Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brioche - Eating Clouds

Brioche are from France, even though some baking books I had said they are from Italy. Doh! The brioche I make get their liquid only from the eggs. So you need lots of them! I wanted to start this recipe with "First you milk your cow, then you separate the cream and make butter. Once you finished the butter you go out and get some eggs from under the hens". The fresher the ingredients the better the brioche. So my ingredients can't get any fresher.

Ingredients (Bakers percent in brackets):
500 gm strong flour (100%)
350 gm Eggs (abut 6 - 7) (70%)
250 gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes (50%)
50 gm caster sugar (10%)
10 gm salt (2%)
7 gm active dry yeast (1.4%)

Mix flour, eggs, sugar yeast and salt in a bowl. The dough is very liquid. I mix in a machine using the paddle (or K-hook) for 2 minutes and then the dough hook for about 5. When it forms an even dough, slowly add the butter. Once the butter is incorporated completely into your dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and form a ball. You might need the help of a dough scraper dipped in water. Put the dough in a lightly floured bowl and let rest at room temperature (21 deg C) for 2 hours.

Dip out your dough onto a lightly floured bench (the word "lightly" should be taken literally!!!). Fold lengthwise into the middle from both sides and then fold then ends into the middle again from both sides. Form a ball again and put back into the bowl.

Let ferment overnight at around 10 - 12 deg C.

Next day put your bowl at room temperature for an hour to bring the dough back to room temp. Put the dough onto a lightly (!!!) floured surface and cut 70 gm pieces. Use a scale to get even sized pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. Use a bit of flour and roll the dough ball with the edge of your hand. Press down firmly but not too much to almost separate a smaller ball shape from the bigger part. But don't separate the two. So you will end up with a bigger ball and a smaller ball linked together. Flatten the bigger part and push a hole through the middel. Push the smaller ball shape through the whole. So you end up with a bigger ball and a small ball ontop. These are called Brioche a tete.

You can put them into a muffin pan (use a bigger one) or into a loaf tin. Or get some original Brioche moulds if you can find them. Let proof for 2 1/2 hours.

Heat your oven to 190 deg C and bake the brioche for 10 minutes. If you put them into a loaf tin bake them another 10 - 20 minutes at 180 deg C. They should have a golden brown crust.

Let cool completely on a rack. Brioche are best eaten fresh.

Happy baking

Coquo, ergo sum

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Am I a baking snob?

Ok following situation:

We visit Kaitaia's farmers market every Saturday. It is a social event for us because many friends have stalls. Two weeks ago I saw a new stall selling - Focaccia! Of course I was drawn to it and had to have a look. Well, let me tell you, these "baking goods" are as close to a Focaccia as our supermarket's Croissant are to a French Croissant. No hang on, actually the Supermarket's Croissants are closer. At least they resemble Croissants, they simulate flaky pastry and they have a sort of buttery taste. They follow basic rules. They are bad Croissants but they are still Croissants. But the Focaccia people sell something between a soggy overloaded pizza and a pita bread and call it Focaccia. Sorry, but this isn't Focaccia.

Now a friend who has a stall said last Saturday to me "Have you seen we now have a baker who sells Focaccia!". She was very excited because she knew I bake (she never tried my goods) and she was excited because they have this special Italian delicacy now available. Right.

I didn't know how to react. But unfortunately my face must have told the whole story. She immediately realized what I was thinking and started to bring up excuses etc.

So am I a baking snob? Honestly, it fills me with sadness if people look up a Focaccia recipe in the latest Alison Holst cook (?) book, then stuff it up (which is an achievement by itself) with their "creativity" (there is a Hawaiian Focaccia on offer, too!!! Aaarrghh!) I want to cry!

Yes I am a baking snob. If someone wants to sell Focaccia then I bloody hell expect they do their homework. They should understand what a Focaccia is. And if they don't make a Focaccia by not following the basic rules, then for heavens sake call it something else.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Wilde Cheese Experiment - The Idea

WARNING: Don't try this at home. Seriously, I do not endorse making cheese this way. This is an experiment! I want to see if it works and what I get when making cheese this way. There is a possibility that the cheese will not be fit for human consumption. 

The Idea:

Food as we know it doesn't resemble food as our forefathers and mothers and their forefathers and mothers and their ... you get the picture, knew it. A lot of food that was regarded as healthy in the past is now regarded as dangerous and in some cases life threatening. Raw milk and raw milk cheese is one of these foods.

Imagine living in Switzerland around the turn of the 19st century. You are a "Senner" which is a farmer who follows the traditional way of farming in Switzerland. Your Swiss cows live in a stable which is part of your house in winter. They are also your natural heating source when you are snowed in. In spring the cows are brought up to high altitude in the Swiss alps in big cattle drives. They lived there from early spring till early autumn. And you lived with them. Of course you had to eat. So you were self sufficient. Bread was often brought up from the village. Therefore the bread was hard and crisp and - light. You didn't want to carry 50 kg of bread up the mountain. Your diet was mainly bread, meat and dairy products. You milked the cows and made your own butter and cheese.

Now imagine the way you lived. A simple hut, usually one room where you slept and cooked and worked. Water was outside from a spring. You had some pots and pans, maybe a butter churn. So how did they make the cheese?

You brought in the milk in a bucket, still warm from the cow. Then you took the cheese culture for Swiss cheese out of the freezer .... hang on a minute. Nah, that's not how it was done.

Ok start again ...

They brought in the milk in a bucket, still warm from the cow. They covered it with a cloth and put it in a corner of the room. It gets quite warm in Switzerland in summer so the milk sat there at - I guess, 20 - 25 deg Celsius? Sometimes warmer. After milking you had other chores. Cutting hay, shifting cattle, fixing stuff etc. When you came in for breakfast you gave the milk a quick stir, covered it again and did the same when you had lunch and dinner.

The next day the milk was sour. Pleas read this sentence again, "The next day the milk was sour." It didn't go off. It wasn't spoiled. It was sour milk. (I actually grew up with sour milk.We bought it in the shops!) So what happened? Bacteria in the milk and in the air started consuming the lactose in the milk and produced lactic acid. Well isn't that what happens if I make cheese and add lactic bacteria? Exactly the same!

So next step is to add some rennet to curdle the sour milk. The rennet was either extracted from the stomach of calves slaughtered for your meat or they also used some plants.

The following steps are exactly the same as we do it nowadays when making cheese. Cutting the curd, putting it in some sort of a mold, pressing it and then storing it.

Here are my ingredients for this experiment:

A mad cheese maker who has already lived long enough that if he would kill himself by eating this cheese could still say "It was a great life. Oh and 'Thank you for the fish!'"

A bucket of fresh grass fed, happy Jersey cow's milk put through a strainer and covered with a cloth


A bottle of rennet.

I am going to make a cheese exactly like this. I will not use any culture except the ones floating around in the air or being already in the milk. It is very similar to a sourdough starter. I might fail after the first step. Who knows. I will obviously apply the best hygienic conditions. This might be one of the differences to how it was in the past. But I don't want to taint the result with some modern bacteria.

I will keep reporting about the progress. Obviously the cheese will be matured and it will be months from today when I eventually will taste the cheese. But it will be interesting to see what will happen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lavender Honey Loaf var. Orange

This is my absolute feel good bread.I don't know what it is.It must be the lavender. I know most people go "Uurggh! Lavender is in soap, not int food" I can only say to them "Ignoramuses!" But to be honest, I never had the idea to put lavender into food before a friend of mine brought some homemade lavender ice cream. Yummy. This bread to me is like a meditation. It relaxes me and makes me happy. It is like aromatherapy. I know - pathetic. Anyway, lets move on.....

I already love the smell when I work with the dough. Especially when I open my proofing box and a cloud of lavender and honey and orange makes me feel - uuuugghhhh!

Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread The recipe is from Richard Bertinet's book "Dough" in the brown dough section. It is an easy to make bread. The only challenge probably lies in the relative wetness of the dough.

The resulting loaf is relatively flat which comes from the free shaped loaf using a highly hydrated dough. But a good flour will add enough stability. If you are not too generous with the honey you will get a slightly sweetish bread. Because we have enough honey to last some years (we swapped a got kid for 15 kg of honey) I tend to use a bit more.

I love this bread with honey and goats milk yogurt, Camembert or home made Chevre. Any fresh soft cheese will do. Or just plain. It also toasts well which sets free a lot of the flavors. It keeps well, too. Not that it lasts too long.

I use

Brown Dough:
300 gm Organic whole wheat (I ground my own) (60%)
200 gm Organic wheat (40%)
7 gm instant active yeast (1.4%)
360 gm water (72%)
10 gm rock salt (2%)

1 heaped teaspoon fresh or dried Lavender flowers
1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey

For the Orange Variation, the grated zest of three big oranges

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Knead until it forms a stretchable satiny dough (do a window pane test).

Shape into a ball and put into your (cleaned) floured bowl. Let rest for 45 minutes at 21 deg C.

Take it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, stretch into an oval shape, fold lengthwise into the middle and fold the edges in and re-shape into a ball.

Put it back into your bowl and let rest another 45 minutes.

Put it onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a square (or oval), fold in all four corners and form a loaf.

Sprinkle some semolina onto a wooden board or tray. Place your loaf onto the tray and let rest at 21 deg C for 90 minutes.

Heat your oven to 220 deg C.

Cut a double cross into the top of your loaf. Bake the loaf on a stone or tray for 10 minutes.Then turn down the heat to 200 deg C and bake for another 20 - 30 minutes.

Let cool completely


Variation with Orange:
Grate the zest of three big oranges. Put the lavender flowers into a mortar and pestle and bruise them lightly to release the aroma. Add the honey and orange zest and mix well. Add this to the dough when mixing. But please be aware that the orange zest adds liquid and oil to your dough.I found the dough was just able to be handled. Maybe cut down with the water a bit to level out the moisture. But it also depends on your flour and the atmosphere and the moon phase. Well not really the moon phase, but yo know what I mean.

That sticky business making a 100% Rye Sourdough Loaf

Just one note before I start: I wouldn't recommend to start with a bread like this if you haven't done a couple of wheat or wheat/rye mix (not more than 20% rye) breads. Same as I wouldn't recommend to start your cheese making hobby with a Gruyere.

My friend Joa (short for the German name Joachim) is talking about his 100% Rye Sourdough a lot. And if you talk a lot about bread to me I eventually kick into action and switch on the oven. He did it again yesterday in his comment to this post about making a sourdough starter. So late yesterday evening (actually a bit too late) I switched on my new MyWeigh KD8000 (I can never wait long to play with a new toy) and threw together a 100 % Rye.

Let me tell you, forget all you ever thought you know about kneading a dough when you do a 100% Rye. That flour behaves totally different. First you need more moisture. This leads to more stickiness. You will never get a window pane test done with a 100% Rye sourdough. It rises very slowly. You don't get the stretchy-ness like with a wheat dough. Forming it into a ball resembles a blob of concrete. Honestly, I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy my other bread making. Its like kneading glue. And yes, I admit, I used the machine. But then I got most of the dough sticking to the side of the bowl. So I had to stop it again and again and remove the dough with a scraper form the side of the bowl. Once finished I did some kneading by hand. Or should I say I covered my hand completely with rye dough?

But is it worth it? Absolutely! 100 % Rye is so different to Wheat - Rye mix or 100% Wheat. The sourness comes through much more. The whole house is actually smelling of sourness right now. And the flavors are just - well completely different. You need to try it.

Ok lets get on with the recipe:

1000g Rye Flour (I actually milled my own) (100%)
650 gm Water (65%)
400 gm Rye Sourdough Starter (mine is 100% hydration) (40%)
25 gm rock salt (2.5%)

Add the flour and the sourdough starter in your mixing bowl. Rub together like you would do for crumbles.

Add salt and water and mix together.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes (I used the machine, 2 minutes on slow, 8 minutes on fast)

Form the dough into a ball (yeah right!), put back into the bowl, cover and let ferment at 21 deg C for one hour.

Remove from the bowl and fold over to degas. (Still sticky, eh?)

Let rest for another hour.

Remove from the bowl. (Sticky, sticky, sticky!)

Prepare two bannetons. Flour them thoroughly (remember the dough is sticky!). I use some spraying cooking oil and then flour them.
Bannetons covered with a stretchable cover

Split dough in half, form a (sticky)  ball and put seam-side up into the bannetons and cover with a wet cloth.

Let proof for 12 hours or overnight at 10 - 12 deg C.

Put the bannetons somewhere drought free and at room temperature (21 deg C) and let proof some more for not more than 2 hours. Do the proof test, poke a dent into the dough. If it springs out immediately you over-prooved (not much you can do, you bread will be flat) if it stays in it needs some more time. If it comes out slowly but not completely it is ready.
After proofing

Bake at 250 deg C for 20 minutes, rotate the loaves halfway through by 180 deg.

Bake another 10 minutes but switch the oven down to 200 deg C

Let cool for at least one hour (Important! Seriously, suppress the desire to cut a bread while still warm. The baking process with almost all bread has finished when the bread is cool. If you want a warm bread with butter running down your fingers, put it in a toaster!)

The dough was sticking to the side of the banneton a bit.As you can see on the side, it ripped the dough when tipping it out of the bannetons.
The bread has a nice hard crust, the crump is quite good but not as fluffy as with wheat. The oven rise also isn't that extensive so the bread stays a bit low (I wouldn't call it "flat" though). As expected the sourness is quite strong compared to a wheat or wheat/rye mix. The taste? Delicious!
100 % Rye Sourdough
Submitted to YeastSpotting

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Starting a Starter

Starter Culture
Sourdough starter, for many a mysterious thing. If people hear about sourdough starter they see bubbling jars, smelling clouds of fermentation, flies, overboiling foam, kitchen benches covered in  concrete-like blobs of glue and people who seem to be a bit on the nutty side by cuddling a jar of bubbling fermenting bacterial gunk. And to be honest, all of this is true. But it isn't that bad - most of the time.

Sourdough starter culture usually contains yeast (Saccharomyces exiguus as opposed to S. cerevisiae which is the commercial yeast), Lactobacillus and Acetobacillus (these two guys are responsible for the sourness). All three are floating around in our environment and sit on e.g. grapes, apples and - wheat and rye corn etc. To me there are two different approaches for a starter. You can either buy some culture usually freeze dried and start from there or you can start from scratch. There is culture available online (see below for some links) and you can get starter culture from all over the world. The most famous one is San Francisco sourdough. I tried to find out what actually will happen with these bacteria over time and found inconclusive reports.Some say the bacteria will stay true to the starter, some say over time the bacteria will get replaced by your local ones. I lean towards the latter group since I believe that the fact that you are feeding the starter with local wheat or rye you will add more and more of the local bacteria which will eventually replace the original starter. But my main driving force behind making my starter form scratch is that I have more fun of creating something local.

Ok this is how I did it (inspired by the "By Bread Alone" book):

You will need

  • Three apples, fresh and organic, best from your own tree (or the neighbors)
  • flour, preferably rye but wheat works, too (Rye flour gives a more active starter)
  • water 
  • A jar or container which can at least take 1.5 - 2 liters
  • a piece of (cheese) cloth and a rubber band
Sourdough Lavash
Juice the three apples. I just mashed them with a stick blender and strained them through some muslin cloth. Put the juice into the jar and cover with the cloth and put the rubber band around it. Leave at room temperature (which should be around 20 deg Celsius). Leave it somewhere where you can see it because at this stage the bonding process between you and your starter will form. That's quite important! Don't forget, all these bacteria and yeast cells are living creatures! And they work for you.So better treat them like family! Or better! 
After about 7 to 10 days, your juice turned into wine. Refrain from drinking it or you have to start again! The juice should look bubbly,smell slightly alcoholic but good and might have a bit of foam on the top. If it smells yuck, dump it. Trust your senses! What happened so far: The yeast in the air and on the skin of the apples have gorged on all the sugars from the apple, they had a big party and sorry to say, had a bit of a hanky-panky if you know what I mean. They created baby-yeast cells and the population has grown by quite a bit. And as you can imagine, they are now a bit hungover from all that alcohol they produced and they are - HUUUUNNNGGRYYYYYY! So please feed them!

First feed: Add 200 gm of good organic flour and 200 gm (I generally measure all ingredients by weight) of clean water (avoid water with chlorine or if that's all you have let it sit for some hours to get rid of the chlorine). Mix it all up so that it looks like a batter. By mixing it you also aerate it to add oxygen. That'll keep the guys happy and they go back to work. Eating sugars, peeing alcohol (sorry about that - "Burb!" - Excuse me) and doing hanky-panky. 

Next couple of days:
Each day discard half of the mixture and add another 200 gm of flour and 200gm of water. Repeat until the starter is obviously active.How you know? You will know,trust me. Seriously,if it starts bubbling and rising you have an active starter. Again, it should smell kinda nice (to a sourdough enthusiast, don't ask a person who buys plastic wrapped bread in the supermarket). It is normal if there is some brownish liquid on top. That's called Hooch and you can mix it back in. Keep the starter covered with the cloth so that no flies can get in (flies actually love sourdough which enhanced their reputation I had from them a tiny bit). I found out that the starter behaves better if it is open. If you close the jar, the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation seems to starve the bacteria from oxygen. Same as you sleeping with closed windows, uurrghh!

Sourdough is most active about 12 hours after feeding. That's when it is best to use it. So plan the feeding times in sync with your baking schedule. I often feed in the morning and bake in the evening. 

Now if you like me and are nuts about baking you won't ask this question, but others do: What if I don't want to throw away that much starter but don't want to bake everyday? Again, there are different opinions about this. I believe that a starter kept in the fridge will be different to a starter who never sees the inside of your frigidaire! But I do understand the predicament you're in. So here is the solution, keep the starter in the fridge, feed it every 5 days or more. Before feeding it take it out and let it get up to room temperature. Feed it,leave for an hour at room temperature and then put it back in the fridge. If yo want t use it, take it our of the fridge, let it warm up to room temp, fed it and let it at room temp for 12 hours. That's all I say about this. 

Ok what can go wrong? Anything! The problem as always is if the bullies get involved. Those are the wild guys hanging around all of us. I don't know them by name but I hate the look of them. Many are orange or blue or green or black. They gate crash and home invade your sourdough party, start drinking and smoking and are usually not as clean as your friendly S. exiguus or the lactobacillus and acetobacillus from next door. I even suspect they use drugs! So if your starter takes on any funny color and smells like someone was sniffing paint thinner all night and smoking French cigarettes, dump it! Wave it good bye. Down the toilet. Good bye bullies, have fun down there. I hope you rot in hell (which they probably find quite an attractive idea). One thing to avoid them is to make sure you don't keep your starter too warm. Around the 20 - 25 deg C is fine. Also too cold isn't good or if it is in a draft. Keep it nice and cosy and you should be fine. And it is common sense to not put any crap in there, don't use dirty spoons etc. But as I said - common sense, eh?

Sourdough Pain Au Levain
Once your starter seems to be active (rises up in the jar) use it for a first outing. But keep in mind it will develop over time. It will get stronger, it'll change a bit in flavor and will become overall a bit more stable. There are starters around which are 100 or even150 years old.

Also keep in mind that sourdough starter is somewhat slower than commercial yeast.

Another note: The starter I described above is a 100% hydrated starter. Meaning you feed it with the same amount of water and flour. There are other starters which are fed by volume meaning one cup flour and one cup water. They might have 166% hydration. You might have to adjust the amount of water in your bread recipe.

Ok, have fun and be nice to your starter! Oh and keep your partner and flat mates etc happy by cleaning all the spoons and stuff straight away. Sourdough  starter when dry becomes hard as rock. I always wondered if one could build a house from it.

May your dough always rise!


Sources for sourdough starter in New Zealand:
The Good people from sell starter here:

Koanga Gardens has starter.
And has a whole range of baking goodies and starter culture
Also checkout TradeMe