Tag Archives: bread

Sourdough focaccia


Rosemary & sun-dried tomato sourdough focaccia

I made this for Bob’s colleague’s daughter. When we had them over, I expected the little girls to make a beeline for the candies but she lingered around the focaccia instead! This is NOT typical focaccia – sourdough and half-whole wheat flour – which gives it a bit more chew. I don’t think ‘chew’ belongs in a focaccia, but it was delicious nonetheless. I did half rosemary, half sun-dried tomatoes in oil – but DON’T use sun-dried tomatoes! Or if you do, bury them well because with all their oil and sweetness, they burn and turn dark and bitter. After I pulled it out of the oven, I realized I’ve made this mistake a few times already. When will i learn…

I adapted an Amy’s Bread recipe to use my leaven, so here goes:

Sourdough focaccia (makes a big focaccia, approx. 40×20)
415g                 water
1/4-1/2 tsp       instant yeast
340g                 leaven, 100%-hydration
650g                 flour
42g                  milk
36g                  olive oil
12g                  salt
* your choice of toppings, more olive oil and salt flakes

Autolyse without the milk, olive oil and salt.
Add milk, olive oil and salt, mix till mostly silky.
Proof till nearly doubled, with two folds.
This is the part I like: line tin with parchment paper, pour olive oil and amply grease every corner (and incidentally your poor dried-out hands, if you’re like me). Then gently coax your puffy dough to spread out into tin. You’ll see it won’t protest too much – who would, swathed by all that dark green oil..

Preheat oven at 220 degrees celsius. Steam required or (see below)
When it’s doubled in height and ready to go into oven, dimple the dough with more olive oil (I always err on the side of conservative, but there’s no such thing, I think, as too much olive oil in a focaccia!), your choice of toppings and sea salt flakes, and watch the bubbles pop up here and there.
I mix some olive oil and water in a little bowl, and dimple and flicker this oil-water mixture over the dough. I find this provides plenty of steam. In fact, you’ll probably have to open the oven a few times during baking (watch out for hot steam!) to let out the steam, otherwise it won’t brown.


Be gentle with the bubbly dough!




Sourdough spelt & wheat bread


I hardly ever use spelt flour – the only time i baked spelt bread, I didn’t find it particularly different from wheat – but this might change. I used this recipe from Hefe und Mehr blogger, whose blog I like to peruse, fantasizing that all these wonderful breads (especially the German ones) are sitting on my kitchen counter. I added very little honey, but more importantly, I used only white spelt flour, while I think the recipe includes a bit of whole spelt flour, or semi-whole?? I thought of reducing the water slightly but went ahead anyway. I don’t know if it’s because of the hydration, or is it a characteristic of spelt, but although the dough was nice and light, it was floppy and bread strength was very weak. I did more folds than usual to try to give it some strength, but that didn’t help . Nonetheless, there was oven spring, it was delicious and we devoured it.

Curiously, this spelt bread filled us up much faster! I thought it was just me, but Bob uncharacteristically turned down my offer of more bread and scratched his head, perplexed that he should not want more bread that morning. So we stared forlornly at the delicious bread, crackly crust and sweet soft insides that would have happily taken on more butter – and saved it for the next day!

Does this happen to others, and how differently does the gluten in spelt behave, I wonder.


Olive oil sourdough brioche from Tartine


Olive oil brioche

And brioche for Sunday! Orange-scented sourdough and poolish brioche with olive oil and honey from Chad Robertson’s Tartine. The first time I made this, I had used a more neutral olive oil and couldn’t really pick up on the taste, apart from the fact that it was not butter. This time I went for a stronger olive oil and I could smell it in the dough, the peppery notes while it was baking and after it was baked, I felt the olive oil actually worked against the orange flavor in this case. So I would say pick your olive oil carefully.


I used Mulino Marino Manitoba strong flour lugged back from Italy, which I had been hoarding for panettonne. Sadly that did not materialize. This flour is organic and stone-ground and I was surprised by how snow white it was. The only flour I’ve seen this white is bleached flour. And even the bleached flour here isn’t always so purely white. Curious.


Olive oil orange-scented sourdough brioche, adapted from Tartine (scaled down to a fourth of original recipe)

Poolish            100g (50g flour, 50g water, a pinch of instant yeast)
Leaven              75g
Flour                 250g
Salt                      6g
Instant yeast        3g
Eggs                 125g (I used 2 large)
Milk                    60g
Honey                40g (I used buckwheat honey because it was what i had on hand, not the best combination!)
Orange blossom water 12g
Olive oil             112g (I used 100g)
(I also added the zest of one orange)

My method differed. It was everything in except for olive oil. Work the dough (thank god I have a mixer now) until at least medium gluten, then trickle olive oil in, in batches, working dough all the time. I stopped once or twice for a few minutes when I felt dough and machine were getting warm. If I had the time, I might have rested the dough a bit more in between. Aim for silky and strong dough.

Proof until puffy – i did three or four folds. (It’s wonderful how the dough becomes less of a sticky monster.) I didn’t have the time to refrigerate the dough before shaping so i just plopped it into the mould, but a cold dough is really much, much better to work with.

I refrigerated overnight and baked straight from fridge. This dough is a monster! It grew so much in the fridge that it overflowed my mould. On hindsight, I should have removed a little of the dough. I don’t know why but this time the motif of the mould didn’t show up.


The brioche was fluffy as they come, light, pull-apart fluffy. Bench notes to myself: try a fruity olive oil the next time and perhaps try adding orange essence, since I don’t have Fiori di Sicilia!

Submitting this to Wildyeast spotting


Maize bread




I can finally make bread!!!! We, no I, have all but finished our stash of frozen bread so I got to bake bread again. There’s an Italian maize bread in Dan Lepard’s Handmade Loaf that made me buy maize flour from Italy, but it doesn’t use leaven and I was too lazy to do the conversion, so I went with Susan’s sourdough corn bread.

I found the dough very dry so I added more water (50g more for two-thirds of her original recipe), but I was very tempted to add more. That, and the fact that I under-proofed the final dough and what with the polenta and maize flour, made for a tight crumb. But I liked the taste and the crunch the polenta gave. Also, for some reason, the crust was just really delicious.

Submitting this to Wildyeast spotting!


Eric Kayser turmeric bread


Eric Kayser is a very popular chain of bakery in France and even abroad: in Japan, Singapore and NY too, if I’m not wrong. They have this hazelnut turmeric bread that I can’t stop eating when I do buy it. Always wondered how much turmeric goes into it so that the taste comes through yet isn’t overpowering or overwhelming for the yeast. Well, if the recipe in his latest Larousse du Pain is anything to go by (don’t you have a niggling doubt sometimes that chefs don’t reveal all in their recipes?), it’s quite an easy bread to make. The version sold in the bakery seems airier and less sweet, but I’ll have to buy it again to be sure. Also it contains hazelnuts, which is another reason I like it so much.

It’s actually a pain viennois type of bread (containing milk, sugar and butter) with a pinch of turmeric to jolt jaded tastebuds? There’s been a trend of star bakers here spicing things up in their buns/breads with anything from squid ink to curry. I’ve tried both and I can’t say I like them, but this turmeric one has got a piquant something that’s very pleasant.

I think it makes an excellent sandwich bread; a chicken filling springs to mind. But to be honest, each time that I’ve bought it, I’ve finished it before it could be converted to sandwiches!

Eric Kayser Pain au Curcuma
500g        T65 flour
250g        Water
100g        Leaven (i used a 100% wholewheat leaven)
   5g         Fresh yeast (I used 1g instant yeast)
 10g         Salt
 25g         Powdered milk
 35g         Sugar (I used between 25g–30g)
 75g         Softened butter (I used 70g)
  5g          Turmeric

The recipe has you mixing everything at high speed, then incorporating the turmeric and butter towards the end. Then it’s rather quick proofing and to the oven. I used less instant yeast because i was going for an overnight fermentation but on hindsight, the bread probably needed the yeast boost, what with the cold temperatures in the kitchen and all that sugar, butter and turmeric. Notes to myself for a future bake:
* keep yeast qty
* try reducing butter and sugar – it was too sweet for me.
* experiment with increasing turmeric
* keep aside some of the water in the recipe for dissolving the turmeric.  I guess the turmeric is not incorporated from the start in case it interferes with the yeast and gluten-forming, but it was hard trying to incorporate the powder evenly throughout the dough at the end.
* add the hazelnuts. I intended to use hazelnuts but since I was doing it by hand, I was staining sweater, counters and dishcloths and gave up on trying to reach the packet of nuts.
* Do this in the mixer!! Sticky dough and it’s turmeric DUH
* Aim for good gluten development by the end of mixing.
* what with sugars and milk, the crust browns fast so turn down oven temp and watch it.
I’ll see how the crumb turns out but i’ll like it airier. The blistered crust was great to eat though. My loaves were rather slightly deformed because I had to turn them upside down as water from the ice cubes had seeped underneath. And i really ought to do sideway slashes more often for practice!

Hazelnut and fig sourdough (adapted from Hamelman)



First bake after being away for weeks. If I were a better blogger I would show pictures of our trip, but since it was mostly to see family, I didn’t take many photos. Had a lot of awful bread during the three weeks and tested three banana cake recipes to use up all that banana lying around! And different varieties of bananas too. Over here, I can’t bring myself to buy those green plasticky looking things passing off as bananas…

Anyway, I wanted a straightforward bake after all this time away, although I did squirrel some leaven through customs to bake while on holiday. 

Hazelnut and fig sourdough (adapted from Hamelman)
145g          Stiff leaven
248g          T65 flour
113g          Whole-wheat flour
243g          Water
   7g           Salt
 60g           Hazelnuts
 60g           Figs, chopped

Original formula includes butter and a bit of yeast, so the rise is quite fast. I omitted both and went for a long first proof and overnight rise in the fridge. As I suspected, qty of nuts and figs can be upped. I now go by feel for these—if I’m not having trouble keeping the nuts and fruit bits within the dough while mixing by hand, there’s probably not enough :))



Fruit cake


I must be the only person who makes fruit cakes after Christmas.

Actually I got a head start, a big head start—I soak my fruits in alcohol months ahead. But this year I decided to try baking the fruit cakes in the little oven above our fireplace. BIG BIG MISTAKE. The usual gentle fire roared that day and reduced the cakes to dried-ness and blackened sides, tops and bottoms, within all of… 20 minutes!!! Have you ever heard of a fruit cake that bakes in less than half an hour?!? To top it off, the thermometer was totally off—by more than 100 degrees!!! What a joke. I didn’t even have the time to react. By the time I realized something was up, it was too late. And to think that I had waited until Sunday to bake them so Bob could smell fruit cake baking. For I deem it very important to experience The Smell of Fruit Cake Baking in the Oven at least once in one’s life.

I weep for the cake meant for my family, for all those fruits i had painstakingly chopped up and steeped, and all those times I had been tempted to dip into the jar and have some with vanilla ice cream but sat on my hands.

At the very last minute, I decided that my family needed to have fruit cake no matter what! So off we went again. This time I settled on the first Nigel Slater recipe I found. This must be the ‘whitest’ fruit cake I’ve ever made. I usually use a recipe I got from a very kind Trinidad blogger who gave me her family recipe for their version of the Jamaican ‘black cake’. I am very intrigued by fruit cake lore, by the way, how it has evolved and its various incarnations across the globe. Did you know, for example, that in Sri Lanka, they use garam masala and cashew nuts in their fruit cake? Anyway, this recipe called for grinding the soaked fruits to mush. It was probably an adaptation of the original pudding. Since I like some whole fruits in my cake, I usually grind just a portion and leave a good part whole.

Well, this year it’s ‘arid’ fruit cake, not helped by the fact that I over-baked by a tad. Are you like me? Each year, I write notes to myself—DO NOT overbake! WATCH OVEN!!! Put ramekin of water in oven for moisture!—only to ignore them in a rush of panic or sheer fatigue. Did I also mention that I have a collection of fruit cake recipes, labelled “MUST TRY!”, “NEXT YEAR!”, “DO THIS!!”. I scrutinize and compare them, in anticipatory glee. Fruit cake madness, fruit cake anti-climax.


I also made biscotti for my sister. For the anise-flavoured ones, I used this recipe I found on Chowhound, purportedly from the Culinary Institute of America, doubling the qty of almonds.
My bench notes:
-right level of sweetness
– right level of anise. i.e. strong. I left out the vanilla essence and also toasted the anise seeds.
– too eggy, to reduce to just two eggs?
-what is the baking soda doing here? I could taste it in the final product
– chop up almonds properly, if using whole ones like I was. Too large pieces will prevent smooth slicing, yes I’m looking at lazy me.
– while working with the dough, I remembered how the last time I made biscotti ages ago, I tried this method of oiling  some plastic film very lightly, then scooping out the dough onto the film, and using the sides of the film to shape the dough into a log, for the reason that less contact with hands = less dough on hands = less dough in my stomach but more biscotti for everyone else. I then refrigerated the logs until dough had hardened. This dough spread out quite a bit in the oven. Was too busy to try to slice the biscotti really thinly and neatly and it shows!

The chestnut flour biscotti from Juls’ Kitchen was a recipe I had clipped for a while now, just waiting for an occasion to make. Bench notes again:
– lovely chestnut flour flavor. I used 250g chestnut flour and 100g wheat flour because I had no oat flour, but I imagine oat flour would complement the chestnut taste very well.
– I used pine nuts and no orange zest. I imagine pine nuts and rosemary would be a winning combination too.
-Qty of nuts and chocolate bits spot on.
-Only thing I would change is qty of sugar perhaps? Too sweet for my taste, especially since chestnut flour has a certain sweetness on its own.
– This dough was not sticky and very easy to work with. Perhaps because I had refrigerated it before baking, there was some cracking while baking. Made for some broken off bits while slicing but no harm done.

Well, everything’s packed and labelled and ready to be sent off to the family! I’m an inveterate labeller, and my family is used to finding post-its with detailed instructions. Hey it can be helpful, for instance, when unearthing fruit cakes of a certain vintage from the freezer 🙂 Just have to buy the panettone and the shipment goes out. Yes, I chickened out of making a panettone but that’s another story.