Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fresh from the Oven - Jeffrey Hamelman's Rustic Bread

I've just joined the bread baker's “Fresh From The Oven” challenge. We’re a bread baking community… just making one loaf at a time.

This month's challenge is hosted by Brianna from She has chosen a Rustic Bread from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. Thanks Brianna for a great and interesting challenge and I'm looking forward to many more.

The recipe - and is also given below.

This is a basic recipe that introduces a simple pre-ferment with minimalist ingredients. It gives good practice at shaping techniques, simple enough for beginners to learn on, and good practice for those that are already familiar with artisan loaves.

According to Jeffrey Hamelman in “Bread: A bakers Book of Technique and Recipes”, the benefits of using pre-ferments include bread flavour, dough strength, keeping quality, and reduced production time. The development of bread flavour is primarily due to the production of organic acids during fermentation. These organic acids also have a strengthening effect on the dough structure of the bread and such are a major contributor to dough development.

The down side of pre-ferment is it has a limited life expectancy. It will only last at most 48 hours in the refrigerator before it’s leavening potential is expended. It can be frozen for up to a week before it will begin to suffer with loss of vigor. Overall, the effort to make a preferment is minimal and you get a superior tasting bread.

On with the bread…

It was slow going. It has been very cold here in Melbourne, Australia and we even had snow in the bayside suburbs, unheard of in my 30 years in Melbourne. My house was also cold and that added to it. The dough for the pre-ferment was very stiff and floury but with a little bit of kneading, it soon became hydrated and came together easily. I didn’t need to add any further water, probably because I used my Danish dough whisk (from Breadtopia – ideal for mixing heavy bread dough).

The dough was supposed to sit overnight for 12 - 16 hours, but by the next morning (12 hours) it had done very little. I left it out until the afternoon. Still nothing much happening. I was going out for the evening, so I put it in the refrigerator until the next day. By the second morning, it had risen up. I warmed it up in the oven on lowest heat (30'C). My oven doesn't show 'F but my little internal thermometer reached 75'F. That did the trick. It had a lovely little dome and smelled lovely and yeasty. It didn't actually recede in the middle as Hamelman has written. I then mixed it with the other ingredients and continued as per the recipe.

Hamelman's trick for getting a nice brown crusty bread - use a baking stone and preheat it in the oven for at least one hour beforehand. At the same time, preheat a sturdy cast iron pan placed on the oven floor. When the oven is good and hot and the bread ready to load, bring a cup of water to the boil. While the water is heating, I throw in 3 to 4 ice cubes onto the hot tray. This moistens the oven (different to steaming).

Place the bread on a peel, score it (I use a sharp bread knife) and mist it slightly.

Open the oven door quickly, load the bread onto the stone, pour the boiling water into the superheated cast iron pan, and shut the door right away (you need two pair of hands to do this all at the same time so it's good to get some help --- and don't forget to wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves as the steam is hot!!!!).

You should only steam for the first third of the baking cycle and finish the bake in a dry oven. Open the oven after about 15 minutes (just as the bread starts to color) to let the excess steam escape then close the oven.

I stupidly put it in the Fan-forced oven but didn't adjust the heat down or decrease the time. After thinking it wouldn’t be very good, I was absolutely WOWED!!!! by this beautiful bread with it’s lovely crumb. It has a lovely, crisp crust, although slightly darker than I would have hoped for. It had a slightly sour taste (most likely from my longer than normal pre-ferment) and just a little bit of nuttiness from the addition of the rye and whole wheat flour. I've learnt a lot from making the bread (reason why we take challenges after all) and am very happy with the results.

1 lb. bread flour (3 1/2 cups)
9.5 oz. water (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Final dough:
10 oz. bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
6 oz. whole wheat or rye flour or a mixture of them (around 1 1/2 cups)
12.5 oz. water (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
all of the preferment

For the pre-ferment:
Disperse the yeast in the water, add the flour and salt together in a bowl and mix until it is smooth, adding more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary. The dough will be very stiff and dense. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a little trick: I use shower caps that I get from the $2 shop. They can be washed, reused and you can puff them up so they don't touch the dough) and leave the pre-ferment out at room temperature overnight (12 to 16 hours). If more time is needed before baking, you can put it in the refrigerator but bring it back to room temperature before using it.

For the final dough: Add all of the ingredients except the pre-ferment in a mixing bowl. Using a mixer, mix on the first speed for 3 minutes to combine all ingredients then add the pre-ferment in chunks. You can add small amounts of water or flour at this stage to correct hydration. Continue mixing until they are combined then mix on the second speed for 2 ½ minutes.

Alternatively, mix and knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes. It may not be perfectly combined but the loaves will still bake evenly. The dough will be supple and sticky. Place the dough into a greased bowl and ferment for 2 1/2 hours, folding the dough twice during that time, once after 50 minutes and again 50 minutes later.

To fold the dough, spread it out on a clean well floured surface so the dough doesn’t stick. Fold 1/3 of the dough towards the centre, patting down the dough to degas it, then repeat with the other side (similar to folding a letter). Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding. Folding the dough helps to de-gas it, even out the temperature and increases the dough strength.

Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into two pieces and preshape each piece into a ball. Cover and let then rest for 5 to 10 minutes for the dough to relax before shaping into ovals or balls.

Set aside for a final rise, approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

One hour before baking, begin preheating the oven baking stone and tray to 450'F (325'C). Prior to placing the loaves in the oven, score them with a sharp bread knife or blade. Bake for 35 to 38 minutes. Take it out of the oven and place on a cooling rack until cool and don’t cut before it is cool.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Thank you both, Jasmine and Annemarie for this lovely challenge and for the recipe below.

This was great pastry to work with and easy to make. Next time I will make double the quantity and freeze half for a quick in the future. I've used sour cherry jam in this one but not my own this time!!!

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding:

You will need a 23cm (9”) tart pan and a rolling pin.

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)

Flour for the bench

250ml (1cup) jam, warmed for spreadability (sieved to remove any seeds)

One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)

One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

225g (8oz) all purpose flour

30g (1oz) sugar

2.5ml (½ tsp) salt

110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)

2 (2) egg yolks

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)

15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater.

Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture.

Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes


125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened

125g (4.5oz) icing sugar

3 (3) eggs

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract

125g (4.5oz) ground almonds

30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Abbotsford Convent Breadmaking Class

"The warm complex aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread can be an utterly tantalizing experience" - Convent Bakery

I was at a luthiers exhibition a few weeks ago at the Abbotsford Convent. I went to the Bakery for a coffee. Seeing a class in progress in the actual bakery made me sign up there and then. Making one's own bread is such a pleasure and I hadn't made bread in a while. I first read about the Convent's bread baking classes 2 years ago but at that time, they were booked out. Their classes include bread making, pastry making, nougat and panforte, brioche, danishes and croissants.

The Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne, was built in 1901. There are 11 historic buildings and gardens spread over 6.8 hectares on a bend of the Yarra River. It is surrounded by the Collingwood Children's Farm and parklands and is approximately 4 kilometers from the CBD.

The Convent Bakery in the kitchen annexe played an integral part in the self-sustaining life style of the Sisters of Good Shepard. The magnificent wood fired masonry ovens still stand today after 108 years and are used for baking wood fired bread and pastries. The bakery is open seven days a week for a full breakfast and lunch and Friday nights at the Boiler Room for wood fired pizza.

I arrived early in anticipation of a great day. I wasn't disappointed. The day started with a lovely cup of coffee and croissant while I waited for the other participants to arrive. The class was taken by Dan Thyer.

First, we made Aussie style scones for our morning tea which we had with raspberry jam and cream, and the rest to take home.

Then we made pizza for our lunch

and a calzone to take home for dinner.

And we made 2 types of bread:

White sourdough and rye sourdough

Another Great Day!!!!


  • 400 gm self raising flour
  • 30 gm sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 40 gm butter
  • 250 ml milk
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and with clean hands. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes. Rub the butter through the flour mixture until you get a consistency like bread crumbs. Add the milk. Don't over mix, just gently bring it all together otherwise you will over-develop the gluten in the flour and the scones will be tough. You can add a pinch of cinnamon and 80 - 100gm of sultanas at the mixing stage if you like. Divide the mixture into 10 portions and roll each portion in to a ball. These can be rested for up to half an hour if you don't want to bake them straight away. Bake at 12 -15 minutes.

Pizza/Calzone Dough:
  • 500 gm plain flour (or wholemeal flour)
  • 10 gm salt
  • 25 gm sugar
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 15 gm instant yeast (25 gm for wholemeal)
  • 320 ml cold water
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. With both hands, mix it until it forms a ball of dough. Take the dough from the bowl and place it on the bench. Knead the dough for a further 15 minutes until the dough is developed. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover it for a further 2 hours so it can proof. Split the dough into 2 or 3 pieces according to what size pizza/calzone you are making. Flatten the dough to fit the shape of your tray. Baste the dough with garlic flavoured olive oil then pizza tomato sauce, leaving a half inch border around the edge. Cover the pizza with your choice of toppings (I used pepperoni, fresh tomato, artichoke, marinated red peppers and olives) then sprinkle over cheese. Don't over-do it with the topping or you will have a soggy pizza. Bake at 230°C for 12 - 15 minutes.

For the calzone, only cover half of the dough with topping. Fold the unfilled half over the filled half and press the edges together. Cut 3 to 4 slits in the top of the calzone to let the steam escape and bake as for pizza above.

White Sourdough:
  • 500 gm baker's white flour
  • 10 gm salt
  • 85 gm levain (sourdough culture)
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 10 gm instant yeast
  • 1 small pinch vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • 300 ml cold water
Mix and form dough then place on the bench and knead for 15 - 20 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl sprayed with olive oil and cover for 2 hours for proofing. Your dough should double in size during this time. Place the dough on the bench and give 10 minutes to rest before molding into shape then final proofing for 45 minutes. Bake at 210°C for 30 - 35 minutes.

Rye Sourdough:
  • 700 gm white baker's flour
  • 300 gm rye meal
  • 20 gm salt
  • 200 gm rye levain
  • 70 ml olive oil
  • 20 gm instant yeast
  • 1 tiny pinch vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • 650 ml cold water
Mix and form dough then place on the bench and knead for 15 - 20 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl sprayed with olive oil and cover for 2 hours for proofing. Your dough should double in size during this time. Place the dough on the bench and give 10 minutes to rest before molding into shape then final proofing for 45 minutes. Bake at 210°C for 30 - 35 minutes.

June 2009 Daring Baker's Challenge - Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

I have joined the Daring Bakers' and Daring Cooks', a spinoff from Daring Bakers. So this is my very first challenge - the June 2009 Daring Cooks' challenge which has been hosted by Jen from use real butter. Jen has chosen Chinese Dumplings/potstickers and has given excellent instructions, photos and a discussion about them on her blog post. Thanks Jen for a great first challenge.

I have eaten many Chinese dumplings before but what a lovely challenge to actually make fresh home made dumplings. This is something that I never would have undertaken if I hadn't joined up with the Daring Cooks'. What a sense of accomplishment!!!! Being my husband's birthday, it was the perfect excuse to have them as an entree to a lovely Malaysian Chinese dinner cooked by my son's girlfriend.

I have used a shrimp and pork filling and made the dumplings as potstickers (pan fried).

Shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

(you will need to double this for the amount of filling but make it in two batches as it is easier to mix)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water flour for worksurface

Dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion or garlic chives (optional)
sugar (optional)

Mix all the prepared filling ingredients together in a bowl. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to use it.

It takes extra time to chop the filling ingredients up but you get a nice texture for the filling. If you use a food processor, the filling will be too soft.

To make the dough - in a large bowl, combine the flour and water and stir until the water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until the dough pulls clears the side of the bowl. The dough should be firm and barely sticky to the touch.

Knead the dough for a few about a minute then cover with a damp tea towel for 15 minutes. The dough should be firm and silky to touch.

The challenge is to make the dumpling wrappers by hand using a rolling pin. This keeps the wrappers the same size and gives a more delicate thickness. It takes a little time and practice but after 10 to 12 dumplings you get the hang of it.

Form the dough into a flattened dome. To make the dough discs, slice the dough ball into strips. Roll each strip into a sausage shape approximately 3 cm (1 1/4 inches) thick. On a floured surface, slice off pieces about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick and the press into a circular shape. With the palm of your hand, press down on each piece to form a flat circle. Use a non-tappered rolling pin to roll out a circular wrapper for each disc, leaving the centres slightly thicker than the edges (to hold the filling). Keep all unused discs covered with the damp tea towel until you are ready to fill them.

Place approximately one tablespoon of the filling in the centre of each wrapper keeping 1cm (1/2 inch) of the edge free. It takes some practice not to over or underfill them and keep the edges clean. Fold the dough in half then pleat the edges
(see images in Jen's post on folding pleats). Pinch the top tight then gradually make 2 to 3 more pleats from the centre down toward the end. Leave a tear drop shape at the end, then push the end in and pinch it shut. Turn the dumpling around with pleats facing away from you and pleat toward the centre on the same side as you have already pleated. The dumpling will curve into a crescent. Pinch the edges and pleats tightly again.

For the dipping sauce: Mix all ingredients together.

To pan fry (potstickers):

I used a flat bottomed Scanpan skillet. Place the dumplings in the pan with 2 - 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Heat on a high heat for a few minutes until the bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover quickly as it will spit and splutter. Continue cooking until the water has evaporated then uncover and reduce heat to medium low. Let the dumplings cook for a further 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve with the dipping sauce.

Don’t forget to check out some really amazing dumplings by the other Daring Cooks by clicking on the links to their blogs at the temporary Daring Cooks Blogroll.