The Fresh Loaf

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PalwithnoovenP's blog

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I really had luck when I finally raised my own sourdough starter. It was God's gift. Now I can bake my own bread that can't be really copied by anyone else. This is really a major leap in my baking. A bread made with primitive leaven baked with primitive methods back when there are still no ovens, this is some real primitive bread made with love.

I'm really enjoying my accomplishments as a baker and this one especially because I've been dreaming of it for years and now, it's finally here! This post is all about evolution not only as a baker but as a human. I've always felt out of place since I was a child except when I'm with my parents and my closest friends. I can't play any musical instrument, can't play any sport because of severe scoliosis (S-shape 30 degrees upper curve - 40 degrees lower curve), can't do math really well, and can't appreciate "trendy stuff. Now I realized that baking is my true passion and I really shine in it but nobody appreciates it here aside from my parents so when I joined TFL a year ago I felt accepted. There's is almost no better feeling than being accepted; I could almost cry while typing this, but you have no idea how you folks have made me happy. Every time I get a notification that someone commented on a post, I feel euphoric. Posting in TFL is really great, I really saw the evolution of this blog, my breads and my techniques. They really got better over time. Sometimes I read my own posts and I'm surprised how well they are written, it's like reading another person's work. A bonus is I had friends here from different parts of the globe that help me with my passion for languages, also appreciated by only a few people where I live. I really just want to say a sincere and big THANK YOU first to God, then to Floyd, and to you all good TFLers!

I didn't follow any formula. I took a bit from my starter and fed it and left if for 12 hours until double for the first levain build. Sorry if I used any wrong terms, I still have an inadequate sourdough vocabulary.

It's full of holes and clearly more than double.

I took all of it and doubled it with flour and water and left it again for 12 hours until doubled.

Here it is after 12 hours. Growth can be clearly seen, I think it's also more than doubled.

I autolyzed the flour and water at the 10th hour mark so 2 hours of autolyze in total. I used AP flour for a softer bread; ever since I used AP for a lean hearth bread, I fell in love with it. I also didn't add too much water, it's much drier than what I usually do. I am not after big holes now after being enlightened that they are fine but not totally necessary. A well made low hydration dough is better than a mishandled wet dough that depends purely on luck to be fine.

At the 12th hour mark, the levain and salt were incorporated into the dough. You can clearly see the difference in color. I made and feed my starter only with unbleached bread flour. Bread flour is the only variety of flour here that comes unbleached so that's what I used for my starter so there is a higher chance of presence of friendly microbes because they were not killed by the bleaching process and it can't be a potential starter killer.

I did 60 slap and folds to incorporate the starter and salt. The dough became a shaggy mass. After 40 minutes, I then followed it with 3 sets of with 40 minutes in between. By the last fold it was much much smoother and uniform. I can describe it as silky. After 30 minutes from the last fold I, as I am already very tired and sleepy (it was already 2 AM) from all the training I received all day, I shaped it into a boule without pre-shaping and put it seam-side up in a cloth line rice floure bowl for an overnight cold poof. 

Afternoon the next day, I pulled it out from the fridge and saw that it did not expand very much. Could it be my starter is slow or not used to cold temperatures? I let it proof for another hour (I planned to proof it for another hour but it was getting dark and a thunderstorm is coming) then I flipped onto the very hot lid of my clay pot preheated over a blazing wood fire the scored it to bake it gravity-defying style.

After 30 minutes, it was flipped for the top to face the heat source below. I tilted the bread this time the whole time the top was baking so the "sides" will be the one to blister and brown rather than the score mark.

The color looks like there were whole grains in it but there's none! Very even color and there are no burnt spots.The crust was thin and crispy! So nice, the prettiest loaf I made!

Some close-up shots of the crust.

My signature shot!

With this promising beauty, the crumb was not so much. It was dense with some random large holes. I think they were the ones called "the room where the baker sleeps". I suspect underproofing (I really just squeezed this bake in my tight schedule because I really want to try sourdough out of too much excitement) or poor shaping as the cause of this. What do you think? My adjustment for next let them proof at room temperature

Thank God it was not undercooked. Despite the less than optimal crumb, the flavor was wonderful. I ate the whole loaf, it became a part of my breakfasts before going to my training. I need a lot of energy for the training especially for the accent neutralization part. It was so difficult! My teacher said I have a strong "British" accent and I am the only one who has it among the trainees too so I am getting attention I'm not used to. My co-trainees only have traces of our native language in their accents so I am the one who is the most difficult to neutralize. I struggle especially in drills about "t" and "r"; Yes, we roll our "R" in our native language but I am used to non-rhotic English. The American t and r in [otter, wetter, butter,] are giving me a headache; in class I always pronounce them as "Aht-tuh" "Wet-tuh" "But-tuh" so I usually have to repeat them many times until I get them right only to have the same "mistakes" the next day but practice makes perfect and we still have a long way to go in our training so I hope I get them right by the end of it.

The aroma was not yeasty, very different from all the breads I made, instead it has a nice, sweet, nutty aroma. The flavor was sweet with just a slight sour that's very mouth watering and appetite enhancing. I want to be more sour but Zhou Clementine is still very young, fed often and kept at room temperature, I have to wait until she ages in the fridge. The texture was dense but the flavor really made want to eat it slice after slice. I don't know what's with the sourness but it really goes great with peanut butter, lots of it! It's the prefect breakfast and snack for me. A very nice bread for a first SD. I'm so excited to try another SD loaf when I'm not in a hurry. I bet it will be much better. I also can't wait to experiment with add ins. Just wait for it!

It was so much fun! I really felt like I was in the old times; just discovered wild yeast then finding a way to bake the new kind of bread before there was an oven. A real primitive bread! Like in the old times that people grow their own food, here are some photos from our yard. They are not as beautiful as some of your gardens but they are what we grow here.

Mangoes hanging low from the tree.

A young coconut tree planted by my dad.

Three week old tamarind plants.

.Bandera Española. It has a very Spanish sounding name. The Spanish really have a big influence in our language. In 1930's it was still common for everyday speech, in fact we found love letters of my great grandfather for my great grandmother written in Spanish. I wish learning Spanish was passed on up to my generation so we can understand what the love letters say.

Some Lagundi flowers. The leaves are an excellent cough remedy. The butterfly has almost the same colors as teh flowers. So beautiful!

Santan flowers. Yellow santan is blooming very nicely.

Finally, the white santan has bloomed. I never tried nectar from white santan but I'm sure it will be delicious too.

And some orchids! They're really beautiful even if they only bloom once a year!

I hope you enjoyed this one! Thank you very much! Job

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Meet Zhou Clementine, my sourdough starter! 

Exactly a fortnight ago I made "it" and documented my sourdough journey and success. I hope you enjoy it! Come along!

For years, I tried to raise my own starter to no avail. All of my attempts were futile despite my best effort to stick to the recipe as closely as possible. I don't know what was going wrong so after each attempt I go through a long period of reclaiming the broken pieces of myself before trying again.

1st attempt: Rye flour and pineapple juice- molds grew on it. First time to use rye flour too that I specifically bought                         for raising a starter. After the failure, I didn't refrigerate it so I ended up spoiling a very expensive bag of                       rye flour! More frustrations to shatter my already broken heart.

2nd attempt: White flour and pineapple juice- it turned pink.

3rd attempt: Whole wheat flour and pineapple juice- again, molds grew on it.

4th attempt: Whole wheat flour and water- it stank very badly.

From all the notes in my head, they are all always liquid/batter type starter made in the summer. Maybe the temperatures are too warm that's why molds and undesirable microorganisms grew because the environment is more favorable for them.

Lots of recipes for starters too that many suggested but they almost always require whole grains and precise measurements; stuff I don't have and can't do. I really want to have my own starter now since I made a great lean bread; I really want to make it sourdough because it's the only way to make it better. "I can't fail now!" I said to myself. I decided to make a firm starter because all of my "liquid" attempts failed, maybe it's the culprit. This one was mainly inspired by Italian sweet starter and Desem but let me clear, I am not trying to emulate any of them. 

With my last bit of courage I designed a process of my own made with just white flour and water with 3 simple rules to follow.

1. When there is activity, feed.

2. When there is none, wait.

3. If nothing happens in a fortnight, quit!

*The average temperature from the initial mixing of flour and water up to now that she is strong and predictable is 91F.

Sunday May 15, I mixed a small amount of flour until I formed a soft and not sticky dough.

I buried it in flour for protection.

I planned to keep it for 2 days before feeding but there was a big activity the next morning (May 16) and it shocked me! I smelled a nice fruity smell, like a banana.

I don't have time so I planned to feed it in the afternoon. It got bigger!

I fed it. The dough ball was rock hard when taken out. I used a teaspoon from the moist center and fed it with flour and water until a soft sticky dough was formed about the size of a mandarin orange. 

This blue bowl is her feeding bowl up to now.

I've been fooled! It was the gassy bacteria that makes establishing a starter more difficult at work! But there's activity so as in rule no. 1 I fed it. In four hours, cracks were present in the flour, a sure sign of activity!

After another 4 hours, it broke to the surface of the flour. Afraid of an overflow, I fed it again the same as before, now it's smelling like a cross between banana and mango.Then it went quiet for 2 days. After 2 days (May 19) there was some activity again so I fed it again but didn't take any pictures because I was too busy then I did not feed it again for three days.

Here is it after 3 days (May 22) of fasting. A sharp sour smell greeted my nose!

I gathered a tablespoon amount from the crusty exterior and the very gooey center and doubled it with flour and water.

I transferred it to clean jar to see growth more clearly.

I checked it after 36 hours (May 24). It smelled moldy, I almost want to threw it bit I can clearly see it doubled. Upon closer inspection what appears to be a moldy top is just the dry crust that has contact with the air.

I gathered a teaspoon amount form the gooey center and fed it with flour and water until it was the size of a mandarin again and pressed it into the bottom of a clean jar.

I didn't mark it with a rubber band because it's difficult for this shape of a jar but there's no need you can clearly see growth! I transferred it to a smaller jar too because it's more appropriate for this amount of dough.

This is it 6 hours after feeding, it has already doubled!

It tripled in 12 hours and stayed that way up to 24 hours (May 25). At the 25th hour mark, it's starting to go flat.

I continue that feeding schedule and yesterday (May 28) I noticed that her breathing holes were bigger. She is also getting more fragrant and sour each day! Amazing!

Here she is today (May 29) exactly a fortnight old. 24 hours after feeding yesterday, she has tripled and is smelling very sweet, fragrant and sour!

I plan to nourish and feed her for another fortnight before she takes a trip to the fridge. I don't know how it will affect her, I can imagine it's like me from a hot climate going to siberia! I think she's ready to raise some bread. I'll post about it soon. Just smelling the sourness makes my mouth water! 

I can't wait as Zhou Clementine slowly reveals her personality to me as the days go by!


I am also saying a temporary goodbye to posting in TFL. I just landed my first job so it means less time to bake and post but I will always drop by her to check your creations. I'm so nervous and excited and my training will start tomorrow. I never knew I will ever do this but I think I'm going to love it. I'm going to be an English teacher for Koreans for 3 months, short and sweet but who knows if it gets extended. Nobody really appreciates my language skills and interests aside from my parents and good folks here so I'm happy it will be put to good use.

Thanks and see you soon! Job

PalwithnoovenP's picture

First time to join a challenge like this, I'm so excited! The deadline for bread baking day is on June 1, 2016 so if you're interested to join, you still have time to formulate and submit your entries! Just follow the instructions here:

*I don't have an oven and measuring tools so I take a different approach to baking. I hope this one qualifies...

In our country, rice is the staple so it is inevitable that it's the special flour I chose to use; it can be seen from breakfast and lunch to afternoon snack, dinner, and even for midnight snack! That's what I do especially in weekends. It is also used in savory dishes up to desserts turned into hundreds of different rice cakes. We also have different varieties of rice but the two main types are glutinous and non-glutinous rice. Each has different properties so they are used in different proportions in various dishes for different results; that's what I did too.

We love rice so much that we have different names for different forms of rice! In English, they will only be called rice!

Palay- rice plant
Bigas- uncooked rice
Kanin- cooked rice
Bahaw- cold cooked rice
Kaning-Baboy- spoiled rice

This one has many inspirations but in the end is just an answer for a bread with crisp exterior and a soft, light, fluffy interior. This is my most complex bread to date though not as complex as many of the breads someone here makes, you know who you are! I chose ingredients based on the properties each will give to the bread. These are in no way proven by bread baking science, they're just my theories.

Some bread flour for strength and volume, cake flour for lightness, rice flour for crispness and sticky rice flour for a specific chew. I also used two leavening agents; yeast for flavor and fermentation and baking powder to take care of the low and non-gluten flours. A bit of  milk, salt, sugar and butter for some richness and flavor.

To ensure maximum strength, I kneaded the bread flour separately without the other flours. I used water for this dough so no fat to interfere with gluten formation and added a bit of instant yeast; this will also serve as a pre-ferment for more flavor.

I kneaded it well until the gluten is well developed and passed a thin windowpane. This is the first dough.

The sticky rice flour I added is a large amount relative to the bread flour and it does not bind readily with water too. I pre-gelatinized it by cooking it with some milk similar to a tang zhong so it will bind easier with the other ingredients.

How are you going to believe me that it was sticky rice flour? Here is the proof.

Here are the rest of the ingredients. 

Anti-clockwise from the sticky rice roux: rice flour, sugar, cake flour, baking powder and salt.

Here is the second dough. More like a thick batter. I will adjust the liquid next time.

Here is the first dough after fermenting for an hour. It has risen by a lot.

Incorporating the second dough into the first dough is not very easy. I added a little bit more flour to "correct" the consistency. I just added equal quantities bread flour and cake flour. I kneaded it well until one cohesive mass and added the butter at the very end and kneaded again until smooth.

It still managed to pull off some sort of a windowpane despite the abundance of low and non-gluten flours.

The final dough ready for the overnight rise. It's not very smooth like a normal bread dough.

After an overnight rest, the dough is flattened and cut into ovals using my little llanera.

They are the proofed in my larger llaneras for an hour.

I also made a rice glaze for the rolls. Sticky rice and normal rice flour close to 2:1 ratio boiled in some water until slightly thick. I got the inspiration from the cornstarch glaze used in some breads.

After proofing, they are brushed with the rice glaze.

 I scored some because I forgot that scoring makes no difference in my clay pot.

They are baked in my pre-heated clay pot for 20 minutes with steam for the first 10 minutes then turned over for the last 10 minutes. Here are the results.

If you look closely, you can see some cracks in the crust (perhaps the photo doesn't show this). It was delicate and crispy! One got slightly burnt because I didn't rotate the clay pot evenly.

The rice glaze really makes them shiny and extra crispy too!

Some of the scrap dough I re-rolled and cut became monster rolls! So HUGE!

It looks like a scone!

Here is what I am most excited about to share the results, the crumb! The crumb of this bread is very special and very difficult to describe. Soft, fluffy, light, and delicate but with that unique chew. The chew is different compared to breads made with pure bread flour; it was squishy and elastic but gives in then bounces back differently. Like a cloud then like a pillow then like a cloud again! See? I'm running out of words. It has a dense feel to it but it's so light, its easy to pull out from the crispy crust!

I like to munch on the soft insides first and save the crispy crust for last.

I also cooked one English muffin style; on a hot pan, grilled for five minutes on both sides. I cooked it with the glaze on it too because it was unplanned. I made this experiment because I also flipped them in my clay pot, so I just want to see if they will yield the same results with the English muffin method being much easier. No! They're very different! The outside is not as crispy and looks and tastes really similar to a "real" English muffin.

I fork split it too just like real English muffins. I think it's identical to the crumb of those sliced with a knife. It is a drier dough so it doesn't have those famous nooks and crannies but it has a special texture; perfect for sandwiches.

A very nice bread. Very different and special from all the breads I had. I will adjust hydration next time and shape it differently to maximize crust development. The contrast of the light and fluffy crumb and crispy and delicate crust is the highlight of this bread.

A tongue sandwich from the leftover tongue last week. So delicious! I should make tongue into sandwiches more often!

Thank you very much! Job

PalwithnoovenP's picture

My dad is now a septuagenarian! He just turned 70, thank God! We're truly blessed! I've been busy this past two days preparing for and celebrating my dad's birthday.

I inherited many traits from my dad. His nose, his height, his huge veiny hands, his hair that grays early, his love for all things vintage (What 21 year old would love to listen to Elvis Presley, Jo Stafford, Connie Francis, Engelbert Humperdinck; to drive and gaze at vintage cars; to collect old cutlery and kitchenware?), his creativity, his resourcefulness, and his fiery temper! Just joking! He will be very mad if he reads this!!! Again, a joke!

We love to drive. On his birthday last year, I got my student license to learn driving. A year later, only 3 trips on the national highway; my license is already expired but I had a lot of learning. I already know the vehicle well though not as well as dad. He also maintains them well, all of our "cars" are 30+ years and still well conditioned ready to go head on with brand new models. They also have unique parts that allow them to travel on mountain paths and rough terrain.

Our International Harvester Scout 1972. This is where I first learnt to drive.

A jeep that dad himself assembled in 1978. This is my practice vehicle in the highway.

What trait I love most that I inherited from him and I think it really defines me as his son is his behemoth sweet tooth! We really love sweets! I remember when I was a child, we use to share a can of condensed milk for dessert! We also like sweet and rich desserts; other people will often tell that they will have a headache from the sweetness but it's fine for us!

We also love watching James Bond films. Watching it is our bonding aside from driving and making desserts. He loves the classic Bond films so his favorite is Sean Connery in Dr. No. My favorite is the latest Bond, Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. It also happens that it is the film where my favorite Bond girl appeared, Vesper Lynd! I really love how Eva Green played the character there. During his birthday we made a Pierce Brosnan marathon of Bond films.

Because we love sweets and James Bond is British (it's illogical, I know!), I planned to make a classic British sweet dish for his special day, Sticky toffee pudding! I really have a soft spot for British things. I also have a slight British accent when speaking English, just started about a couple of years ago which I must admit is a Harry Potter influence. The "standard" accent here is American but I sound like a drowning cat when trying so when I tried to apply the British pronunciation, I sounded smoother and it has become natural for me now. From watching a lot of British films, I have pretty mixed English vocabulary now but I still can't call fries chips, it will confuse my friends severely.

His best friend's son working in Saudi Arabia just sent us a pack of dates. It is one of our favorite dried fruits! Not sure what is the variety but it's perfect timing for the pudding!

We pitted the dates one by one and divided it among ourselves. Dad quickly packed half of it for him to snack on. Mom and I divided the rest between us. Though I want to eat them immediately, I really saved it for this day! I have to hide it from their prying eyes or my share will be eaten too!

I based this on many recipes online. Some call for mixed spice, coffee, and even malted chocolate drink such as Ovaltine! Ingredients common in all are flour, eggs, butter and sugar. I just noted their amounts and proceeded to work my magic in doing this without measurements. I used dark brown sugar for a lovelier colour and caramel flavor that complements the dates well. I creamed the butter well using just a spoon a bowl until fluffy. I added two eggs one at a time for easier mixing and mixed vigorously until mixture is super aerated. I folded in plain flour very gently at the very end.

The dried dates were softened in boiling water along with a bit of bicarbonate of soda. There's no other leavening agent in it other than that. It will react with the acid present in the brown sugar to produce a light sponge. Just after a few minutes and they're all soft and juicy!

I mixed it into the batter at the very last minute so as not to lose any of the carbon dioxide produced by the chemical reaction.

I deposit the gorgeous batter into greased and floured llaneras. For little cakes, I prefer to grease and flour my tins; not only does it makes the cake pop right out of the tin when unmoulded, I also love the slight crust it yields on the cakes.

I baked it in my pre-heated clay pot for 25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I also made a bigger one for lovers, really for my mom and dad to share and it baked for 35 minutes, the last 10 minutes over embers. Because my clay pot doesn't have a flat bottom and I do not have a rack that fits inside the pot, I have to put them on top of another llnaera so all cakes ended up being lopsided. Still pretty and yummy for us! It is already fortunate that there are no spills that burnt.

The cakes rose nice and high in the pot. I can't explain the bubbles that broke through the surface, it always happens when baking cakes in my clay pot. No worries! More poking will be done later! Their look reminds me of a Madeleine with it's signature hump!

Here's how it looks like when unmoulded. I didn't bother to unmould it onto a plate for a better presentation, it is meant to be homey and rustic. The llanera also serves as the bowl where you eat it, less mess and less dishes to clean!

After cooling a bit, you must poke a lot of holes to facilitate absorption of the lovely silky rich toffee sauce (Just simmered cream, brown sugar and butter. I used whole milk for my sauce instead of double cream because I couldn't find it.) that will turn this into sticky toffee pudding. My chopsticks are perfect for this! It's pretty therapeutic!

A bath of toffee sauce and we're sold. Love the sweet comforting flavor. A little bit of cream or custard won't hurt, ice cream too is a nice touch, even some flaky sea salt to offset the sweetness but we like as it is. At least, it's getting cooler, we're eating this comforting cold weather dessert at 81F. We're really feeling the cold for a week now because it's always 93F for two months. It's also starting to rain now.

The sides and bottom of each cake are crispy. The crumb is fine and soft and full of caramel flavor. The dates also come through but not much of a textural interest because I chopped them too finely, perhaps I will leave them whole next time. Dad really loved this because he loves dates, caramel and sweet and rich things! I'm excited to try more British sweets. What's next? Jam roly-poly? Spotted dick? Or Sussex pond pudding?

Here is the Lover's Sticky Toffee Pudding!


A simple pork tongue stew for dinner. My dad and I really like tongue! It's our favorite organ meat / sweetbread.

Some Dayang dayang. It's is dad's favorite among my original creations partly because he plays a huge part in it. He requested me to make some since he already made the coconut sweet. Here is my second time making it. The main change is I used plain flour for these for a softer texture which seemed counter productive. It didn't have the volume and lightness of the first batch because of the lower protein so it was denser and chewier.

I didn't fry it too dark this time so no bitterness, only coconut flavor.

Here is the coconut sweet I was talking about. Dad made this by himself over a wood fire for a good two hours.

Still the same. Lots of cake crumbs for coating. Very delicious!

Happy birthday daddy! I love you! Mahal na mahal kita!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Just when I'm about to give up. God gave me this method to use for baking lean breads without an oven. This is my last attempt for "European style hearth breads" though pretty good, look-wise and taste-wise it still wasn't the same. It had a burnt "muddy" taste with slightly underdone crumb that is tight despite a very wet dough but I'm pretty contented with it. Although I've said that I will try various flavor combos, honestly I haven't made a lean bread again because of fear of the same results. I don't how I've thought of this method, I just remember I woke up from sleep and I thought of it. I said I will try it as soon as I can but it took almost half a year before I did it because I'm fed up with the results I get while pursuing this style of bread. 

A lot has influenced me to come up with this method. My labor intensive double cook method, a failed loaf, the tandoor and this oven are my biggest inspirations. I study the bread baking process of lean hearth breads closely too. In a nutshell, the bottom is cooked by conduction and the top is cooked by convection in that's why the loaf expands, scores open and the crust very crispy. My only problem now in my clay pot is the top crust needs to be cooked by convection and radiation, NOT by conduction which is how I made it in my "best/last" attempt. When those are done, my theory is I will have a bread that's just like a good loaf baked in a wood fired oven, NO soft pale crust with charred hard areas and squished score marks.

First got the idea from a failed rye loaf. It was so sticky that it stuck to the llanera even if it was oiled liberally. Out of my frustration of I just tossed it forcefully to the clay pot and did not care for it anymore. Little did I know that it ended up upside-down and the top of the loaf faced the heat source directly and got a pretty even brown from the hot air and radiant heat. I was so surprised by the gorgeous accident! It has only one pitfall, it can't be unmolded so the pretty bread has to be "destroyed" to be eaten. I said to myself, if I can only replicate this without a mold, it will be BOOM! Then I remember the tandoor, where the bread is stuck to the sides of and face the hot coals directly, maybe I can apply that but I only saw flat breads baked in it successfully. That was shattered when I saw Taiwanese pepper cakes, filled buns are baked in a tandoor like oven with no issues. I had another bit of courage but my clay pot is not built like a tandoor, impossible to stick bread to the sides. Finally, when I saw that oven from Central Asia, everything just came together to work like magic!

The dough is just a straight high hydration (maybe 70%) dough with a bit of instant yeast and salt. I used pure AP flour this time to lessen chewiness because my loaves with all or part bread flour are a bit too chewy for my liking. No autolyse or preferments, I'm concerned more with the technique than the flavor so if it goes wrong, only a little effort and ingredients are wasted.

I gave it 3 sets of folds in 30 minute intervals in its 2 hour bulk rest at room temperature. I have a new technique too, I just fold it in the bowl like what Trevor does in his Champlain sourdough. I pre-shaped it into a boule and let it rest for 20 minutes. I then shaped it into a tight boule and put it into a bowl dusted with rice flour seam-side up for a cold overnight proof. This is my first time to do a retarded proof, I normally retard during bulk then shape and proof the next morning before baking. I might stick to this one from now on for convenience and less stress on baking day.

I pre-heated my pot over a wood fire for 20 minutes until blazing hot. In to the very hot lid, I inverted the dough wetted first with water to ensure sticking. This is contrary to oven baking where you want no sticking when you slide the dough to the stone from the peel!

Using rice flour is like magic, first time  to unmold a fully proofed free form loaf from a bowl without sticking. I then scored it using a razor blade with just a straight cut down the center. With limited practice, I'm not the best person to score this wet dough. I am not even trying to get an ear, I just want the loaf to expand properly.

After scoring, I rushed this to the very hot fire so the yeast can have a feeding frenzy and the trapped gases expand well to cause a great spring even if the dough looks like a flat pancake now.

Here is my method. The lid will act now as the bottom of the pot so the bottom of the loaf will cook from conduction. The very hot clay pot "body" will now act as a lid to trap the heat and steam to cook the top of the loaf. It is somewhat physically demanding because of the temperatures of the things I need to hold, a great deal of care must be made. No need to steam the pot too, the steam generated by the dough is enough. It is like baking a full batch of bread in a WFO, in my clay pot a single loaf is a full batch!

I put the lid on another pot that is meant for direct fire cooking so it won't soot like the bottom of the pot. After 30 minutes, the final spring has stopped and the structure is set, I flipped the whole pot with the bread still sticking to the lid to brown the top of the loaf with the very hot air and intense radiant heat from the bottom of the pot. I planned to go straight to this process at the start of the bake but I thought that the bread is still heavy and dense and will be too fragile to support itself while hanging down and may collapse, fall or tear ending in a huge mess. I haven't taken a photo of the loaf at this point because this scene was too intense, there are so many things going on.

I angle the pot too so the sides will also face direct heat because it is not perfectly flat. The rounded bottom of the Palayok is a great help with this because it's easy to maneuver on top of the wood stove. After another 30 minutes, it was done!

This is what I say gravity defying!

Removing it from the lid is easy because the bottom crust is already dry and there are no raised edges on the lid unlike a tin mold. It was just stuck to a few places particularly on the center. I just used a spatula and it came out smoothly leaving just a few crumbs.


Close-up from different parts of the crust. If you look closely, the score is the one with blisters! It looks more like the crust of this type of breads rather looking closer to the crumb. I guess this is because it is the closest to the heat source, I must tilt the pot earlier next time. It is really a bold bake disguised by the tremendous amount of flour that I did not dust in fear of damaging the structure of the loaf I worked so hard to achieve. It is very crispy and a mess to cut but softened a bit during the night and softened more the next day.


It's pretty open, the most open I've ever achieved but somewhat even. I want a more random distribution of larger holes but when it's this pretty, I have nothing to complain. It is soft and not chewy at all due to the AP. It is moist but not underdone which is the biggest stumbling block to the edibility of my loaves of this kind. I think I got the timing right, an hour or more is fine in the clay pot. You can see the bottom crust is underdeveloped because the lid is thick, I might let the bottom cook for 45 minutes next time rather than 30 minutes.

The flavor is nice and full of character because of the cooking process, just like a good bread baked in a WFO. What more if it's sourdough?! For me, the taste is still a bit flat; the tang of SD works well especially in hearth loaves because of its kind of "bland" flavor that is meant to be eaten with anything and everything. The sourness just makes you want to eat more. I once had a sourdough that I really like but the crumb of my loaf is more open and less dense and the crust has a more complex flavor. I just can't imagine if I made this SD! I will work double time to establish a sourdough starter.

Again I will say this again. I can't believe this loaf came out of my clay pot! It's so beautiful! I know you want to see my clay pot in action and as proof that it can bake great bread, here it is! Ang aking Palayok!

Clay Pot Hearth Bread

So now that my clay pot has a vast repertoire and here is the checklist, here's what I can say:


SOURDOUGH, YEAST WATER, WHOLE GRAINS, WAIT FOR ME Y'ALL! With this technique under my belt, I will conquer you in no time! I am accepting FOR NOW that I cannot make pizza or baguette but we never know what a creative mind can do! Ecstatic on how this one turned out! Thank God for giving me this solution!

Thank you very much! Job

PalwithnoovenP's picture

When you want your comeback to be remembered, you have to come back with a bang! Here it is! Last week I promised to go back to bread baking after an addiction to pastries. Well these are viennoiseries, still a hybrid between pastries and bread but there's yeast in it so I consider it closer to breads. I made croissants and pains au chocolat for this week; it's an ambitious bake for an ambitious baker.

Last Sunday (May 8) was Mother's day and today (May 11) is my mom's birthday and we celebrated both occasions today so this is the best time to make something for her and I can't think of a better thing to present her to show my love than croissants and pains au chocolat of course for more decadence. This is not a joke, it's a labour of love even more when you face my situation which I will outline later. And since this is a French thing, I will try to unleash the French man inside me (actually more of some learnings from a month of studying French). I made up the French title based on my little knowledge of French, I do not even know if it's correct or makes sense in French. I just want to say "No Oven Homemade Viennoiseries" if there are any native speakers here, please correct me if I am wrong.

We've been experiencing unusally high temperatures for now. For more than a month the average temperature during the day is 91F and at night it just drops to 85F and an unairconditioned kitchen won't help too (our house is more than a century old built in the old style emphasizing natural ventilation so no possibility to mount an AC). You know the main enemy of croissant making is heat, force it to cope with the heat and you will surely lose. This is not the best time to laminate dough but I do not want to miss this opportunity anymore.I also do not have a work surface and a rolling pin; I only have a small chopping board and a steel pipe. Exact ratios of ingredients are important also. Though I face these adversaries, I still pushed through because this is something exciting and I really want to try this for the longest time.

It seems daunting at first but I found out that like most complex dishes I make, with proper planning, you will conquer laminated doughs. One blogger here really inspired me to try croissants, txfarmer. If you don't know her, she is the lamination queen in this forum; check out her blog with great breads and recipes and stunning photography. She outlined the secrets of croissant making in one of her posts and she is my biggest guide in making this. If you want to make croissants with surgical precision, visit her guide here.


1. Temperatures above 95F are not uncommon- Working with lightning speed is not a request or optional, IT'S AN ORDER AND REQUIREMENT! For a first time laminator, I don't know if I could accomplish that but a few factors can help me. More time in the fridge for a cooler and more relaxed dough for quick operations. Our fridge is also far from the kitchen, about 10 meters so I need to run fast too!

2. No "proper" rolling pin- I used a steel pipe with a good weight. A heavy pipe and the fact that I have large hands means power to roll the dough effortlessly.

3. No work surface- Roll a smaller quantity of dough that will fit the chopping board.

4. No oven- My clay pot has baked so much delicious goodies! Why can't it bake croissants?

So here is my valiant (or rather foolish) quest including my adaptations in croissant making:


The dough is my own recipe, adapted from many sources. Just reading hundreds of croissant recipes is mind boggling because some have contradicting principles. I followed txfarmer's guide, a dry and strong dough so I used bread flour contrary to most that use AP flour. Most recipes use 500g of flour, I know it is a big amount for a first try so I halved the amount. From my 500g bag of flour I poured half of it for an approximate 250g of flour, I then mix in some sugar and salt and a little yeast. I used a very small amount of yeast because I plan to split the croissant making in 3 days.

I added water into flour just until all flour is moistened, it's the driest dough I made; probably close to 50-55% hydration. I didn't add eggs or milk into the dough because I read with a stern warning CROISSANT DOUGH IS NOT A BRIOCHE DOUGH, it should be fairly lean for lightness in the final product. I also used oil instead of butter for the fat component in the dough to save on butter because more will be added later. I don't know if it will affect dough strength, I guess it won't. It undergoes a short bulk fermentation at room temperature for 30 minutes. It's not really a bulk ferment, just a short rest to relax the gluten so it can be shaped into a square before it goes into an overnight chill.


The butter block is simple, just butter flattened into a slab of precise dimensions. Most of the time I read to use a good European style butter for optimum results but I didn't follow it. This is the best butter I could find (in reality, afford), I don't know its textural properties well but we love the flavor. Are you familiar with Anchor butter? It costs around 2$, same as some European brands like Elle & Vire; the tangy Lurpak butter is at 1.8x the price; I want to taste Plugra and Kerrygold but I can't find them in our town, they have good reputations for laminated doughs so I want to try them but maybe they will cost even more if I have the chance to find them!

Most recipes use 250g butter for 500g of flour but you can see it's not exactly 250g so I just used a bit more than half to come up with hopefully the right ratio of the roll-in butter.

I flattened it into a slab by bashing it with my steel pipe while wrapped in a plastic bag. I love this part, the pipe effortlessly flattened it into a slab. I will use parchment next time for a better control of the dimensions and to be more eco-friendly. I prefer this method rather than putting some soft butter on top of the dough and folding the dough on top of it. It's easier but riskier especially in these temperatures. At this point too, I observed the behavior of the butter. It was 96F when I made the butter block and in less than a minute the very cold butter is melting at the edges, I have to re-chill it several times while adjusting the shape.

Into the fridge it goes with the dough for an overnight rest. We want them to have the same consistency before lamination starts. The next morning, they are both cold and the dough is well relaxed to be rolled out easily. It didn't expand very much in the fridge too.


The dough is rolled twice the size of the butter block and the butter is enclosed in it. I put the chopping board on top of a wet cloth so it does not move so I can roll the dough smoothly. Luckily my cutting board is also a good guide for dough dimensions; I don't have enough patience to roll doughs to proper dimensions! It's too much work for me! This is where the square shape comes in handy, you won't have to do many adjustments for the shape, you just roll it into a rectangle.

There are also many ways to enclose the butter, some says fold each corner of the dough on top of the butter to meet at the top to form an X like what txfarmer does; I've chosen the simplest way, roll the dough twice the size of the butter, put the butter block on one half of the dough and fold to enclose the butter.

I put it in the fridge for 3 hours so it can relax well before I do the turns. It is the secret to win the battle in this hot weather. I over compensate for rest time so I won't be frustrated in rolling. This is something that cannot be rushed. "If you want instant gratification, do not make these! Go and buy some at the (far far away) bakery" I told myself. I spread the turns for the whole busy day giving turns when I remember it. It's a much more enjoyable process than impatiently waiting for an hour rest time for a day dedicated to just making croissants.

I divided the paton into 2 so each will fit the cutting board when rolled. Smaller quantities means faster roll times thus less melting of the butter. While I roll one, the other stays in the fridge, after giving a turn I will quickly run to chill it and then get the other one, give it a turn then run again. I really experienced a heavy workout while making these!


Recipes often recommend a different series of turns. Most common is 3 single turns, some 1 double turn and 1 single turn, others 2 single turns and 1 double turn while others push the limit and asks for 4 double turns! Yes, at first I thought more turns=more flaky but txfarmer enlightened me that there is a limit for absolute flakiness; as the saying goes, "everything in excess is opposed to nature".

Since I have 2 patons, I decided to experiment. For one, I will do a double turn followed by single turn and for the other one, 3 single turns. I just want to know if it can affect the crumb.

You can clearly see the first turns. One with a double (tour double ou portefeuille) turn and one with a single (tour simple) turn. The way of enclosing the butter in the dough where the butter is exposed at the sides is a great help too, I could see when the butter is starting to melt. You can see the butter melting in both of these. I really can't comprehend how I even had the courage to photograph this rather than rushing them to the fridge!

The final turn! Both of them just have a single turn. I mark the dough how many turns it underwent so I won't lose count.

An overnight rest again and tomorrow is the BIG day! Here is my set-up in the fridge. I refrigerate all the equipment to keep everything cold. I put them in the freezer too as needed. The tupper box is also a big help because it protects the dough so I won't need plastic wrap, again to be more eco-friendly. I just put some rice flour at the bottom to avoid sticking like how many here use it to flour bannetons.

Good morning! Are you still here? Good! This is the moment of truth! Today I will form and bake my first croissants and pains au chocolat! The one on the left is the one with 3 single turns and the one on the right is the one with a double and single turn.

I divided each into 2 pieces so 2 croissants and pains au chocolat will come from each. I rolled each half and cut it into 2 diagonally to form triangles. The problem with "more but smaller" dough pieces is you'll end up with more imperfect edges than cutting triangles from a large piece of dough because I can't roll a perfect rectangle with neat straight edges so all croissants are not shaped as shraply but it's okay, we're not in a bakery. I also do not like to trim the edges because I don't want to waste them. It didn't have 7 little steps too as txfarmer describes. They were eggwashed before proofing; I don't have a brush too to apply eggwash, I just use my fingers.

To avoid butter pooling at the bottom, croissants need to be fully proofed to slightly overproofed before baking. I think I've taken this too seriously and really overproofed this. What's more difficult is I only have 3 llaneras (oval flan molds that I use as baking tins) and my claypot can only accommodate 3 at a time when baking so I have to proof the other 5 somewhere else then transfer them to the llaneras when the first batch is done baking. Each one was proofed to different levels and it's so much pain transferring fully proofed laminated doughs into llaneras, up to now I do not know how I did it without tearing or compromising the quality! Proofing higher than 80F is risky because the butter might leak and it's 95F while these were proofing so I let it proof at room temperature for 10 minutes then put them in the freezer for 5 minutes to shock them and bring the temperature down quickly.

Next time, I think I will bake them as soon I see the layers clearly. It's easy to overproof them in the blink of an eye in this weather.

They were eggwashed again before being baked in the clay pot over a wood fire at a very high heat for the first 10 minutes so the butter immediately boils and puffs. They are then flipped one by one on the llaneras to brown the top and cooked on low fire for the next 5 minutes and then on embers for the remaining 5 minutes, a total of 20 minutes cooking time.

The clay pot shown here is called a Palayok in our language and it is where the "PAL" in my user name comes from. I thought it's pretty cool because of its meaning in English. You'll see here the wood fire in the first and last stages of baking.

I saw some flowers blooming in the garden and I gave them to mom along with the viennoiseries. We call the flower Bandera Española. She is the one holding them here. She really liked them and smiled as she said thank you. Though she always smiles this one of the rare occasions she smiled because I did something special for her.

Voici le resultat! Here are the results!


The crust is very crispy even though not evenly browned. You could also see the layers.

Here is the crumb. (I haven't had the chance to check all for their crumb to see the difference of the their lamination process or tourage because my parents ate their share immediately. I might stick to 3 single turns next time.) It looks like a honeycomb! Wooh! It's more than enough to make me happy! It is not as open and round as the marvelous croissants txfarmer presents here but for an overproofed dough baked without an oven flipped over halfway through, laminated in a humid almost 100F weather, and made with almost all makeshift equipment; it's as good as it gets!

Crumb on the left when sliced using a knife and on the right crumb when pulled apart by hands.

Summary of the crumb in one photo.

Pains au chocolat:

With crispy, buttery, flaky dough and lots of chocolate, how can you go wrong?!! They're so beautiful! I can't believe I made these and even more that they came out of my clay pot! My mouth watered again when I saw the picture as I'm writing this post! I learnt not to overfill them with chocolate (it will pool on the bottom and burn badly) from a previous cheater's pain au chocolat attempt last year. It was made by cutting lots of butter into flour and folding a number of times, it's like a yeasted rough puff or pie dough. Though quicker and easier to make, the quality never comes close to a real proper laminated viennoiserie!

The pain au chocolat shape fits my situation better because there is a larger surface area of dough that makes a direct contact with the tin for a more even browning and crispness. I will stick to this shape next time though I can't call them "Croissants" anymore because they are not "Crescents" anymore. I like the name "croissant" more because it's shorter and you already know the character of the bread. For those living in France what do you call a laminated dough shaped like a pain au chocolat chocolatine but plain and unfilled with chocolate? I will fill these next time both with sweet and savory things and launch a pain au quelque chose series if that makes sense again! 

It could be a torture to some of you and even me but this is the result of my effort! Shatteringly flaky and crispy!

Mon Petit Pain au Chocolat

Feels like having breakfast in Paris!

I really enjoyed how this one turned out! It's a long but worthwhile post. This really expanded my baking world and with the success of my first foray into laminated dough, I just created a desire within me that will need to be curbed from time to time. I have so many ideas running in my mind now (I would love to create txfarmer's many croissant of course to be butchered twisted by yours truly, I hope the empress won't be mad) but I need to save money for buying lots of butter.

In the hotel where I had my practicum, I have croissants and pains au chocolat daily. The leftover from the breakfast buffet were sent into the employee cafeteria. And I can say with my head held high that the quality of what I made is not far from those made in the hotel!

Someone became a mother this mother's day!

To all moms, a late greeting of Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Birthday Mama! Thank you and I love you!
Maligayang Kaarawan Nay! Salamat po at mahal na mahal ko po kayo!

Thank you very much! Job

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I am on a roll with oriental pastries lately but I gonna move to breads next week. I made hopia again because of my dad's request. If you've been reading my blogs, you probably know it already. Well if you still haven't, hopia is a pastry of Fujianese origin made with flaky pastry filled with various fillings from bean paste to sweet pork. I always want to improve it because it is one of my dad's favorite.

A failed experiment led to this success. Dad has mild rheumatoid arthritis and he said beans are making it hurt worse (I don't know if this is true, could someone please enlighten me?) so even though he loves bean paste especially my mung bean paste, he can't really enjoy it because he can't have too many. I planned to use taro but because I don't have experience in making taro paste, it was a disaster! Instead of a smooth paste, it became granular and hard. So as not to waste it, I still continued and experimented with different shapes to make the hopia better.

The dice shape is taken from a kind of hopia called Dice Hopia. It also filled with bean paste but the crust is not the flaky type (they never were so I can say I am the pioneer of THE flaky dice hopia!), it closer to a shortcrust of a cookie like crust. We do not like that crust but the shape is genius! As you can see, with conventional shapes only to sides are cooked directly on the pan, if you're not careful you can end up with 2 burnt sides and/or pale raw sides. With a dice shape, all 6 sides are cooked perfectly and added bonus is they are crispy and extra flaky from all sides!

It looks like a giant snakes and ladders game. Don't you just wanna throw that dice?

So the shape is an improvement so the only thing left is the filling. I decided to use sweet potato, a purple sweet potato for prettier color, et voila! Perfect filling for those who are avoiding bean paste. Steam the sweet potato, mash then add sugar to taste and a pinch of salt. Cook to a thick paste and you're done!

After filling the flaky pastry, I rolled it into a ball and and pressed the six sides using my finger to form a rough dice. The dice shape will be more defined while grilling. While grilling on a hot dry pan, I constantly press each side with a spatula every time it is turned to give a more beautiful look. I cooked it until all sides are golden brown and crispy.

I made small dice similar to the size of the ones sold in store and two large ones the size of a fist hence the name of this post because they look like the rulers of the dice people. Well, here they are.

The Little Ones

Ladies and Gentlemen, The King and Queen.

The crust is extremely flaky! I don't know why we like flaky things even though it's messy with all the shards falling. This is the flakiest I ever made perhaps I'm getting better with the technique. The sweet potato has the right sweetness and texture. It's delicious though I still like mung bean paste with these more, dad liked it and asked if I can make more next time. I also made the crust a little saltier this time and it was perfect! The crust and filling complement each other so well.

See its flakiness and hear it's crispness here! I forgot to hold my phone horizontally because of too much excitement but still glad I documented it.

Super Flaky Dice

After a couple of days, it's my dad's turn to stir up the kitchen. He made my favorite dessert called Halaya or ube halaya in English is purple yam jam (JAM?! NO! In our household it was never jam like!) or paste. It's a labor intensive dessert so it's mostly only seen on special occasions and for our case only in yam season. Dad makes the best halaya! Period! He is the king of this dessert! (I'm the prince of mung bean paste only in our home) In my whole life, there is no other halaya that ever came close to it, even five star hotels can't make it like him. It is not to sweet and rich like others or you'll throw up after eating more than a teaspoon; it's not laden with artificial colors, it's just made with pure purple yam; its clean milky flavor will keep you coming back for more; but for me the ultimate quality that others can't copy is its kunat (chewiness, firmness? no direct translation), he really knows how to cook it. My grandmother taught him the techniques and now he teaches me.

Unlike other yams, ours doesn't grow underground instead they grow hanging on vines so no dirt residue. Raw whole yams and peeled boiled yams.

The yams are first boiled then peeled and grated. It is them mixed with milk and cooked over low fire (really until your shoulders are sore and your biceps are an inch bigger!) until thick. He never measures too so that's what I do too even in my baking.

No other grater in the house other than a small cheese grater. This is the second most labor intensive part and dad did it all by himself. It would be easier with a grinder or a food processor which we don't have.

The mixture is then put into a copper vat called a tatso then cooked over a wood fire until thick usually 2 hours stirring non-stop. If you stop stirring, it will burn and wont taste good. During his younger days, dad can do this non-stop but he asks for help now from time to time. Even though, I want to do it all, he still wants to do it until as long as he can. Using a wood fire also shows his superb temperature control; it's easier to burn than when you cook it over a gas flame but that's what he's taught so that's what he's teaching me also.

See how runny and liquid the mixture is at first?

The copper vat is older than dad and there is no other pot he used when making this dessert.

When cooked it is portioned into buttered llaneras for the ease of unmolding. It is also the traditional container for halaya. See how firm it is when cooked properly? I used to put a spoon in the middle and when lifted the whole llanera goes with it! I finished this whole llanera (8x5 inches) in one sitting after eating the main meal! Maybe 2 llaneras will suffice for a main meal! 

For other halaya, you can only eat it with a spoon because it's too soft. Dad's halaya is very firm that you can eat it with a knife and fork! Or.....

Chopsticks if you dare!!!

The halaya is also a popular filling for hopia pioneered by a Chinese bakery in Chinatown, but the ube filling is not as good as this one, dad's was miles ahead! I also made ube dice hopia and brought it to a three day vacation but because it's so good, I forgot to take pictures! :-) I learned the technique of making halaya the proper way but I still dont' know if I could pull it off myself, we'll see next yam season.

Indeed, were very blessed this week! Thank you very much! Job
PalwithnoovenP's picture

As promised. Here are my Cantonese mooncakes. There are many styles of mooncakes in China depending on the region but Cantonese mooncakes (廣式月餅) are my favorite.  It is the "special mooncake" here in our country and the style of mooncake most commonly seen in the west. They are only available once a year and in Chinatown only. I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to mooncakes. My absolute favorite is a classic lotus paste with double salted duck egg yolk but I'll be happier if I can find triple or even quadruple ones. I know, they can be one of those puke inducing combinations for those who are not accustomed to it but it is really good especially if they are well made. I guess, I'm the opposite of the younger generations, mooncakes and fruit cakes are my favorite "cakes" (I don't know why mooncakes are called cake since they resemble a pastry more closely but the character 餅 is almost always translated as cake in English ); just considered rotating presents this day. With mooncakes, it's the modern interpretation of flavors that puts me off! Snow skin (Durian) mooncakes?! Nah! I don't like them! As they say, "to each his own" just like how I hate Durian and how my dad keeps and lets them ripen under his bed to eat them with bliss! But we both love mooncakes! If not for the $$$ and calories, we could easily finish 2 regular mooncakes for each of us but we can't and we won't do that!

[on the left is a mini five kernel mooncake (五仁) and on the right is lotus double egg yolk (雙蛋黃蓮蓉)]

The thin soft and chewy crust is imprinted with different decorative patterns and has a glossy dark finish. From their looks alone, they already look daunting to make; add to that a list of weird ingredients (e.g. golden syrup, alkaline water) and they will seem impossible to be made at home but I'm not the one to be easily deterred. From the day I tasted this, I am dreaming to make it at home one day. So after some research, I realized it's not that difficult and I've seen many home bakers replicate them with ease that even look identical to those sold in stores so what seems like a Chinese pastry shop top secret is within anyone's reach. After a lot of planning (I tell you it requires a lot of planning if you want it to be 100% homemade! If you want to make it like a scientist, here is a great guide that even includes a recipe for homemade golden syrup, a substitute for lye water, and an intriguing sesame filling), I decided to give it a shot last week and here are the results.

They are not as pretty as the store bought but tastes exactly the same as the "good" ones. With mooncakes there's a big difference between "good" and "pretty". We always buy our mooncakes from a humble bakery in Chinatown because they're fresher and tastier; we never get those in fancy boxes that sell for a lot higher price but end up sitting in the shelf for months! What do you expect? Lots of preservatives that doesn't do any good in slowing the decline of quality and leads to bad chemical scent and aftertaste!

Mooncakes are easy to make if you HAVE a SCALE and an oven. Mooncakes are all about accuracy and ratio; from the ratio of the golden syrup to alkaline water in the dough to the ratio of the filling to dough; it also demands exact baking time and temperatures. I know I can have difficulties about those issues but since I am a passionate (okay; obsessed, hard headed, gritty) baker, I already have a theory on how I can execute it without a scale and an oven; and when I'm this confident, I know 90% of the time it will turn out well. Seeing the process common in all baked mooncakes, I think this will be the easiest one to duplicate in my clay pot.

Making mooncakes starts with salting the eggs. A month ago, we had a huge amount of eggs from our chickens and I turned some of them into salted eggs for this project. I experimented for this batch of salted eggs and separated 6 eggs to try a new salting process I learned from the internet. For the bulk of the eggs, I used the normal method of a boiled salt water solution and submerged the eggs in there for a month and those are what I used for last week's flaky mooncakes. For this eggs, they are just dipped in wine then covered in salt. When done,you keep the inside a plastic bag or a jar then forget about it for one month. This method is easier because you don't need to boil or measure anything. They are done curing when the yolk holds a spherical shape when cracked on a bowl or plate. I was so happy with the results that I made a video to document it, they just look like those I saw from the internet! I do not have anyone to help me so one hand-phone, one hand-egg and shoot!

Salted Bantam Eggs

I separated the yolks from the whites and rinsed them under running water then marinated them in wine for 20 minutes and steamed them for 5 minutes. Most recipes say throw away the whites but I hate wastage and they are from the precious eggs of our chickens so I kept them until I find a use for them. Luckily I found a use for them when I read a recipe for Cantonese meatloaf. This is a tip! Do not discard the salty whites, use them for something that calls for eggs or egg whites for a binder then reduce or omit the salt. Very simple but genius! We used them for spring rolls meat mixture and saved some for a flavorful seal for the wrappers.

Cantonese mooncakes are made with a sugar syrup (糖醬) made from sugar, water and an acid that's been aged before using. It is the most crucial ingredient for mooncakes and everything depends on it. From my research it is an invert sugar syrup so it can be replaced by honey or corn syrup but I decided to make my golden syrup because its 4X cheaper and 4X more fun to make than either of the two. Again, it needs precise measurements and temperatures to be made right. I didn't believe it! Mooncakes were made a long time ago and I don't think they have ovens and thermometers at that time. I just threw in some sugar and water and some local lime slices and boiled for around 45 minutes until the consistency is like the one I see in videos. They say if you cooked it too thick, you can add water and cook again to the right consistency and when you added too much water, you just need to cook it longer; that's why I'm confident with not measuring anything. 

Here is my golden syrup. I made it last October 12, 2015 and forgot about it until I brined our chickens' eggs. It's more than six months old now and they say the older it is, the better. If you're in a hurry it can be used as early as 2 weeks so make when your eggs already spent 2 weeks in the brine. It used to be almost full but I don't know why it has diminished by a lot! Maybe my parents have mistaken it for honey (It has a really good flavor) to put on their morning toast! That's one of the disadvantages of being a late riser! You do not know what happens in the morning!

Different recipes have different ratios of oil to syrup to alkaline water and I didn't follow any of them. Alkaline water (鹼水 / gan sui / jian shui / kansui / lihiya) is very cheap and readily available here but I chose not to use it because I am only making a small batch of mooncakes so the amount I need will be very small too and the only available size in the market is a 500 ml so I omitted it to avoid wastage. I just measured my syrup and oil  relatively to each other (it's close to 2:1 syrup to oil but I'm not sure) then added flour until a smooth soft dough formed and let it rest for 3 hours. Recipes usually says to use a low protein or cake flour but I only have all-purpose flour so that's what I used.

The oil-syrup mixture and the mooncake dough.

Here are the fillings. Steamed salted and yolks and red bean paste; many have said even Chinese people that I make the best red bean paste. I just don't know if they're telling the truth. :D If I could only get dried lotus seeds here in my area, I would definitely invest my time in making lotus seed paste because it's my favorite none can be found so I settled with my second favorite, red beans.

Here is the mooncake wrapping station. You need to portion it out first. I was able to make 4 with these amount of ingredients. Because I didn't measure precisely, I had some left over dough.

Next thing to do is to wrap the egg yolk with the bean paste. This is my favorite part. I really think the bright orange yolk sitting on top of the dark bean paste is absolutely gorgeous!

Then you need to wrap it with the dough. A thin crust is preferred and the ratio of dough to filling needs to be exact because if not ii will not fill the mold properly; a 3:7 or 2:8 dough to filling ratio are commonly used. I don't know what ratio I used obviously, I just get a small piece of dough relative to the amount of filling.

Here is the yolk, dough and bean paste portioned. I decreased the amount of dough after taking the photo since I find it's too much for the amount of filling.

I used a common method of Chinese bakers to spread the dough without a rolling pin. Just flatten the dough into a flat but somehow still thick disc and work you way towards the top. Here's how it looks.

At first it will look like it is mission impossible to wrap but after some time and patience, you'll be even surprised that you've done it!

The photo on the right is not the top, it's the seam. You can see some lines of bean paste. I still need more practice but perhaps with a rolling pin, I could go even thinner next time. Here is a comparison of the seam and the top.

They are then pressed into my mini llneras "seam-side up" and are ready for baking. Mooncakes always undergo a two-part baking process. They are baked first for a while to set the pattern then taken out and cooled. They are then glazed with egg wash and baked until brown and shiny. This is an advantage for me and this is what I did. I baked them for 20 minutes in my clay pot using conduction from the llanera to brown and cook the "top" of the moocake evenly. I flipped it out then I let it cool and glazed them with egg wash. I baked them for 10 minutes more this time "seam-side down" to cook the other side and brown the "top". See how it worked for me? Even cooking because both sided faced the heat source at the bottom and the egg wash is not the lone work horse for browning the top.

I had to patch one of them, it caught my spoon while I was moving them!
Here they are when they finished baking, 2 of them cracked but I don't know why. The photo of the pretty ones were corrupted. They're not that pretty yet because they need to go to the return oil process (回油) to be darker and shiny which takes about 2-3 days at room temperature, it's when the oil from the fillings and crust distributes all over the cake. Fresh from the clay pot, they were extremely crispy and almost rock hard after cooling down.

AFTER 3 DAYS... (三天後)

Look at them! They're so pretty and shiny!

I was so happy again that I made a video to document this success! I hope you can watch this (better in HD) because there are so much more subtleties in appearance I can't capture in the photos.

My Homemade Mooncakes

With the left over crust dough, I made a mooncake cookie or more commonly called piggy cookie because it's often shaped into cute little piggies. Another popular shape is a fish and this is my desperate attempt to shape it like a fish. It's impossible to be eaten on the first day, you should let it soften for a few days or it could be a potential tooth breaker

I enjoyed devouring this little fishie (Sorry if the photos are cruel! :P). It's soft and chewy and probably not appealing to the current generation because of its simplicity but is really good, the dominant taste is the golden syrup; the softer it becomes the better.

From: Top Left, Clockwise.

Actually I was planning to include just a photo or two of the cracked ones and fill this post with pictures of the pretty ones to celebrate but an incident happened. We, even mom and dad are so excited to see and taste the results of this first try and we patiently waited for 3 days. So when I took one out they said "WOW! If not for the shape they really look like what we used to buy! Can we taste it now?!" I said Yes, i'll just take some pictures. I was just randomly taking pictures of it on a plate when my friend from college whom I haven't had any communication for over a year suddenly called so we chatted to catch up and I forgot my mooncake on the table.

Okay, after an hour of chatting and updating I came back to the table:

Me: Mom, where is the mooncake?
Mom: We ate it!
Me: What? I still need to take pictures for documentation! And mom! Here are the ugly ones! These should have been the ones you have eaten!
Dad: We know you will give us the pretty ones anyway... so we ate them....
Me: Yes dad, but AFTER the "photo shoot"! 
Mom: They're not perfect but still pretty and you put all your love in them too just like the others so their equally beautiful.

Even with these simple conversations they're full of life lessons my parents want to impart on me.

These are the only pictures I salvaged of the prettiest mooncake.

Anyhow, what goes better with mooncakes than tea? Normally, I would reach out for my jasmine tea but for this one with rich and bold flavors I prefer some black tea. Cut into wedges and serve with some tea!

Thank you for your patience reading through this long post! I'm just so happy because I did something that is all about precision and accuracy really well using my clay pot and unconventional techniques! Of course, lots of improvement to be done but really good for the first try! See you on my next mooncake journey!

Thank you very much! Job                          谢谢您们/多謝!   周可


First brood after the plague. They just hatched yesterday. We hope they will all live to be adults and multiply too!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Remember last time when I posted an egg bread because of too many eggs? I turned some of those into salted eggs to be used in some dishes. A month has passed and it's time to use them, and what is a better way than to use them in mooncakes! I didn't bother to boil some to be eaten as is because boiled ones are readily available; I made my own because there are no "raw" salted eggs available in the market and those are what I need for dishes I'm planning to make. This style of mooncake is not as popular as the Cantonese one but it is equally delicious. I made this as a preparation for my Cantonese mooncake not because it's easier to make but I want to taste the combination of my salted eggs and homemade bean paste before doing something I've never done before. This requires a totally different skill set than Cantonese ones and I have experience with these before so I made this first as a warm-up.

In our country, these are called Hopia (好餅) meaning good cake/pastry taken from Hokkien dialect introduced by Chinese immigrants from Fujian; they are often smaller, available year round in every bakery and are not considered mooncakes because the term "mooncakes" only refers to Cantonese ones (only obtainable in Chinatown) but in fact they are "mooncakes" in other parts of China. Hopia with salted egg yolks are released as "Hopia Supreme" by a famous Chinese bakery here, you can see the reputation salted eggs have for making something really special; because they are really expensive.These are made with Chinese spiral pastry similar to Suzhou and Teochew style mooncakes. Made with alternating layers of oil and water dough, it has lots of flaky layers earning them the moniker "Thousand Layer Mooncakes" in some areas. Although similar to those styles of mooncakes mentioned, hopia is made differently and I made mine differently too that's why they (other hopia and mine) look different compared to those. I used lard this time and the flavor was elevated several notches higher! Lard has a unique flavor that no shortening can match! I also used it my bean paste, my bean paste improved a lot from the last batch, not just the flavor but the texture too!

I left some plain in case the combination of red bean paste and salted egg yolks didn't work. They love it with salted eggs, and asked why hadn't I made all with salted eggs. Because of this I'm so excited for my Cantonese mooncakes, they will be even better because we consider them "special" here. I made these special hopia/mooncake larger than normal, molded them in my mini llaneras that's why they have this nice oval shape (sort of my signature) and grilled them on a dry pan for that lovely golden brown on both sides. I think they are really lovely especially because I did not measure any of the ingredients. I think I should have used more filling so they are thicker/taller and prettier!

When I say flaky, I mean really flaky! The spiral technique is really incredible! It is the hallmark of a good hopia; messy plate, messy face, and a messy lap all from the crust!

I just don't want to open this post with a sad news but this reminds me of it. A couple of weeks ago, we are having problems on how to store eggs because their laying has become out of control; now there are no more  eggs to be found and almost no more chickens to be heard. Our entire flock was almost swept by a recurrence of a pestilence that did the same two years ago. It was sad to see vigorous and healthy chickens become suddenly lethargic and die in just days. Remember this post last year when I said the new generation of our chickens is steadily growing? All of them are gone now, 4-6 died each day that my dad just made a mass grave for them. In a span of a week and a half, no more was left of the new generation. 

Even this cute tailless one was included. He's special because from all the years of chicken raising, he was the first and only naturally tailless one. Look at how much he has grown in less than a year? We simply call him Kurong because that's how these rare tailless ones are called.

Fortunately the plague has stopped and and left a few survivors just like before. Interestingly, they are the original survivors from the former plague. We have a theory that they carry a gene that is naturally immune from the plague. Aren't they like in "infection" movies where the naturally immune are the few survivors that run away and fight the infected while finding a cure for the infection and formulating a plan for repopulation?! :P I'll stop here. I have a vivid imagination and it's my most feared movie genre!

Ladies and gentlemen, the majestic rooster that made it all possible before and hopefully will make it again this time. He was quarantined for a while to ensure his survival because he is the only uninfected rooster in the flock. He was the father of the entire second generation of the bantams and he outlived all of his children. He is left with four of his original hens and hopefully they will have chicks to raise a new (third) generation of chickens the second time around.

His one eye is even blind! That's how resilient he is!

Okay, back to good food again and salted eggs. I saved the best shot for last! Enjoy!

With the salted eggs I have, I also made Cantonese rice dumplings (Joong). Dried bamboo leaves are only available in Chinatown which is three hours away form where I live and we only go there once or twice a year; I used banana leaves because it's abundant in our backyard. This is not as authentic because of the different leaf used but this a variant and my take on the Cantonese style.

With all the banana leaves, dad made a nostalgic treat for him. Rice wrapped in banana leaves. He said that's what he brings to school back in the days prepared by my grandmother. Warm rice is wrapped in banana leaves sprinkled with a little salt; when opened, the aroma of banana leaf that perfumed the rice perfumes the air. He paired it with stuffed steamed milk fish in guess what.... of course, banana leaf!

Glutinous rice, peeled split mung beans, salted pork and salted egg yolks. No peeled split mung beans available here so I peeled and split them myself; soak them in water overnight then rub vigorously in batches to peel and split them. I used pork shoulder (it should be pork belly but there is no fine belly during that day in the market) and cured it in salt for 4 days. Cantonese Joong does not stir-fry its rice and there is no soy sauce so the dumpling is pearly white and soft.

Wrapping in banana leaf is difficult and needs a different technique than using bamboo leaves and this is just my "REAL" first try at wrapping rice dumplings. Tying is "anything goes until sealed" and is even more difficult than the wrapping. They are then boiled for 4 hours,

The result, one opened and spilled its contents in the boiling water so I ended up with only 3 dumpling in the end.

The rice was properly seasoned and soft, the mung beans are slightly sweet, the salted egg yolk is rich with the right saltiness but the pork is slightly saltier than preferred; I should have soaked it longer.

I grew up eating the Hokkien variety of rice dumplings so this one is good but different. Dad didn't like it very much unlike the mooncakes. I like this one especially the yolk, in fact I can eat it without the pork.

I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I do! Thank you very much! Job


I already baked my Cantonese mooncakes and they are in their resting stage now. Let's see what will happen in my next post. Stay tuned!

                                                                                                                                                           To be continued...

PalwithnoovenP's picture

NOTE: This post is NOT in anyway intended to offend, malign or make fun of anyone especially TFLers from Latin America or those who can speak and/or understand Spanish. Our country has lots of Spanish influence too and you could definitely trace it in our language; although the feminine form retained its offensive meaning, the term "puto" did not; it just always refers to a delicious treat. For the sake of clarity, all of the terms "puto" you will find here refers ONLY to steamed rice cakes. No hate comments please. Thank you! 

Our country favors rice as its staple. Everyday from breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and even midnight snack we eat rice but for special occasions we do not settle for plain steamed white rice. We turn rice into simple to very complex festive dishes like arroz valeciana, bringhe (something like a coconut milk arroz), talulo (rice in banana leaf), hundreds of different rice cakes and puto. I know this is not as grand as other bread TFLers make but puto often takes the place of bread or sometimes even rice in festive occasions. In birthdays the famous trio of puto, pansit (Chinese style stir-fried noodles) and spaghetti is so prominent that when they are seen in ordinary days the first question is "Who has a birthday?" 

I grew up on the traditional puto with the optional topping of salted eggs or cheese that my dad buys from a town 2 hours away from us. Traditionally, top quality rice was soaked and ground in a stone grinder, mixed with sugar and water and allowed to ferment in clay jars for a day or two. When the batter has overflowed and full of bubbles, it is then poured into molds and steamed until done. When I learned about sourdough I realized that puto is essentially a steamed rice sourdough starter! When eaten, this style of puto has a slight tangy taste and a sweet but almost vinegary aroma. It is very similar to the Indian idli, the only difference is puto uses only rice.

Today there are various styles of puto, some have milk or eggs, made with part or all wheat flour instead of rice and leavened with commercial yeast or chemical leaveners. I developed this to fit everyone if that's possible; gluten free, dairy free and vegan if you do not put the toppings. It uses rice flour and baking powder, a bit modern but close to traditional puto.

I just mixed rice flour and water into a thin batter and sweetened it to taste, added salt and baking powder then I steamed it until done. I used my little llaneras that's why they're oval but they're commonly round. I also put some salted eggs and cheese on top just like they do in stores, I like the cheese more and I even hate salted eggs topped ones when I was a child. I will use a good Edam for special occasions but I doubt other gourmet cheeses, perhaps it won't taste right because my nostalgic taste screams for the processed supermarket cheese used here.

My first attempt with puto did not turn out so well. It looks okay at the top but the sides are sticky, too moist and brownish. The interior was gummy unlike the fine crumb pictured above. I used baking soda and vinegar before because I did not have baking powder on hand; I think it was the culprit, maybe there wasn't enough acid to react with the baking soda and the rice cakes have a weird salty taste and alkali smell and taste; it also didn't rise as much, maybe it's also undercooked because I was a bit excited to eat them.

Here they are while they were steaming. I put all the left over batter in my biggest llanera and topped with both cheese and salted eggs. In parties this size is considered small, puto 5 inches high and 20 inches in diameter is not uncommon in such occasions.

I also made a nostalgic snack that my dad buys from a nearby town, puto pao. I remember they were the muffin like about half the size of my fist filled with sweet salty pork and salted eggs. Puto pao is  combination of puto and siopao (which came from the siu bao in char siu bao- steamed meat buns) making them meat-filled steamed rice cakes. I filled them with my asado (soy sauce cooked pork) and topped them with salted eggs just like what I remember. Salted eggs will complement the filling better than cheese and even though I hate salted eggs before, I love them when they are on puto pao.

The puto is slightly sweet, extremely soft and fluffy with a very fine crumb. I think this batch is best reserved for plain puto because it is too delicate for the meat filling, maybe I should reduce the baking powder if I intend to make puto pao. Puto pao is an excellent snack though it may not sound appealing to many of you of because of the flavor combinations but they are a thousand times easier to make than char siu bao.

Maybe I should also pour the right amount of batter, I thought some are going to overflow but fortunately they did not, they just formed a muffin top.

The photo above has a good amount of batter but I like the next one better, a higher full dome without overhanging sides. It's just the nostalgia in me that wants them to look like what I used to have. (You can see how the llanera endured many of my baking adventures)

Here is the large puto, it looks like the mother of the little ones. Which camp are you? Salted eggs or cheese? There are some traitor salted eggs that allied themselves with the cheese camp! :P

The crumb was a bit dry because it was left in the fridge for 3 days but it was still good. I cooked some pancit today and paired it with the puto and we were transported immediately to a birthday party! :P

Sorry for this long post, I'm just happy with how this turned out!

Thank you very much! Job


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