The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Beka's blog

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Mmm... that *time* of the year again when all the pumpkin recipes start poppin' up everywhere. I live in the lovely equatorial tropics, which means our pumpkins are of the green-and-white variety and we get them all year round (just without the carving). I believe that this recipe works for American pumpkins as well.


Japanese Kabocha Pumpkins

Fancy some pumpkin scones? I love this recipe - it makes a sticky dough, which turns in scone that is deliciously moist. Only 1/3 cup of butter (2/3 of a stick) is needed for each batch! It's my mother's favourite, and I make sure she has a stash on them in the freezer for afternoon tea.


It's an original recipe adapted from a sourdough scones recipe - the conversion worked quite well! I made this instructional video a couple of years ago, and the printable recipe is below (unfortunately it's in gram measurements). If you try making these scones, do let me know! I think it'll be awesome for a warm autumn afternoon, or anytime really.

Beka's Bakes - Mummy's Favorite Pumpkin Scones






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Hello fellow bakers, it's been a long time! I'd even forgotten my account/login details. I just wanted to post about some recent pastry experiments and discuss the technique with more experienced bakers who understand the sciences and arts behind things.


Below: Rustic apple pie made with flour, yogurt, vegetable oil*, and sugar.


I've always loved pastry. The pie crusts, to me, are the best part of the pie! However, time and time again my pastries always had problems and always failed. Part of the reason was that the high amount of solid fat was not only arguably unhealthy and but also costly in my part of the world. Therefore, the search for the perfect oil-based pastry crust was there, and I while I don't think I've finished experimenting or "found" the veritable Fountain of Life, I stumbled on a technique by which oil can be used to create a flaky and laminated pastry, as explained in the video below. 

Flaky Olive Oil Pastry


The oil/water dough method (Chinese flaky pastry: had always been staring me in the face, but I didn't think it was the secret to apple pies, quiches and turnovers. To me, it was used for roti pratas, dimsum pastries and lard balls. But, anyway, on a whim, I just tried the Chinese pastry method with olive oil to make minced-meat turnovers, and it was fantastic, truly. The taste and texture was comparable to my previous experimented with shortcrust (butter) and hot-water crust (lard) pastries, so much so that I didn't miss the solid fat. I handled the layers to the point I was satisfied with, somewhere in-between shortcrust and puff pastry, and which the dough doesn't behave like butter-based pastry, it bakes beautifully and tastes splendid.



I am writing to find out if anyone has experimented or tried making oil-based or Asian-style pastries, and what their results have been. I would be curious to know if this recipe and method works. This is my go-to pastry now, (with some variation) for chocolate tarts (above), turnovers, pot pies (below), quiches, etc. The example below is rather curious because I tried adding a small amount of yeast to the water-based dough (dough 1) to create a lift, which made the layers very, very crispy and flaky with air-bubbles in-between.



I feel like it's a personal baking breakthrough for me, and it makes me so happy because the "code" to oil-based pastries has been, in way, "cracked". And it can be vegan or vegetarian, and there are only three basic ingredients. I did notice that most vegan recipes simply used "vegan butter" or other solidified versions of vegetable oils.


Below: I'm not a photographer, to excuse my smartphone-quality snaps ;)


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What's fun about working with natural yeast is that I can throw together anything and just play around.So I just watched a couple of videos on bagels, and made 4 bagels of my own.The photos are from my phone, so they're not very clear.


The bagels came out just the way I wanted them. I've never been to NYC, or even to a real DELI, so I had nothing to "work with" in terms of achieving an example. These were tasty, chewy, and crispy.


It's spongy on the inside, incredibly crisp on the outside, chewy, but not too chewy. The very best thing about this is that it is not dry at all, but moist.

A pinch of homemade yeast
Sprinkle store yeast
AP flour
Wheat gluten

Next day: salt, molasses, flour. Knead and rise. Shape and rise. Boil in Chinese alkali water. Bake in toaster oven on "high". Crazy...

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Hi to all! I'm a teenage baker, who has been into cakes and cupcakes and cookies and pies (but not much of pastry). One of my passions has always been beautiful, crafted breads, the like of which are seen on this site. I hope very much to contribute as much to this site as I have already gained from it and continue to gain.

I'm home-based, which means that I research, order books, and study them, trying out recipes at home. My favorite cookbook author has to be Rose Levy Beranbaum, who is thorough and precise, and whose recipes always satisfy.

My first artisan bread bakes, besides the loaves of "regular" whole wheat bread stuffed with nuts, and/or seeds, and/or cranberries and/or raisins, have been under the instruction of Rose Levy Beranbaum.When I mean  "regular", I mean, a recipe from, with an unessarily high amount of yeast, meant to be made in a bread machine. Among other recipes, this was one bread recipe I made a lot of.


The first recipe I made that could come close to the complication of artisan is the Bread Bible's Challah. And we loved it! The flavor!


For a few years I experimented on and off with artisan bread, but now I'm back to it with a passion. So here's my first project.

Naturally Leavened Pain de "Simcha"

100g high protein bread flour

50g hard whole wheat flour (atta flour)

50g rosh hashanah starter (explained below)

1 (heavy) pinch salt

100g water

1 tbsp oil (to work the dough and grease the bowl)

Add enough water to the dry ingredients to make a moist dough. I went for 150g flour to 100g water, which was just nice. Then I let everything rise for 7 hours, overnight, until it was really, really, risen. Then I shaped the bread into a round (is it a boule?) and did a cross-slice in the middle. It is sitting on a tray, spread generously with cornmeal, and rising at this moment in the toaster oven.

Yes, that's right. I hate heating up the huge oven to do crafted breads, because the temperature requirements I am afraid will sky-rocket the electricity bill. So I make tiny loaves, and do them in my parents' really  lovely, new Panasonic toaster oven that has temperature adjustments and gives me the perfect crispy crust and well-done insides I desire, at about 220C and below.

This is the first time I have scored the bread, because before, I never had a knife or razor sharp enough not to completely botch the surface. Now, I received a Swiss deboning knife for my birthday. It is sharp and flexible, and made my first beautiful (but very imperfect) score. But I am happy, and oh-so-pleased.

The Starter

The starter is a big of a strange experiment, a cocktail of natural yeast (fermentation of raisins, sugar, and water), alcohol, and solid fermented fruit parts.

1) The first step, was me experimenting with natural yeast starters and raisins. Using the raisin yeast water, I attempted to multiply it alla' sourdough without the  sour part. But it turned sour. I hate sour! Sourdough has been a big failure for me, and I have attempted to eat almost all of the mishaps and i do not wish to do so again.

2) The second step was me giving up temporarily on using the raisin yeast water for bread- so let is be wine. I kept adding cordial to the raisin water, and sugar, and syrup. I brewed and fermented wine.

3) Meanwhile, the raisins used for the wine sat at the back of the fridge, still full of yeast.

4) One fine day, it was Rosh Hashanah 2012 and i wanted to try and make Rosh Hashanah charoset, which is basically apples and honey and wine, without the nuts. So I chopped an apple, added it to the fermented raisins, added some honey, added some watermelon fiber (strained out of fresh juice) and doused it with my blackcurrant cordial wine. And I went on a holiday, so I took it along to eat.

5) It so happened, that with all the bubbling yeast activity, I did not attempt to eat the charoset. So it came back home with me. I took it home, and blended it with water, and added flour, and voila - it is a yeast starter. It is stiff, and purplish in color. It is made of the oddest things, really, but it is a really effective starter. Several experiments with this has yielded bread with a delicious crumb and subtle aroma.

So that's why I call with my Rosh Hashanah starter, because I started it on Rosh Hashanah. And I finally baked it into a proper bread with weight ingredients and everything, after Simchat Torah. So it is Pain de "Simcha".


Pictures to come!

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