The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

PalwithnoovenP's blog

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Yesterday was our Oath-Taking ceremony. It was full of pride and joy. Why wouldn't we be proud and happy when I found out that I was 17th all over the country. I only prayed to pass and out 76,673 who took the licensure exam, only 22,936 passed and out of those 22,936, I am the 17th! To celebrate the occasion, I made this special bread.

It is a panettone-like bread in terms of flavor but I added just a tablespoon of butter. Why? Because I have other plans for this bread. The dough was made with bread flour, all-purpose flour (because I ran out bread flour), eggs, sugar, salt and butter. Kneading was only 20 minutes and it made a strong windowpane perhaps because of the all-purpose flour with less gluten. The dough was rich even with just a bit of butter because aside from the water in the levain, all the liquid came from the eggs. My starter was slow in raising this dough so I left it overnight at room temperature for bulk fermentation. Great decision. After 12 hours it was doubled, nicely risen and fermented.

I don't have candied peel so I added only raisins in the dough but because I want to pack as much raisins as possible; I stretched it into a thin and long rectangle then scattered raisins rolled it from the long end and coiled into a snail to shape it before proofing it in the tin. I did not soak the raisins because I don't want extra moisture and I want the raisins to even dry the dough. Proofing took 4 hours and it is as high as the tin before baking.

Hence, it made a nice dome after baking. The sides were a lovely golden brown with blisters the there was even a little browning on top. I can't believe that I made this lovely bread. It has an air of an "Alfonso Pepe" Panettone.

Look at those blisters.

My plan for this bread is to turn it into a special bread pudding for a special occasion. A more elegant one because it involved the whole bread being turned into a pudding unlike other puddings which use cut-up bread. To make this pudding I let this delicious bread dry (I originally intend to use the word "stale" but decided against it because it was just dried with no stale flavor) in the fridge for 2 days then bathed in a rich custard flavored with orange and vanilla to make a similar flavor profile to my panettone french toast dream that didn't materialize last time. I think this bread and bread pudding is special because you make a bread with the pudding in mind, you make a special bread with a purpose rather than finding a way to save a bread that you unintentionally let stale. I added very little butter because I want the crumb to be sturdier because it will be soaked in custard so it will still have integrity when it is already a pudding. 

I cut the dome off the bread last friday for a neat finish and to facilitate the soaking of the bread; it was a substantial snack on Friday afternoon. Here is the inside of the freshly baked bread. It was not feathery but still light, soft and fluffy. No tang at all with the right sweetness and so aromatic. It was a very good raisin bread.

The dome.

This is the portion that was turned into a pudding.

The fridge did a very good job in drying this bread so it absorbed the custard well. I bake the bread last Friday and the custard on Saturday night because I know we will be euphoric from the Oath-Taking ceremony and might not have the energy to do thing so I prepared things in advance so I can just bake this pudding straight away to celebrate. When we got home yesterday, everything was prepared so I just soaked the bread with the custard. Perfect time-saver because we were already tired from the long travel and we were trying to catch a replay of the Pacquiao-Matthysse fight. :) I'm happy for our senator's win but I'm happier for my parents yesterday.

Here is the bread getting bathed in custard.

After an overnight custard soak.

I baked the bread pudding for 20 minutes over live fire and 20 minutes over ember just to dry the center. I knew it was done because I can smell it from upstairs, so aromatic! I was greeted by this beauty when I opened the clay pot. It looks very silky! I can imagine a crunchy caramel top would so well with it.

It looks like a perfect candidate to be "bruleed". If I had a torch, I would brulee it! 

The bread definitely became plumper and heavier and the lines became harder and straighter. I love how it looks!

I love how the sides are crispy and the inside is so silky and custardy! Perfect contrast! And the crumb maintained its structure that I have an idea how the fresh bread looked from the inside. My orange-vanilla custard trick worked too, it feels like I am eating a panettone bread pudding with plump and juicy raisins. It's like turning a whole panettone into French toast. The pudding was already very rich so it needs no additional custard or whipped cream or syrups; it perfect as it is. The texture was different from a normal bread pudding. It feels like eating a very moist and silky slice of bread. It's hard to explain. It's just so good, perfect for the occasion!

My dad was so excited to taste it so he cut it immediately into perfectly neat slices.

A truly memorable treat for a memorable occasion!


Some pictures from the Oath-Taking Ceremony.

I wore a traditional formal wear reserved for the most formal of occasions.

Any formal wear would do but I decided to wear my best Barong Tagalog because our Code of Ethics states that each teacher is a trustee of the cultural and educational heritage of the nation and is under obligation to transmit such heritage as well as to elevate national morality, promote national pride, cultivate love of country, instill allegiance to the constitution and all duly constituted authorities, and promote obedience to the laws of the state.

WIth my very proud, happy and thankful parents.



With the pin signifying that I am already a fully-fledged Licensed Professional Teacher.

It was a once in a lifetime experience. I felt goosebumps especially when we spoke our oath and I almost stuttered with some of the words. All of the sleepless nights, time, money, effort of mine and my parents did not go to waste. I managed to hold back my tears especially during the singing of the Hymn of Professionals with lyrics like this. 

Propesyonalismo at integridad
Professionalism and integrity
Responsibilidad sa bayang nililiyag
(Our) Resposibility to (our) beloved nation
Kahusaya't kaalaman
Excellence and Knowledge
Taglay naming mga propesyonal
Us professionals have

I think I almost cried because I felt each word, the gravity of the duties that are now on our shoulders and the challenges that await us and that even in my lowly condition in life, I am now considered a professional.

With all the pride and joy comes this tremendous duty and responsibility. This is not the end, this is just the beginning of real life journey and I can't wait to practice it to touch and mold young lives. The achievements of mine are now finished, it is about my students now. It is now a lifelong goal to be the best teacher that I can be for my students. Thank God for everything! Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for letting me into your life!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Rainy days have long come over but the luscious, sweet and juicy mangoes that I have frozen remind me of summer. Hot and humid sunny days where you spend your time outdoors playing, kite-flying, swimming only to go home at dusk smelly and dirty. Ah! The good old days! It's the time almost every kid is looking forward to...

... the rain just can't stop me in bringing summer into our home. Summer's Last Hurrah! I made this fabulous mango tart.

This was inspired by a dessert that Nancy Silverton made with Julia Child. It was the first time that I saw a yeasted bread dough as a base for a tart. It was far more complex than this one; in addition to the creme fraiche custard brioche tart, it was served with wine-poached fruits and a rich sabayon. What moved me as I watched it was when Julia cried as she tasted it declaring it as the best dessert she ever had.

Here is my take on a similar dessert with my own spin to it using mangoes (which is my favorite fruit) harvested from our own yard, sourdough and a special custard..

I made the dough using the leftover bran levain that's why it has bit of texture and character. I usually keep a bit of the past levain then make a levain out of it for the next bake then I keep a bit again until the the next bake; the cycle continues on and on. When I find out that the leftover levain is hard or has changed color, that's the only time that I get some from my stock starter to make a levain.

The dough was made with a bit of sugar, salt, 2 bantam eggs, enough milk to make a very soft dough, levain, bread flour and butter. I added more butter than I'm used to for my enriched breads which makes this definitely a brioche. The liquid content was also high for lightness so the dough was very sticky but after kneading which took 30 minutes, it was very strong and not sticky at all. Bulk fermentation at room temperature took 4 hours, sugar was not very high so it doubled easily. I then refrigerated it overnight.

I divided the dough into 2 and made a single big tart and miniature ones.

For the miniature ones, I divided the dough into 6 and shaped each into batards. I let them rise in my mini llaneras until almost doubled. I then made a depression in the center to deposit the custard and mangoes. The custard was a deconstructed pastry cream. I thickened some milk flavored with vanilla with some starch then added the eggs to be baked later which means it was a baked custard as opposed to a stirred one like pastry cream.

The lava custard was mainly inspired by a Japanese cheesecake shop along with some other desserts like liu sha bao and lava cake. For both the big and mini tarts, they were bake at a high temperature with live fire to cook and brown the brioche base quickly and to cook the custard at a safe temperature while still maintaining it's runny consistency before it has the chance to set completely.

Up close...

You can see that the mango transformed and became firmer in the clay pot.

It's baking time was quicker so it did not brown or the custard will set. Despite all of that, the lava effect was to a greater effect in the large tart.


It's monsoon season now; in fact we experienced heavy rains today from a typhoon-augmented southwest monsoon but looking at the pictures of this tart still makes me think of summer. Flood in the yard is about knee-deep but thigh-deep in the area near the river. Here are some photos from different parts of the yard.


For the single large tart, I rolled it into a circle 2 inches larger than my tin. I then employed Silverton's technique of folding the edges into the center for a raised decorative edge. I let it rise until doubled then deposited a large amount of custard and sliced mangoes.

I baked it for 30 minutes over a roaring fire for brown crispy base and runny lava filling. For both versions, I let them cool to room temp then chilled them for a couple of hours until completely cold. This tart was huge, almost 3 inches tall. The filling was very jiggly and the tart looks a bit delicate that I still don't know how I managed to get it out flawlessly from a tin without a removable bottom. Its look is inspiring me to try a deep dish pizza next time.

I have something to attend to the next day so I cut it despite the absence of natural light because I want to taste it at it's best. 

If you look at the side and edges from different angles they look very different. They look like rugged mountains.

Here is the lava, you can see it flowing and gushing out from the cut tart.

Under natural light. I don't want to miss the details that only natural light seems to provide to photos. You can see how light the crumb is. It grew more than 4 times its original volume, hence the lightness from the well developed dough.

The bit of bran in the levain made for a nice bite in the finished tarts. Both were light but the large tart was definitely lighter, almost feathery but still did not fall under the heavy filling and fruit. The mini ones were soft all over but the large one has a nice crispness that provides a nice contrast with the soft and fluffy crumb.

This one was exceptionally tangy, even tangier than my WW loaf. I know, bran contributes to the tang but it was very low this time. Perhaps the milk and egg or other enrichments were responsible for this. My parents who do not like very sour bread loved it because it adds to the overall experience. Its tang goes exceptionally well and balances the sweet rich custard and the sweet mangoes (mangoes here when ripe are super sweet with no tang at all) and makes you feel like eating a creme fraiche custard or a very light cheesecake. Very very delicious! Now, I just have to find a way to fit in more mangoes in this tart.

To cap off this wonderful tart experience, I want to share with you a video about teachers. (NOTE: The video was set in 1996 which I think is a time where corporal punishment is still the norm for instilling discipline to students. It might also be accepted in some cultures but not in other cultures. Please take note of that. :) Also, the ritual of paying respects to teachers seen in the video is unique to just a few countries and must not be seen as teachers putting themselves as supreme authority; in fact we do not have it in our country but we respect teachers and show our gratitude in a different way.)

It is in Thai but it has English subtitles. When I watched this, I wish I knew Thai to fully appreciate its meaning because there is always something lost in translation but I realized now that you do not need language to understand its message. It was shown to us during my review as a motivational video. I am a type of person that is not easily brought to tears even by very dramatic scenes from movies or series but this immediately gave me a weird feeling and as the video ended I can already feel a tear forming in the corner of my right eye.

I watched this again right after I knew that I pass the licensure exam and just 12 seconds into the video, I started to cry with tears running through my cheeks from both eyes. I knew that moment that this is going to be my life God willing and I know how difficult it is but at the same time how rewarding and fulfilling it is to be a teacher. Our oath taking ceremony is this Sunday. I hope you enjoy! Thank you very much!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Another one of my not-so-successful bakes aesthetically but the flavor is so good.

I was intrigued by uncle Dab's bran levain when I first read it a couple of years ago and I wanted to try it because he says it softens the bran and makes the bread more sour but I could not find whole grains in my area. Finally I found some whole wheat (It's been years since I have laid my hands on some WW and made a bread out of it) in my local baking supply store so I immediately tried it out. I made it two weeks ago but I did not have time to post it even though I have plans despite it not being 100% successful. More and more TFLers are trying it too with good results. Sesame and whole wheat are a pretty classic combination I decided to go with that and here is my interpretation of it.

This was a 50/50 WW/BF blend so I gathered the required amount of WW and sifted the hard bits out. I got quite a huge amount that is almost enough for my 2 levain builds which surprised me.

Here is the high extraction flour that I got (Am I using the right terms?). I autolysed it in the fridge until the next day for almost 24 hours to ensure that any hard bit that went through the sieve can soften adequately. I just added water until it formed a dough. I then took 1 tsp. out of my stock starter and fed it with the bran until I got a thick paste. I was not used to the coarser bran so I just made a paste because it did not incorporate as flour used to. I was wondering how will I monitor any activity with every piece of bran just sitting atop each other.

Just after feeding for the 2nd build.

The next day the levain rose a bit and was full of bubbles; its aroma has also changed, nutty and sour. For the second build the bran was not enough anymore so I added a bit of bread flour. It looked like nothing was happening but I was about to see the fastest activity of my starter that day. Just past 1 hour and it already doubled. I didn't really expect that it will be much more active with the bran perhaps because of added nutrients; normally it will take 2.5-3 hours for it to double. I refrigerated it for a bit because I need to go outside at that time.

I mixed the autolyse, levain, bread flour, salt and just a little more water. These were mixed just until I got a soft dough.

I gave the dough 3 sets of S&F's each one hour apart.

I incorporated plenty of toasted sesame seeds after the first set of S&F. Bulk rise took a total of 4 hours.

Here is where it got tangled. :) The dough was very active, doubling every S&F. I do not know why I let it hang out at room temperature at 34°C for 30 minutes. Sometimes, I put my shaped white doughs in the fridge immediately when I know its activity is super; this WW dough was more active! 


It was already fully proofed by the time I put it in the fridge. The next morning, I knew immediately that it was overproofed because the volume was much much lower that when I put it in. Still had no idea why I forgot, I think it will still overproof even if I put it directly in the fridge after shaping. Perhaps, I should have put it the fridge after the last S&F so the core temperature will cool down and it won't overproof in the fridge. I think the best course for breads with whole grains or high activity is to just shape and proof the next day since the final proof is so quick! That's what I will do next time.

Here is the pancake that I've got. I was a bit sad because the dough was already looking so good, I even managed to score it. I just baked it until golden on both sides and it looked very different from the dough.

The dough was a little sticky with poor support on its structure so it was difficult to maneuver into the clay pot and it stuck to the pebbles which was difficult to pry hence it was ripped on one side.

Crust was not as crispy and shiny as I would have liked. Volume was very poor and spreading was serious. Crumb was a little dense but still soft. BUT...

The flavor! It was so good. Nice whole wheat flavor which goes great with the toasted sesame. The aroma was heavenly when it came out of the pot. No bitterness, a little sweet perhaps from the long autolyse. It was clearly very tangy because of the added whole grain, several notches tangier than normal, almost as tangy as my super sour white SD. No roughness! All of the bran was softened than when I just used WW directly as I did before. It just feels like eating a white bread with a bit more character. The rough bran is one of the reasons why I'm not a big fan of WW breads before. Bran levain works like magic!

It looks like a slice of pie here. :)

If you look at the slices, though not so desirable, they look perfect for bruschetta; albeit bigger more filling ones.

I just discovered the magic of avocado in a savory application. Never knew it would be so good. It was one of the combinations that I was hesitant to try because we only have avocados in sweets. It was like pumpkin which is used for sweets in the west and only in savory here. Thankfully, I was courageous enough and knew what I was missing for years.

It's avocado season here now so we have some good ones in the house. Of course, most went to our usual treat, chilled with condensed milk. For me, I took half an avocado, mashed it a bit and seasoned it with salt, pepper and calamansi which is a local lime. I spread it on a toasted slice and topped it with fresh tomatoes. I'm salivating again as I type this. So delicious!

Avocado Toast as a part of my dinner.

This side is burnt, let's view it from the good side.

PalwithnoovenP's picture

We love pie so I made some pie to celebrate Father's Day!

These are fried pies. I used a crust that is meant to be very tender and flaky. The filling is creamy tuna in white sauce. They are also very crispy after frying with the crispness that you associate with a croissant.

A fast food chain here sells tuna pies which is popular but I'm not a big fan of it. I will be bold and say that these are a million times better! Everyone who tastes this says that I should sell this and it will be a hit. Should I take the bait?

And a fried flaky mooncake filled with purple yam paste for dessert! Decadent and delicious!

Happy Father's Day to all fathers out there! Maligayang Araw ng mga Ama! Bonne fête des Pères ! 父亲节快乐!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I did not have any plans to post this but as a record of by baking journey, I decided to post it today.

I found some candied peel last month in my favorite baking supplies store that's about to go bad (well, actually more of about to decline in quality) in 5 days which was on sale 50% off. It was expensive with it's regular price I thought, and now I can buy this without burning a hole in my pocket for me to taste it and use it in recipes. I immediately grabbed 2 bags then I thought it was the perfect time for me to try making panettone since I already have an established starter. I also grabbed some golden raisins and paid all of them at the counter. Half of the peels went to the fruit cake that I posted last time and half went into this.

It's my dream to bake a panettone though almost everyone thinks it is a humongous challenge to make but one day I have gathered enough courage to try my hand at it. Everything was going well; my starter more than triples in 4 hours, the first dough nicely tripled until it was time to add the enrichment. Panettone is something best done in a mixer but I'm stubborn so I still went even if I only have my hands. I was surprised with how soupy it was, because it's been a long time I have handled doughs like this in addition to stress and lack of sleep I was rattled and added a ton of flour to the dough. When I finished incorporating it, it was so dry and stiff and the dough almost doubled in mass; things you don't want for a rich but light as air bread. From that point on, I know this was bound to fail but I still continued hoping for something edible. I don't want to waste those sugar, eggs and butter; I'm going all or nothing here!

I dumped all the raisins and the candied peel into the dough and kneaded them in. After a 2 hour rest I shaped them into 2 boules (I only planned to make 1 but the dough almost doubled because of the added flour) and proofed one in the tin overnight at room temperature. The other boule was retarded for several days before it was baked because I can't squeeze it in my tight schedule due to prior commitments (and maybe also due to a little frustration). To add salt to the wound, the first one stuck in the tin so i had to pry it out and it was torn into pieces so we just ate it and no pictures. I was more careful with the second one so it had some photos, I put parchment paper in the tin so no sticking. I slashed it after proofing overnight at room temperature and baked it in my clay pot for 30 minutes with live fire and another 30 minutes over embers and this is what I got.


Oven spring leaves much to be desired. You can also tell it by the way the cut expanded. I did not flip it so the top was a little pale but the bottom was not burnt and is a little thick and crispy with the top soft and a bit moist. The crumb was dry and dense but studded by the raisins and candied peel.

Although it looks nothing like panettone and might even offend some PPP (People Passionate for Panettone), I still do not consider it a total failure. Only the texture suffered but the taste was superb. No tang at all, sweet, rich and buttery with the taste of the raisins and the candied peel shining through. It is very seldom that we taste something as great as this. My dad is very picky about his food but this one received no complaints from him. In fact it was the inspiration why I made the fruitcakes, the same flavor profile that my dad loves. We just found out that it wast the combination butter, eggs, raisins and candied peel that make fruitcakes taste fruitcakes and so delicious so I made  a batch for his birthday last month.

The texture was perfect to turn it into french toast but it did not see the light of the next day anymore for its milk and egg bath because it was gone in a flash! It was that good.

We're celebrating our 120th Independence Day today so here is a photo of me wearing our traditional formal wear. This was taken as souvenir photo when we passed the licensure exam. I'm still looking for what to wear for our oath taking. (Each teacher is a trustee of the cultural and educational heritage of the nation.)

Happy Independence Day to all my countrymen! Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Happy baking everyone!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

These are my first baguettes, ever! I am so glad with how they turned out especially that they were not baked in an oven. I feel that it is a real accomplishment in my baking; I thought baguettes were impossible to bake in my clay pot, but I just defied that today. Perhaps the only impossible clay pot bakes are breads that cannot be flipped like a pizza but if it can be flipped, I can handle it! :)

These are Vietnamese baguettes, ones used for banh mi which means these have rice flour in the dough. It is not confirmed if it is true or not but I saw baguettes with rice flour in TFL and experienced its effect in bread doughs in the past so I added a bit here too. They differ from classic French baguettes in that they have a lighter, airier, fluffier crumb with a thinner more crackly crust. A banh mi place opened here a couple of years ago and I was amazed with its taste, it was a harmony of contrasting flavors and textures. I don't know if their baguettes were from Vietnam but it had those characteristics. My favorite was the grilled pork banh mi. Within a few years that I have not visited, I just found out that they were closed but I miss banh mi so much that I decided to try make my own. Fillings are easy to make however the bread was not.

Banh mi dough is highly standardized in Vietnam so no one actually knows what goes in the dough. I consulted various sources and proceeded to make my own dough. I used some AP flour, rice flour, water, sugar, salt and a BF-fed levain. Most recipes I found added ascorbic acid to the dough but I omitted it and just relied on the lactic and acetic acids produced by my starter. To provide additional lift to the dough, I added a bit of baking powder. I poured water until I got a gloopy mess then kneaded it until I got a strong windowpane, it roughly took 30 minutes. The dough was pretty strong at the end. Bulk fermentation took 4 hours until more than doubled. I divided it into 3 and preshaped them into tight boules then they went to the fridge immediately.

The next day I shaped them quite differently from how you shape French baguettes. I flattened the boules into a sort of rectangular shaped with one end wider than the other then you roll tightly into a cylinder then taper the ends by applying more pressure as you roll it outward. Although the dough is so wet, it was not so sticky to shape.

I proofed them for 1 hour. They doubled so quickly.  I am not that confident in scoring dough so I mustered enough courage then scored confidently. In Vietnam, they only do a single long slash. I also tried the classic scoring. I struggled with making a straight single long slash and it did not open up so well. I think I did better with the classic one because it was easier because the blade has to travel shorter. I baked them in my clay pot over heated pebbles and had I shaped them any longer, they will not fit in my pot anymore! Average length was 8 inches or 20 centimeters.

Here are the baked baguettes.

The crust was super crispy when they came out of the clay pot.

Is that an ear? I'm not sure what an ear is. Please enlighten me.

I should have changed hand positions to pick the loaf up in a better angle.

Crumb shots. The crumb was very soft and light with the slightest bit of chew and fluffy and tight typical of its kind. Mine were just moister and a little more stretchier than a banh mi baguette crumb.

I can pull out the crumb easily like this.

Ready to be filled with various fillings.

Although I tried to achieve a Vietnamese baguette, the results are actually in between a Vietnamese and a French baguette. The crumb is lighter, tighter, softer, airier and fluffier than a traditional French baguette but the crust was not as thin, delicate, crisp and crackly as a Vietnamese baguette. I think I have made a new baguette, can they be called Philippine baguettes or more accurately Pal baguettes or baguettes à la Pal?

The crust became soft after cooling which was easily remedied by a brief toasting prior to filling (that's what they do in Vietnam too, right? but over charcoal) probably because the baguettes were small and can't be baked long enough to drive out the moisture for that long lasting crispiness. Should I make a drier dough or bake them longer over gentler heat. I am happy with the crumb though. I prefer the look of the classic baguette with multiple cuts, I think it was way prettier!

The taste was complex. Sweet with a little tang and a clean wheat flavor with dark caramelized notes from the bold bake. They were a bit light on their own which means they lend themselves extremely well to sandwiches. Honestly, they were much more flavorful than the baguettes used in the now closed banh mi place that I used to visit here.

Now I understand why some folks here chase baguette perfection. It's so much fun and fulfilling even with failures. I can't wait to make a French baguette or really, I can't wait to make another baguette of any kind though I know 24 inch ones are just another dream for me because of the limited size of my clay pot. I still can't believe that these baguettes came out of my clay pot!

I chose to make a simple banh mi this time which is not a very popular variation. Thankfully Helen from Helen's recipes brought it to light! 

Good Bread + Good Egg = Bliss

Fry it sunny-side up then drizzle it with Maggi! We also have an affinity with Maggi sauce. Rice and just it is a lunch, an egg is just a bonus!

It's a nice snack when you wander off-road. The combination of the light and crispy bread, the rich eggs and the savory Maggi sauce is just so satisfying! I was also surprised with how filling it was, it sustained me for 3 hours!

It's my birthday and I just received the best birthday gift. I just verified my licensure exam rating and it was unexpectedly very high. I just prayed to pass with a 75.00 rating but God made me achieve more than that. It was just 2.20 points short from making it to the top 10 passers of the hardest licensure exam here! 


As a techer with a major in social science, I might ask you sometimes a question or two about history, culture or food. :) It's fun to know other people and cultures through food. I once made an Ethiopian student taking his PhD in my university smile. He was alone and I ask him if he was a French teacher and he said a no, a FIRM NO! Then I asked him where is he from and he said Ethiopia, so I said "Wow! Do you make and eat injera here?" and he flashed a huge smile. Then I said again "I know you you sometimes make it as a plate and you eat it with doro wat." he smiled again this time much bigger. He said he never thought that someone outside his country will know something about their culture. I even studied simple Amharic (Ethiopia's official language which is so difficult for me) greetings and greeted him whenever I saw him and with that we became friends during his stay in the university. Well, I only learnt about injera here so thanks a lot TFL!

Feeling more than contented, we just bought some KFC which is my favorite fried chicken of course with some rice and lots of gravy (I hope you don't find it strange, I think it's only here where it is done!) and some ice cream (again with strange flavours!) for a simple celebration.

It was what I ate too during the 12 grueling hours of the exam.

And some mangoes just harvested today!

God blessed me with another year in my life and I am very thankful for it along with all the blessings that I have received this year. Thank you TFLers! I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

There are 2 reasons why I am celebrating!

First is, it's my dad's 72nd birthday and second is...

The one who is typing this post that you are currently reading is NOW a PROFESSIONAL LICENSED TEACHER!!!

Yay! I really did not expect this. Various sources state that the Licensure Exam for Teachers is the most difficult licensure exam in our country. Yes, more difficult than exams for physicians, lawyers, architects and engineers! In fact it has the lowest passing rate about 10-20% for elementary and 20-46% for secondary level. Very far from the 60++% for physicians. It is not because the students are not good but because the exam is extremely difficult; it has the widest coverage based on the professional qualities of a teacher and almost all items are situational with all options having equal probability so each requires careful analysis. The moment  I left the examination room, I really conditioned myself that I will not pass because I had to rely most of the time on my gut feeling and maybe only close to 10% of the items were taught in school. But I prayed and prayed and the Almighty with His greatness and goodness granted me my license. I really don't know how to translate this but walang pagsidlan ang galak ko!  All of the hardships and sacrifices of mine and my parents are so worth it. They paid off. My dream is now in my hands.

I'm really sorry if this post is getting too long but I'm just extremely happy and overwhelmed and still can't believe that I can now legally practice the profession.

So I made the fruit cake a week ago as a surprise for my dad. I know it is not commonly eaten this time but its really one of the cakes that we adore, in fact maybe more than chocolate cake and we make sure to buy at least one once it is available in store. Some fruitcakes use honey and taste more delicate but I grew up with the darker bolder kind made with molasses so that's what I made, hence their dark color. I made them into smaller cakes instead of a single big cake because, a full fruitcake requires so much in preparing the tin so it will not burn in the long bake. If it has a high risk of burning in a standard oven, what more in the clay pot over a wood fire! I have no plans to burn all of that expensive fruit.

This fruitcake is a simple one: golden and dark raisins and candied orange and lemon peel soaked in dark rum for 3 days and sunflower seeds. I know some folks age their fruit in liquor for a year but that's the only time I have, still better than no soaking at all. I used sunflower seeds because they're cheaper and taste a little like walnuts to me and I don't have to chop them to disperse them evenly in the cakes. If I had the money and they were available, I would also put candied cherries, candied pineapple, pecans, and walnuts.

As simple as the fruit mix may seem, these cakes are loaded with fruit! I almost the thought that I did not have enough cake batter to hold them! It has 600+g of fruits and seeds for just over a cup of flour! As little as they may look, they are quite heavy and dense and took a full hour to bake.

This is them hanging out in their "oven".

I made 2 batches: one with only the fruits and one with spices namely cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, I didn't put ground ginger in fear of my fruitcakes tasting like pumpkin pie. I also took one from each batch, poke holes all over them and fed them with alcohol to at least age for a week. I aged them in the fridge because I live in a hot climate and it is still summer now.

Here is how they look like on the second day.

And after a week, I don't know if it's the light but they seem darker.

Here are some of them up close. The tops are shiny which we never seem to observe in commercial fruitcakes.

One from the plain batch.

One from the spiced batch.

The plain fruitcake that's fed with alcohol.

The spiced one fed with dark rum. It's the heftiest of the batch!

To me, it just looks like a mini version of a classic British fruitcake with just a shiny top. They taste perfect. I think it really need a lot of candied peel because to us, it is what makes fruitcake taste like fruit cake. Perfectly sweet with the molasses really coming through. The unfed ones were not as moist as we like. For the flavor: the plain ones were good but they can't match the fragrance of the spiced ones. The combination of fruit and spices are sublime. So our favorite and the one I'm going to do if I will make fruitcakes again is the spiced one that's fed with dark rum. It tastes just like the ones we buy even though it has an incomplete cast of fruits and maybe even better because I made it, there's more fruit to it than cake.

It really did not cross my mind that I will bake and even age fruitcakes someday or I will pass the Licensure Exam for Teachers and be a professional teacher. I'm really just happy for me and my parents. That's all folks, have a great day!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I do not have much time now to post and have fun in this wonderful community as before because of my classes and training so I am shaking up the format of my posts. :) Before, they are super wordy but now I will keep them short and sweet with maybe just a few pictures.

Xuixo (also spelled chuchos but I think xuixos looks way cooler!) is a vienoisserie from Spain. They are made with a yeast-risen dough which may be laminated or not that is filled with crema catalana, rolled into a croissant or baton shape, deep-fried then rolled in sugar. I just learnt them from Gemma Stafford in one of her travel series in Spain and as she said, the xuixo just might be the ancestor of the cronut.

I made some for mothers' day and my mom's birthday but I did not have time to post it or even take photos. They were so delicious that I made another batch.

The dough was raised with my starter which is lightning fast these days. Already doubled in 2 hours and more than tripled in less than 4 hours. If my bread made from it do not have the tang, I would think that I'm baking with commercial yeast! I laminated it with butter with a single and a double turn.

The dough already laminated. I used a vanilla custard for the filling. I shaped them into batons because it is much easier and I overfilled them but I still managed to seal them properly.

I fried them them until golden on low flame then rolled them in sugar. I did not have fine or caster sugar but it worked just fine. I accidentally poked a hole on one of them while frying so it leaked and the custard burnt on the surface. Although deep-fried, they were not greasy at all with all of the components in great harmony.

I honestly like the neat look of those not rolled in sugar but of course it lacks the extra sweetness and crunch.

Soft, light, flaky, crispy but has the body to hold that rich and overflowing custard. ¡Delicioso!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Majority of the heavy work and projects for the mid of the semester were done, I just have to compile them in a portfolio so now I can relax and prepare for exams and do some heavier baking/cooking. Still, I can't function well during hectic times without making bread so for a forced "bake", I made a simple bread: steamed buns; can be cooked indoors in under 20 minutes. I made this about 2 weeks ago when our professors were mad giving projects after projects, just before going to class.

This is different from the normal mantou; aside from being sweeter, they were also lighter with a less bready texture and  instead of a smooth top, it is cracked that's why they're also called as smiling or laughing buns. It is really their appearance that make them pretty and eye-catching. It is consider huge smile is a hallmark of a well-made bun. This phenomenon is due to the use of a second (chemical) leavening agent. If you are a traditionalist, you would hunt down the elusive ammonium bicarbonate to make them "smile". But as much as I want to try the real thing, it's impossible to find it here. Well, I am always open to making changes for recipes to work out for me so I just substituted it with double acting baking powder and it worked fine. I think the key to smiling is in the technique in shaping the buns.

The dough was made with AP and sourdough instead of yeast, water, white sugar, salt and baking powder with a little bit of canola oil. Bulk ferment took 6 hours then I rolled it into a tight cylinder then immediately to the fridge. Next day divide into 4 pieces by twisting and ripping each off the cylinder. Without any proofing, I steamed it over high heat for 20 minutes then you will see them smiling and laughing at you which a really proud moment.

I think I should have made them smaller because the three of them were not able to support their own weight and collapsed and smiled at their sides which is not as stunning. Luckily, one was grinning.  Texture was light but with a slight cake-like denseness. I can't detect any tang probably offset by the sugar. Overall, very delicious even plain. I'm wondering if they will still smile if I fill them. They only way to find out is to make them. See you all on my next adventure. Thanks!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Ian's techniques with my antics.

It's been ages since I last tried potato in bread. But since Ian always puts it into his bread, I was inspired to make a potato bread this time. I boiled it until very tender then mashed it including the skin like what he does. Saves trouble from peeling and has added benefits too.

I found some cheap cream cheese the other day so I immediately grabbed it. I have also been wanting to try cream cheese in bread (because Ian raves about the texture and moistness it gives to breads) for a long time but I can't because it is so expensive here. The flavor has has zero difference with the expensive brand that I know! I think l see a repeat with my breads and more cheesecakes down the road.

This is again an uncharted territory for me so a lot of mishaps for this bread but it still turned out very good. First, I forgot to take into account the water of the potato and the cream cheese. It was like kneading soup, I had to rescue it with the addition of a lot of flour throwing my "mental ratios" way way off. By the end, I managed to come up with a dough and kneaded it until some sort of a windowpane.

After a one hour ferment, I found the dough lacking strength and spreading too much so I gave it a stretch and fold; the improvement in strength was very obvious. I gave it another 2 sets of S&F's, one hour apart. Bulk fermentation took 4 hours at 34°C. What started as soup ended up as a very strong and silky dough. My starter was also pretty strong, the dough doubles after each S&F.

I divided them into 4 and shaped them into boules. Because of so much activity of the dough, I refrigerated it immediately otherwise it will overproof. I think I am gaining experience of how to read the dough. The next day I cooked them using the "guo kui" method.

Then there's another problem; because of the added flour, I ended up with more dough that my pot can handle. The dough was proofed right but were very bubbly, delicate, and sticky. At the skillet, they expanded unexpectedly huge and almost stuck to each other, very difficult to deal with. Now I know why guo kui has a very low hydration. I made a decision to bake only 3 of them and keep the last one that is on the brink of overproofing in the freezer. They continued expanding in the clay pot and stuck to each other and the pebbles, I had to pry them from things they touch that's why they have this mangled appearance but I find them beautifully rustic. Baking time took 30 minutes for each batch. The last one I baked was not affected negatively and we think it is the prettiest.

Flavor is wonderfully tangy with a buttery cream cheese and potato aroma. It was quite neutral for sweet or savory combos. We ate it with peanut butter and I think it is a nice base dough for filled buns. It was a combination of a crispy caramelized crust and a very soft moist crumb. Heavenly! It is our favorite bread to date. My past enriched breads were soft but this one is just on a whole other level of softness and moistness. I don't know if it was the potato or cream cheese or both who was/were responsible for that. Ian was so right about the texture! Thanks to all bakers who experimented with cream cheese in dough but biggest thanks to Ian for always bringing it to light!


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