The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I have been on a baking frenzy. :)

I guess that's the beauty of making several batches of poolish and biga acida at the same time. It was either bake or lose the preferments. So bake it was.

In addition to preferment breads I also did two 1.5lb loaves of Lexia Raisin and Macadamia bread from a slightly modified formula. No lexia raisins and no macadamias. Oops.
But I did manage to get a full cup of dried figs in there with a hand full of golden raisins and a cup full of toasted walnuts. I have to say that is a very tasty mixture. The flavors seemt to balance well.

With these two loaves I did them in 9X5X3" pans and they proofed beautifuly after sitting overnight in the fridge. That wasn't part of the original formula but due to the ovens being busy with pizza's I couldn't manage to get them in - so into the fridge they went. The next day when I had time to fit them in the oven I had taken them out of the fridge about an hour and half beforehand - and then they proofed a tad longer - they were huge in the pans when I finally popped them into the oven. But they baked just fine... well except one slight thing I noticed...

The oven was very hot when I popped them in because it was at pizza temp. and so the outside browned very dark - not burnt - but very dark - not like I've ever seen it before. It wasn't carbonized - but it did a shade past where I would normally put a good crust for a 'European' style crust (even though this is a sweet bread).

I am wondering if there wasn't more carmelization of the sugars than I am used to seeing?
Did the figs and the raisins effect it at all?

Hmm - food for thought. At any rate - I went through one complete loaf myself about 30 minutes after they had cooled.
Too tasty that loaf.

One of the other batches that I did was Anadama bread - but again modified - one of the sous chef's misplaced my corn meal soaker and so I had to use the mixed grain soaker that I had started the day before. This one has buckwheat, oats, quinoa and flax seed in it. I have tended to avoid using oats for other than decorative toppings because I find the flavor to be a bit too earthy/chalky... as well in a soaker they tend to almost disentegrate. But as I had no corn meal soaker I had no choice but to use this. Though dough wouldn't wait as I had already retarded it overnight in the fridge - where even then it still rose a bit.

Ok so anyhow - I managed to use a fine cornmeal to top them - and they came out brilliantly. The color and shape are stunning. I wacked them onto some cooling racks and placed them on the table nearest the counter in the restaurant. We had a steady flow of customers all day long and right before 5 o'clock a table of six came in. Two kids etc. - they seem to have come back from hiking as they were dripping with sweat and had walking sticks. The start of the hot and rainy season in Hong Kong. The father I guess it was - too one look at the bread and grabbed a loaf and just mauled it. I mean he tore into it with a vegance. I was SHOCKED!!! I was somewhat horrified! AAAAGGGHHH!!!!!
My babies had been left out on the table and some wild and ravenous hiker had come by and mauled them! Or at least one of them. LOL! :)

I am supposed to be baking these for sale and of course - that means people can eat them any way they choose. But somehow it was heartbreaking to see my wonderful bread torn apart like that. LOL! I think I've been traumatized!

No butter, no olive oil... nothing... just carnage. :)
I jumped up as fast as I could and offered to cut the loaf for him - bread knife in hand. Though I must admit I don't know whether I was going to cut the loaf or defend it to the death! :)

So now I only have one Anadama loaf left in the breadcase. Perhaps he/she too is traumatized. I mean being so close and all to the carnage. Poor thing.

Of course they bought it along with meals for 6 and drinks - so I can't complain really. But from now on I think I'll run a cordon of razor wire around my loaves while they're cooling. :)

I guess that's testament to power of bread - especially freshly baked Anadama bread from the oven.
Never, ever underestimate it.

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This is the 4th batch of Ciabatta that I've tackled and it's improved with every session. What's of note is that the dough has continually gotten more slack as my finished bread has improved. What a relief. The first batch of ciabatta based on a poolish was tasty enough... the entire batch went in two days.. what didn't fly off the shelves was promptly eaten by myself. :)

I am getting the hang of figuring out just what each loaf should be weighing in at to make a good sized sandwhich.
What really springs to mind when I finished this last batch (at 3:30 am) was that 99% of the ciabattta I've ever had has been total garbage. Poor crumb, no flavor and the more I learn about baking the more I suspect that it's all a straight dough with zero fermentation.

Thank God I don't have to subject myself to that anymore. :)

The other bread that has really surprised me on both the sales side and on the tastyness side is Anadama bread.
Wow! I never thought something could have such a great texture! Most of the formulas I've seen for it have been straight doughs but I have been extending or delaying the fermentation process using the fridge - and the flavor is fantastic.
The molasses add's the perfect sweet note... the kind of sweetness that is just a tad smokey - not the kind you get from white sugar at all. The customers seem to enjoy it as well - and I have to admit it's nice to be handing out tips on proper storage for good handmade bread. :)

Now if I could only get my local flour supplier to provide me with more data on the flour they carry. That and I wish my storeroom was bigger - I can easily see myself running out of space if I order in a few more 55lb sacks of flour. :)

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Today the cafe was packed out for lunch. It was a good kind of packed as it seemed to be full of the groups of peoples that I can now somewhat call regulars. Several of them even waited for a table to clear - that meant waiting about 15 minutes... not something Hong Kong people are generally keen on.

The high point was that a table of regulars asked for a loaf of bread. The lady who I see more and more often came up to look at the breads I had on offer and chose my Pear/Walnut Bread. It's a heavy loaf - about 2lbs! She wanted half of it with the meal and half of it to take home with her.

It was pretty cool to see a table of people happily munching away on bread at lunch hour. As well - it was nice to see that she was willing to pay for my loaves what you'd pay for loaves from the bigger bakeries. :)

So I hand sliced half the loaf for her and heated it up a bit in the oven. This loaf can be a bit moist because of the amount of Pear bits in it... so it seems to go over well when toasted. I served it with a side of pure creamery butter and a quick explanation of what was in it. They were thrilled... so was I.

On a pragmatic note I found out that the smaller bread bags I bought work out well - even though they're smaller they fit a half boule in perfectly! :D Make note to self to include an ingredients list and short sales blurb about why this bread is special.

Early morning was time to make Mousse. Long before anyone else was awake I was already down at the shop whipping up an Italian merengue. This time I adjusted from my normal Mousse recipe and added 7 egg whites... I found that the extra whites really help to keep it light. That and I cut the amount of chocolate from 450grams to 400. The mousse seemed to pour better and seemed to settle better. I was happy with the efficient manner in which I knocked out 12 servings of dark chocolate mousse - 6 for dine in and 6 for take-away. Though there has to be a bowl out there made for pouring... with a lip or something. The chocolate can get a bit messy to pour. Though since I started becoming more deft with my spatula there isn't really that much chocolate waste. So by 9am.. it seems that I'd accomplished something. Not too shabby for someone who has spent so much of his life waking at noon.

Tonight I baked up Peaches stuffed with Ricotta and walnuts. Interesting. I had soaked the peaches in dark rum - though since they had been liberally sprinkled with lemon juice prior - they maintained a good color. I let that sit overnight in the fridge along with the ricotta filling that had been mixed. I added a bit more crumble to the mix today just before baking and dusted them with brown sugar just before popping in the oven.

Some notes:

The color of the Ricotta and walnuts isn't very nice
(somehow must get more toasty or golden - but not greyish)
I wonder how much of that was affected by the overnight sit in the fridge?

The Rum may have not been the proper ingredient for them to marinate in. The flavor was just OK.
But didn't really come across like a good Tiramisu comes off. Then again - how can you beat Brandy, Mascarpone and Espresso?!?!

The peaches could have been sweeter. I noticed that after they were baked I found them far more 'peach' flavored if I sprinkled them with regular white sugar. Unitl that point the peach flavor didn't really seem to have much flavor at all.
Strange. Maybe the sweetness is the catalyst for the peach flavor somehow.

This dessert can only be done for in house - these for delivery would be a nightmare. Not only for packing but also the kitchen is far too chaotic most of the time to pull these off - though could they be anymore hassle than the pear/apple crumble?!

Ok - plenty to work on.

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Here is my first attempt at Biscotti. Neapolitan style Biscotti to be exact.
This has plenty of orange zest (3 complete orange peels worth!) and plenty of ground almond in the dough and toasted sliced almonds with just a hint of anise seed.

Like all biscotti they are 'twice baked' - the first time to bake them and and the second shorter baking to dry them out so they'll keep longer.

These didn't 'keep' very long. My staff couldn't keep their hands off of them. The customers hardly had a chance to get at them. They really went well with a proper hot and strong Cappuccino.

I've gotten in the habit of baking these twice a week.

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Here is a shot of one of my first rustic boules.
Using basically the same 'rustic' formula as what Floyd has posted here on The Fresh Loaf.
I seem to do OK with this formula and it's given me a great reference point or foundation to build on for most of my recent baking endeavors.

I quite like the classic boule shape. The crumb seamed good and it was tasty so I don't really have any complaints. I managed to use enough steam to get a nice crusty surface that toasted up beautifully. I find myself quite happy to go through an entire loaf with nothing more than a bit of butter.

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