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This is a very exciting moment.  Many weeks of research and planning have paid off.  My dream of making elegantly curved, crescent-shaped croissants has finally come to fruition.  Along the research process, I’ve consulted sources from American, Chinese, French and Japanese professionals and reviewed several forum and blog entries at TFL about croissants.  If any of my procedures sounds familiar to you, it is probably inspired by your input and I thank you for sharing your experience with our community.

My procedures are a conglomerate of all the essence from different sources that I found helpful in achieving an effective workflow which produces quality results. This is a primary principle I’ve stood by in my day-to-day practice. There are numerous good croissant formulas out there.  It’s just a matter of settling down on the ones that best suit my needs.  For my first attempt, I was looking for a simple formula that doesn’t take forever to produce. After all, it’s merely a big lump of butter encased by bread dough.  It shouldn’t be that complicated to handle.  Luckily, I’ve been very familiar with the sweet dough used from making many loaves of Asian style breads. Therefore, once I understood the fundamentals of preparing a butter block and making turns, I was ready to tackle this part pastry, part bread challenge. 

I adapted the croissant formula from “Teacher Zhou’s Gourmet Classroom” (周老師的美食教室), a Taiwan based Chinese website dedicated to introducing foolproof recipes of a broad variety of foods. The host of this site is an author of three well-received cooking and pastry books in Chinese.  She currently lectures at a baking institute and is also a high school home economics teacher. The reliable recipes and formulae on her website are a guarantee of quality outcomes and I consider this Classroom the Chinese version of "the America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated". I particularly like her systematic approach of coaching and scientific approach of handling food.  I simply felt that our styles ‘clicked’.  Her croissant formula caught my attention because it was the easiest one I’ve seen and it only takes a few hours to complete.  With this formula, I won't end up having a full freezer of uneaten croissants.  The portion of flours called for is so small that I could even use my semi-retired Zojirushi to handle the job. 

The following is an outline of my formula and procedures:


I am very happy with my first croissants.  They look and taste like the real deal.  Next time, I’ll try the sourdough version.  The following are some pictures and photo credit goes to my husband.  Thank you, honey, for your help.


This post will be submitted to Wild Yeast Yeastspotting!

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This year is the Year of Tiger.  It’s a tradition for Cantonese to make cakes for the Chinese New Year.  The pronunciation of cakes, which is ‘GO’, is the same as the word ‘tall’ in Cantonese.  Seniors in the family like to wish their grandchildren grow tall and healthy (快高長大) in the New Year.  Therefore, cakes are an indispensable part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. 


We make all sorts of cakes, sweet and savory, from rice or glutinous rice flours.  My favorite is radish (daikon) cakes.   You’ll find them where dim sum is served in a Chinese restaurant or they are sold pre-packaged in a Chinese grocery store when it’s close to the Chinese New Year.  But let me tell you, these are no comparison to the homemade ones. For the ones money can buy, they are usually made with a very high proportion of flour and very little radish and other ingredients.  Therefore, these cakes often turn out very hard and have very little flavor. 


Before the New Year, I usually prepare a very fancy version of daikon cake which consists of Japanese dried scallops(瑤柱), dried shrimps(蝦米), Virgina ham (金華火腿), Chinese style cured and smoked ham(臘肉), Cantonese style sausage(臘腸), plenty of shredded daikon and a small amount of rice flour. The mixture of all ingredients is steamed for about 45 minutes and let cool on wire rack.  During the New Year, we normally lightly pan fry the cake before enjoying it. It is crispy outside with flavorful seafood and meats.  Instead of the usual gumminess you’ll experience from store-bought daikon cakes, the mouthfeel of the inside of this cake is moist and soft, with the fibrous chunks of shredded daikon coming apart.  With all the ingredients, it’s a big, tasty meal in itself and I like to dip it with Lee Kum Kee (李錦記) chili sauce before serving.


I must give credit to my husband for his efforts to assist me in the preparation of radish cakes this year.   He took on the role of dicing and weighing ingredients and shredding the radish, which are the most time consuming parts of the process.  He wanted to do this with me so that we can spend more precious time together.  I truly appreciate his thoughts and prepare many good foods in return. The radish cake served today was pan fried and pictured by my husband as well.    


As a parent, I too wish my children grow tall and healthy after eating my radish cake, the ‘GO’, and have a head start in the New Year.

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I've been very curious about other bakers' enthusiasm for rye breads, which, from their appearance and my past experience, I could only associate with tree bark and the nasty tasting caraway seeds. Mr. Hamelman's 90% rye bread has completely changed my impression.  Not only did this bread turn out moist, but it also had that complex, mild, tangy aftertaste which evolved slowly and lingered in my mouth. This was a new experience for my taste buds.  The earthy, almost chocolaty aromas of the flour plus the crunchy crust have made my biscotti-shaped slices a perfect tea time snack.

These loaves were not sliced, tasted and pictured until three days after they were baked, since I left them inside of the cooled oven and forgot about them.  They tasted both moist and crunchy on that day. However, the next day, they started to taste a little dry.  I then froze half and left the other half at room temperature in ziploc bags.  Today, it is day 12 and the slices left in room temperature have shown no signs of molding but they have lost most of the moisture in the crumb.

This formula used the Detmolder method, which required precise temperature controls at three different stages, to develop a rye sour with vital wild yeasts and well balanced flavors.  With the help of my new proofer, I can say that monitoring temperature is piece of cake!   

The following is a summary of my interpretation of Mr. Hamelman's formula and procedures:




With my background of growing up with all the Asian style fluffy white breads, it's probably too soon to make a statement that I'm falling head-over-heels for rye bread, but it is an interesting category I'll definitely explore further. This was the first bread I made from Mr. Hamelman's book and it was also my first bread in this new decade. I'm celebrating these 'first time occasions' by doing something special: I'm taking the extra time and steps to resize and attach a photo in my normally text-only entry.  I think it's about time to learn, at least for once, how to upload pictures and add some colors to my blog.


For the remaining pictures, please visit my album of Mr. Hamelman's 90% rye at Flickr.



This post will be submitted to Wild Yeast Yeastspotting!


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Like a child, I was eagerly waiting for my Christmas gifts last year.  Instead of Santa, it was my hubby who delivered them.  The first gift was a homemade proofer based on SteveB's brilliant design with some enhancements. The few modifications my husband made were using three storage bins, instead of one, to enhance insulation and using digital thermometer(s) for easier reading and monitoring.

I had been longing to own such an awesome tool.  However, I'd been very reluctant to enter the workshop in the garage because it's really not my department and things there are so unfamiliar to me. Therefore, when my husband volunteered to build it for me, I accepted the offer with great delight.  As part of the Christmas package, he also extended the stones in the oven to the full length of the racks. His thoughts were surely heartwarming and these gifts were the highlights of my holiday season.

I first revisited my sourdough pain de mie to test my new proofer.  I monitored the dough temperature during mixing so that results could be more predictable.  With the proofer set at 86F and 96F respectively, it took 3 hours for bulk fermentation and 2.5 hours for final proof. I felt very comfortable that I had complete control of all the procedures from mixing to final proof, and without the hassle of folding dough and checking temperatures back and forth.  In addition to the 1-hour-autolyse and brief mixing combination I learned previously, this device has brought me more peace in bread making.  

I was quite satisfied with the crumb texture, which I'll share a few shots today.  However, a third trial is probably needed to fine tune the weight of ingredients and oven temperature before this formula can be finalized.  

Next, I used this new tool to make homemade yogurt, which I gave up in the past because the results were less than satisfactory and the procedures required to maintain an optimum temperature for the culture were giving me headaches.  With my new toy, all of these have become history. I've accomplished the best results ever with the least effort this time. 

This tool is another indispensable addition to my gear. I'm sure I'll put it to good use in the future.  Thank you, SteveB, for sharing your design with us and thank you, honey, for supporting my new hobby. 

Here are some pictures:

Homemade proofer

Sourdough pain de mie crumb shots

Homemade yogurt by new proofer


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I tried SteveB's double flour addition/double hydration techniques to make his ciabatta, one of the three beautiful breads I promised myself to learn from some of the most sophiscated, well-respected home bakers here at TFL when I first started making bread back in February this year. Since then I'd tried dmsnyder's baguettes and Susan's ultimate sourdough.  I've always tried my best to emulate the orginal formulas so that my breads would not 'disgrace' the beautiful creations by these bakers.  My ciabatta is no comparison to Steve's picture perfect creation, but at least I can say 'I've tried it'.  Thank you, Steve, for your inspiration of pursuing professional quality breads from a home kitchen.

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Inspired by Nathan's recent post, I made Mr. Dan Lepard's sourdough walnut bread (page 111, The Handmade Loaf).  This was an experience of assimilating existing and new techniques learned, making independent judgment, and testing new gear.  I experienced the one-hour autolyse technique, which worked seamlessly with my spiral mixer to achieve my goal of streamlining home baking procedures in order to minimize hands-on time.   As Nathan mentioned in his post, the dough was well developed after the one-hour autolyse.  It only took additional 4 minutes and 30 seconds of mixing by my mixer to reach the windowpane stage.  This did not only save me the follow-up stretch-and-folds of the dough, but also prevented its temperature from rising too high from over mixing.  It registered 75F when mixing was completed.

I was very relieved to have learned this effective technique-plus-gear combination because it means more flexibility in my schedule. With the added peace of mind, bread baking will be more enjoyable. I did not perform any subsequent S&F to this dough but the crumb still turned out very springy since gluten was sufficiently developed through extended autolyzing and brief mixing.

Like Nathan, I did not use commercial yeast in this bread.  It was leavened by 18% of pre-fermented flour maintained at 80% hydration. My percentages were a bit different from Mr. Lepard's, since my presentation took into account the water and flour content in the starter as well. The weight of all ingredients used (except for water), however, is identical to Mr. Lepard's formula. 

In this bread, I made my favorite water roux starter with all the rye flour called for in the formula. I made sure the rye roux starter had reached 176F, so to destroy the amylase in the flour (thanks again to Mini Oven for the information). In order to achieve a reasonable consistency of the roux starter, I had to raise the final dough hydration to 79%.  However, the dough was not difficult to handle, probably due to the presence of (pre-roasted) nuts and good gluten development.  It just felt very pliable after the 3-hour bulk fermentation.   The dough was then shaped and retarded overnight.  It was baked in the next morning at 500F for 20 minutes, then 460F for 15-20 minutes.

Nathan's beautiful breads in another post also inspired me to purchase Mr. Hamelman's book, which I used primarily as a reference for shaping and scoring this time.  

The taste of this bread was divine.  The crust was crunchy and the crumb was springy, buttery, and fragrant with the walnut paste mixed in the dough.   I enjoyed it very much. I no longer need to dream about Nathan's bread because now I have my own. Thank you, Nathan, for bringing this bread and Mr. Lepard's book to my attention.

And here it is, Mr. Lepard's sourdough walnut bread:


This will be submitted to Wild Yeast Yeastspotting!







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Thanks to both Mr. DiMuzio and bblearner's input, I made my first pain de mie successfully.   This loaf was made with 20% pre-ferment maintained at 50% hydration. To add a bit of Japanese touch to the loaf,  3% flour and 17% water was used to make water roux starter. Honey was used in place of sugar.  The rest were milk, milk powder, butter and etc., pretty typical ingredients.

As Mr. DiMuzio mentioned, this sourdough sandwich loaf is more compact than the yeasted version loaves and has more substance (bigger dough size) and is slightly chewier in texture.    It is a nice loaf of milky savory bread with a very subtle hint of tang. 

My kids were fascinated with the square shape and called it the loaf with no 'butt' (as compared to the dome-shaped loaves I made before).  They've enjoyed it without butter and have already requested another loaf.

The kneading was done completely by my Zojirushi and no folds by hand.  I adopted Mr. DiMuzio's procedures to utilize the fridge to both bulk ferment and proof.  The loaf was done with minimal dough-sitting, which was my ultimate goal.   I'd also applied the same procedures in my nut-and-fruit bread and it turned out great as well.  Thank you again, Mr. DiMuzio.

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This bread was made with 40% levain and is a variation of Mr. DiMuzio's double raisin walnut bread. I used a 3-build firm starter of 50% hydration and adjusted the formula to Mr. DiMuzio's percentages.  The 75% nuts and passion fruits medley have made this bread very colorful and attractive.  It is a bit chewy and has a medium-mild sourdough taste.

I utilized my Zojirushi to knead the dough for ten minutes and gave it a few folds afterwards before bulk fermenting it in the fridge overnight.  Before shaping, nuts and fruits were folded in.  Shaped dough was proofed in fridge overnight. Steamed and baked at 460F for 40 minutes.

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This was the most difficult formula I've encountered.  I'm somewhat discouraged by the outcomes of my breads.  Even though I've tried it twice, I still didn't get that confident feeling I normally have with my dough. 

In this trial, I used all the 10% rye flour to make a water roux starter.  The reason that prompted me to use a roux starter was that, even though at a lower % of rye (10%) flour than my 090602 sourdough rye (20%) bread , the dough in my first trial of this formula , at which I used KA organic AP flour and no rye roux, turned out to be much messier and the crumb was very gummy.   Without going through the heating process of making a roux starter, the amylases, which contribute to the gumminess in rye dough, remain actively alive.  The combination of lower gluten flour (AP) and the presence of lively amylases, I believe, was the culprit to the failure of my first attempt. 

In my second experiment, in addition to the rye roux starter, I also sustituted AP with bread flour.  I made baguette and batard so that I could practice different forms of scoring.  The crust was very crackly and the taste was good. However, I did not get as much oven spring as I'd hoped for.  Well, I can always give it another try.  We'll see.



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A big thank you to Susan for this simple and delicious formula.  My kids loved these loaves tremendously.  They had it for breakfast with a spread of butter; at dinner clam chowder in a bread bowl.  For me, it's another great lesson in sourdough.  A few new things I tried in this project: 

  1. Baking with high gluten flour (Giusto's organic high gluten whole wheat)

  2. Using a firm starter (refreshed at 1:2:3)

  3. Experimenting EXTENDED retardation at bulk fermentation (12 days) and at final proof (2 days).  There was no basis of practicing these extended retardations, I simply just did not have a chance tending the dough after I mixed it up. It gave me an opportunity to find out how well the method of preserving a premixed dough in the fridge for later use, as suggested in AB in 5, would work. As you will see, there's no negative impact on the final product and the flavor was greatly enhanced.

This project turned out wonderfully.  Susan, I'm looking forward to trying your bread again.

This will be submitted to Nick's imafoodblog.


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