for Bob’s German colleague expatriated here who missed his hearty rye breads. I commiserated. I had learnt early on that even when boulangeries sell ‘rye’ or ‘Nordic’ bread, they are rarely wholly rye and most unsatisfying. To be fair, I couldn’t find rye groats, rye flakes and the usual paraphernalia but I got distracted, as usual. Sorry Franck, I hope I’ll be able to make it up with dampfnudeln!

I adapted this recipe from Angie’s Recipes: Taste of Home blog. Angie, by the way, makes the most amazing stuff, combining ingredients you wouldn’t think of combining, and she’s a genius in all manner of cooking. You’re guaranteed a surprise if you pop by her blog.

Rye/wheat sourdough with rye berries (makes 1 loaf)
Soaked rye berries
100g       Rye berries
   2g        Salt
100g       Cold water

I had used rye berries once, and even after cooking them for the longest time, they remained very hard in the bread. So this time, I followed some tips on the Internet and partially broke some of them up in the blender. I wasn’t sure if I should have used hot/cold water (I usually soak grains in hot water) but stuck to cold in case they should sprout?? I refrigerated the soaked berries though, because temperatures are still warmish. Of course by the next day, all the water had been absorbed.

88g      T80 flour (semi-wholewheat flour)
 1g        Instant yeast
 2g        Salt
60g       Water

Mix and leave at room temp for an hour or so. Refrigerate 15-24 hrs before use.

Final dough
113g      Leaven, 100% (mine was fed T80 flour)
All of the rye berries
All of the starter
100g     Wholewheat flour
 90g      Bread flour [ I used 190g of T80]
 63g      Light rye flour [I used dark rye flour]
  2g       Instant yeast
  6g       Salt
155g     Water
200g     Dried fruits 
200g     Nuts and grains [I just threw in a handful of dried berries and almonds]

Mix everything except dried fruits and nuts and grains. I did this by hand and was quite surprised by how easily the dough came together. Add dried fruits and nuts and grains. I just threw in some leftover berries and almonds because i wanted to taste the bread on its own without add-ins. 
Proof for 30–60 mins.
Shape into a log and place into bread tin. The dough is wet but very workable, i.e., not of the pouring consistency that rye breads can take on.
Proof for an hour – watch this bread! Because of the qty of yeast, I was shocked by how quickly it had risen.
Bake with steam at 230 celsius for 10 min, then 190 celsius for 40-50 mins. Watch it as it can brown easily.

I found this a tasty, good, ‘quick’ bread (compared to the usual rye breads), with the rye berries giving it a very pleasant chew. However, it was somewhat lacking in taste and depth, even with the amount of leaven and starter. It did improve the following days though and makes great sandwich bread. 
* cut down or omit yeast for a slow rise??
* Definitely add grains the next time, but I would skip the dried fruits as I don’t like them in rye breads.


Leaner Turmeric Hazelnuts Sourdough

Turmeric hazelnut sourdough

Turmeric hazelnut sourdough

Another attempt at the turmeric hazelnut sourdough, but this time a leaner one than the previous one which was really a sort of pain viennois (an enriched bread with milk and some butter but lighter than a brioche) with the spice addition.

Turmeric hazelnut sourdough
330g            T65 flour (bread flour)
230g            Water
100g            Leaven 100% hydration
 1-2g            Instant yeast
    7g            Salt
   4g             Turmeric powder
  70g            Hazelnuts, toasted

Autolyse 1hr with flour, water and turmeric.
Add leaven, yeast, salt. I used the mixer and started gently then increased the speed until the dough more or less cleared the bowl. I added the hazelnuts by hand.
Proofed 1hr before popping it into the fridge.
Shaped cold from fridge, then proofed for another hour or so before baking.
* I think I under-proofed so the next time I will either keep it out a longer time before popping it into the fridge or proof a longer time before baking.

Was quite pleased with this one. The quantity of turmeric was just right – enough to come through subtly without being overpowering (or overwhelming for the leaven!) and hazelnuts, always delicious. Makes great bread for sandwiches too. Maybe the next time, I could add just that tiniest pinch of extra turmeric, just to push the envelope…

Delicious hazelnuts ended up garlanding and not embedded in bread!

Delicious hazelnuts ended up garlanding and not embedded in bread!



Joanna of Zeb Bakes’ Kefir Levain Bread


Kefir levain – a different kettle of fish – but makes for flavorful bread.

I’ve wanted to make this ever since Joanna posted about her 38% wholemeal kefir levain bread, which she adapted for people who wanted to keep it sugar-free (although who could argue with this date syrup one)?? This yielded a really delicious bread. But it’s a long, slow and less predictable bread, because of the preferment using milk kefir, so be prepared to wait and adapt. I started the preferment at night. The next morning, I noticed it had risen a little but there were hardly any bubbles. It took warm afternoon sun shining on it and a very slight rise in temperature for the preferment to almost double (3/4 towards doubling), and it never attained the sort of liveliness of my usual levain. On hindsight, I should have used it then; I think it was at its peak. But Joanna had warned that it could take anywhere between 36-48 hours, so for the sake of experimentation, I decided to see how far it could go. And without resorting to nestling it near the heater! Since she mentioned temperatures between 16-19 degrees celsius. By the next morning, it was ‘crestfallen’ and smelled sour so I knew I had taken it beyond its peak.

I used it anyway and went for an autolyse of about an hour. Everything came together easily and I did a few folds before popping into the the fridge for an overnight proof. The dough was strong but lacked structure (if this makes any sense) but I expected it, with the sluggish and acidic levain. As with the preferment, it was slow-moving and it was hard to read the dough. It never became light and full of air, so much so that despite the very long proof, I was still wondering if it wasn’t under-proofed. I was sure, given the lack of volume and all that acidity, I would get a dense loaf. Lo and behold, it had quite a good oven spring and the crumb was very aerated. And there’s a really nice sweetness in the crust and crumb.

I’m really enjoying the sweetness of these long-fermentation and/or high-hydration breads. I’ll leave the science to others but it’s nothing short of magical how the sweetness is coaxed from the flours and grains, a deep sweetness that’s got nothing to do with the artificial sugar-spiked, malt or whatever-induced sweetness in commercial bread. (Just now, I had to buy a sandwich from a ubiquitous chain for lunch. We all know how these industrial breads are pumped with additives and are barely fermented, but this one must have been put through the production process double time. It was so dense, it was like wheat bread trying to imitate rye bread! It made me want to weep. i looked around to see if anyone had noticed but everyone was just chomping away.) And there’s nothing short of magical in the journey of a grain from the time it harnesses the energy of the sun to the moment it appears on our table as bread.

milk kefir levain, water kefir levain, fruit yeast water… isn’t it amazing what one can use. It shouldn’t be surprising the fermentation takes a longer time. I like to think it’s the yeasts and bacteria and all those hundreds (or is it, thousands??) of organisms in the kefir and flour and water and air getting to know each other, breaking out of their shells, acclimatizing, coexisting. It’s us being impatient. Each time I pick up the jar to peer and sniff, I imagine them thinking, “It’s her again. Why can’t she let us be….”

After the last experiment, I think it’s safe to say the milk kefir levain is quite sensitive to temperature. The next time, I’ll try a warmer environment from the outset. Also I now know not to expect the same sort of reaction as a usual levain, at least in my case. And what about varying the milk, flour, or even the water. I’m never been precious about the water, i’ve always just used tap water.

Pumpkin sourdough bread

It’s taken me four years since I clipped this butternut squash and sunflower seed bread recipe to actually make it. !?!? I used pumpkin and pumpkin seeds and obviously didn’t go for a baguette shape. The pumpkin was quite tasteless sadly and also rather dry, so I added an extra two tablespoons of pumpkin puree. The pumpkin did nothing much for the bread except for the colour, and strangely the bread dried out and was even less tasty by the next day. With such add-ins, it really depends on the quality and wetness of the fruit/vegetable, so will have to try this again.





I haven’t made bagels in over a year. I used to make them for my cousin and now i’m making them for Bob. Dug out my trusted Hamelman recipe. They weren’t quite the same: you just can’t do without the high-gluten, very strong flour to get that dense, chewy NY-style bagel, and I also had to substitute honey for malt syrup. I should be glad I even got bagels at all. I had skipped one line in the recipe (something about the faint print and the wide spacing between each ingredient column, and squinting at the book over your shoulder…i’ve almost tripped up over the ingredients many times) and I ended up with a ton more yeast than called for. Thankfully I realised the stupidity and tried frantically to scoop it out.

Hamelman’s recipe for the home baker halved (makes about 8 good-sized bagels)
450g                                High-gluten flour
262g                                Water
1 tsp                                 Diastatic malt powder
1/2 TBS                            Salt
slightly less than 1/2tsp    Instant yeast
Malt syrup & toppings of your choice

1. Mix all ingredients minus the malt syrup and knead hard. I did this by hand. The dough is very stiff so comes together very quickly. If, like me, you’re used to folding wet doughs, this will feel strange. When I used to use high-gluten Canadian flour with a mixer, the dough came together in seconds and was a hard, bound-up mass of dough. I now recognise this is quite essential to getting that dense bagel.

2.Proof for one hour.

3.Divide and shape. I lined a tray with parchment paper, sprinkled rice flour, then placed shaped bagels on top. No stickiness at all the next day. Then cling film and plastic bagged the lot, and into the fridge.

4.Preheat oven to 250 degrees celsius. Hamelman’s description of the next steps are for the professional kitchen, I reckon, with bagel boards etc. What I do instead is, when oven is about ready, bring a big pot of water to the boil and add malt syrup (honey in this case). Hamelman says to add enough syrup until the water resembles “strong tea”. Bear in mind that honey is lighter-coloured so you won’t be getting that dark look! Drop in as many bagels as you can without crowding them. Poach for less than a minute—they’re ready when they puff up and rise to the surface.

5.I then removed them with a slotted spoon and drained them on a dishcloth while I dropped the rest of the bagels into the pot. Then it’s just the toppings and into the oven they go. The wet bagels generate plenty of steam on their own, so no need to add moisture.

In about 20 mins, you’ll have your fresh bagels, and that’s always reason for cheer. Even though, in our case, it was more bready than bagelly. Also, please do make sure there’s some cream cheese (and lox!) on hand. We had ours with butter, and it’s just not the same.

bagels with spread

Milk Kefir Bread, and what we have in common

milk kefir crumb
A few years ago, someone gave me water and milk kefir grains, and I’ve always wanted to experiment with these in relation to bread-baking. All this was put on the back burner until i saw Joanna’s post. She also pointed me to Carl’s attempt. I decided it was time to reactivate my poor milk kefir grains that mostly languish in their pool of milk in the fridge. I made an attempt based on these two recipes.

150g Fermented milk using kefir grains (no grains!)
50g Water
75g Strong flour
15g Honey

Final Dough
All of preferment above
300g T65 flour
25g Olive oil
6g Salt
30g Fermented milk using kefir grains (again, no grains)

This bread required a special kind of patience, at least in the case of my kefir. When I first mixed the preferment, the texture was reminiscent of crepe batter, thin and in need of much whisking so the flour would not clump. Carl and Joanna cautioned that it would take a long time for the preferment to be ready, anything between 12-18 hours. Perhaps my kefir was still sluggish, perhaps it was because the temperature took a dip, but mine never doubled or showed signs of great activity. I should have taken photos, but if you look at Joanna’s photo of her preferment, it has the bubbles and poofy surface of a leaven, that is to say, something recognizable. Mine never came anywhere near. It would show promising signs of activity then back down. At the 20-hour mark, I thought I had two options: throw or try anyway. Of course, I had to try 🙂 So with great skepticism, I plodded ahead.

Both Joanna and Carl said they added extra water accordingly. On hindsight I could have gone for a higher hydration, but since I was not expecting much out of it anyway, I stopped when the dough seemed to come together. I used more KEFIR instead of water because I thought it might find that extra kick helpful! I probably overhandled the dough because I changed tins, then decided to shape it into two rolls instead of one long one, probably deflating more than one air bubble. Again, there was not much sign of life in the final dough—until I thought I’ll leave it in a spot of sunshine on the doorstep.

That’s where I realized my milk kefir and I are more alike than we think. We do not take kindly to the cold. Although kefir is said to originate from the Caucasus, which is anything but warm. In less than an hour, the dough had miraculously puffed up to almost double its size. I had noticed already when feeding the grains that it was quite sensitive to temperature. We read all the time about proofing dough at ‘room temperature’, but it’s still funny to see how a matter of a few degrees can make all the difference. (Btw, this idealized ‘room temperature’ always makes me laugh because one man’s room temperature is another’s sauna or fridge, just whose room temp are we talking about anyway???)

Anyway, so I happily proceeded to bake it, at too high a temp, which browned it too fast. But it was all right. Taste-wise, I can’t say it is any different from an enriched dough, except for a certain coolness. On the other hand, in spite of the very long fermentation, there was no hint of sourness at all. I’ve made sourdough brioches and pan de mie before, and I’ve been able to detect a slight tang in some of them. I wish I could scrutinize these colonies of yeast and bacteria under the microscope and see just how similar or different they are from the ones in the usual sourdough leavens. We had these over three days and I noticed they did not dry out at all. Hmm, I miss them already.

I’ll like to make these again, with a higher hydration and cutting out the oil and honey to perhaps get at a truer taste of a kefir bread. But first I’ll like to try to bake side by side loaves made from a usual water-, water kefir-, and milk-kefir fed leaven. Knowing me and my propensity to get distracted, this will take ages. I’ll also have to take the water kefir out of storage! Anyway, thanks to Joanna, Carl, and another blogger Cecilia, who sparked off Joanna and Carl’s attempts!

milk kefir loaf

grains, chestnut and lard

I was too busy to bake for weeks, then right when I finally had some time, had to fall ill for a week with a horrible flu. But one still has to eat bread so I persisted.
grain bread
just cos I seldom get such a regular crumb. I never watch my proofings like a hawk so what was it that gave such even, regular holes? 🙂
chestnut bread
If anyone thinks of making chestnut bread – don’t, not quite. I mean, you’ll probably want to incorporate chestnut flour too (which I actually had, proof being the chestnut lemon cake i made this morning). But i thought I’d just substitute the walnuts in the world’s best walnut bread recipe, i.e., Dan Lepard’s in his Handmade Loaf, but as I suspected, doesn’t quite work out. I didn’t use the best-quality chestnuts – just some cooked ones in a bottle – but chestnuts have a dry, floury quality that needs some working around. It must be said that I also left out the raisins in the recipe. But overall, it was bland bread.
lard bread
Two years ago, a friend came back from NY raving about this delicious lard bread. She handed me a precious morsel and got me searching the net for it and it was bookmarked until now. I finally made it. For her. In a roundabout way although she’s not anywhere around to try it :(( I often do that. Bake for people. With someone in mind. Whether or not the person is physically able to try it. Anyway, it was crackly, peppery and fragrant…very dangerous to have around. I ate a good chunk right out of the oven.

Apricot almond and grains sourdough

apricot almond grains bread
Adapted from a Hamelman roasted hazelnuts and prunes recipe. If you’re scratching your head and wondering what is the connection, this is typical of how i veer from original intentions. I think this was because in searching for hazelnuts, I realised I never had them in the first place, then I came across a packet of apricots that looked like they ought to have been used up already. So prunes and hazelnut morphed into apricots and almonds. Typical :)) I was almost sure I wouldn’t like almonds in bread; now it’s confirmed. I don’t much care for almonds in bread. Somehow they stay apart—they don’t become part of the taste of the bread like, say, walnuts and hazelnuts do.

Hamelman’s Roasted Hazelnuts and Prunes Adapted
Bread flour 495g
Wholewheat flour 227g (mine was coarse wholewheat)
Water 487g
Butter, soft 45g
Salt 17g
Yeast 1.5 tsp
Stiff leaven 290g (mine was wholewheat flour)
Hazelnuts 113g (I used a mix of almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed, sesame seeds)
Prunes 113g (I used apricots)

Apricot seed bread
I thought this was pretty. Or at least prettier than in the photo. I really should add more than what’s called for in the recipe to make up for what gets eaten in the process TSK TSK. Anything on the surface is fair game, raw dough being no impediment. And I need to start making batards instead of boules to get some practice shaping them.
apricot almond grains bread crumb
Reading the recipe, I didn’t think it would turn out to be a loaf on the dense side but while mixing, I expected it. Didn’t help that my leaven was ww flour as well. Was very tempted to up the hydration. Still considering the add-ins, it was all right, I thought.