The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Japanese Rice Ball (Onigiri) Yeast Water Boule

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bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Japanese Rice Ball (Onigiri) Yeast Water Boule

Several days ago I paid a visit to my friend, a German chef / food and beverage manager of a local restaurant. I sought constructive criticsm and wanted his honest opinion regarding my loaf; I'm referring to the Cumin Walnut Cheese Rye Sourdough Bread.

Upon meeting him, I unexpectedly met a group of his friends---a food and beverage (F&B) consultant, an Austrian chef / baker, and an Indian chef.

Offering them a sample of my bread loaf, the following were the essence of their critiques:

  • The F&B consultant: "It's a failure."
  • The German chef: "It's not that bad."
  • The Austrian chef / baker: "It's shit."
  • The Indian chef: "Not bad."

Amongst them, the feedback given by the F&B consultant was the most detrimental. He meticulously picked apart my loaf, criticizing every little detail, and... It felt as if a hot rod was plunged into my heart, jerking violently with each word spoken. As I sat rock-still on my chair, I did my best to maintain eye contact, fixating a superficial smile across my face.

Amongst them, the most insightful and helpful feedback was given by the F&B consultant.

 

After the aforementioned incident, I thought long and hard about my progress as a baker, pacing back and forth in my bedroom in the midst of the night. However, in the end, I was left with one conclusion: "I'll do better."

Without further digression, I proudly present to you my yeast water boule (above), inspired by the Japanese rice ball (i.e., onigiri). With exception to a few references, the recipe was devised on my own---a first in my undertaking as an amateur homebaker.

 

Days prior to baking the yeast water boule, I booked a reservation at a reputable and popularized Japanese restaurant in town (highly recommended by the F&B consultant, I discovered). Possessing little to no familiarity with Japanese cuisine, I felt it was necessary to test a few of their dishes before rendering their food into a crusty bread loaf.

Having done research beforehand, at the restaurant I ordered the tamagoyaki for the appetizer, a platter of nigirizushi (pictured above) for the first course, mazizushi for the second course, and red bean soup (i.e., zenzai) for the dessert.

Overall, I was given the impression that Japanese food was about the balance of delicate to mild flavours, using simpler, fresher ingredients, with their main dishes leaning towards saltiness.

 

Now grasping a vague sense of "Japanese flavours", I selected the following ingredients for the yeast water boule:

Unbleached all-purpose flour, Type 55 French flour, Partially steamed brown rice, Yeast water starter, Mineral water, Japanese soy sauce (Shoyu), Honey, Toasted sesame seeds, Roasted seaweed (Nori), Bonito flakes (Katsuobushi), Sea salt, and Extra virgin olive oil.

Note: Nearly on a whim, I purchased two different brands of nori for comparison. And what did I learn? One nori was much more flavoursome than the other. Thus, not all similar products are created equally.

 

Originally, I intended to shape the dough into a triangle but found it too awkward. The dough kept molding itself into a ball and I took that as a strong indication that the dough was unhappy.

Boule it is, then!

 

Truth be told, the boule tasted awful---too many unbalanced flavours, with bitterness being the most dominent. (Burnt rice grains were to blame.)

Should I be upset? Nahh, first attempts are rarely successful attempts. It was an experiment after all. On the positive side, the boule resembled a Japanese rice ball, which was one of my primary goals for the loaf.

Before I end this post, I'd like to mention something rather personal, baking-wise:

In the past I had followed the baker's creed of "extracting flavours from the grain to the best of my capability". But as time progressed, I noticed my baking style was becoming more distinctive: 1) I prefer using "natural" or non-artifical ingredients; 2) I concentrate on the aesthetics of the bread, just as much as the flavour; 3) I enjoy incorporating unusual ingredients into the dough.

My dear TFLers, I now abide to new bread baking creed, perhaps one that you may disagree with.

My responsibility as a bread baker is to use flour as the medium. All other ingredients are flavouring components (some with critical functional properties) and must be combined in such a way that is balanced and pleasurable to the palate.

Thanks for reading, all. Farewell and have a happy baking. :)

Zita 

Comments

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Balance and moderation in all,recognize what is really important and realize those things can change. Also realize that I can change and I can create the life I want to experience.

A comment on the critique you received-I wonder if you had met with only 1 of them (as originally planned) if you would have had a better expereience. It certainly sounds like a lot of posturing. How devastating but actually it is also heartening. They were most likely only trying to impress the others with their "knowledge" by trying to provide more shocking comments than the last person that spoke and their comments may have had nothing whatsoever to do with what they sampled. More importantly-what did you think of the loaf you provided for sampling and what will you do next time? Trust your instincts and next time someone tells you it tastes like shit-ask them how they know what that tastes like?  

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

:) Thank you, Clazar. Your post is much appreciated.

I don't know whether or not if they were trying to outdo each other in providing harsh criticism, but perhaps it was largely true for them. For me, the loaf tasted decent, but that may be due to my underdeveloped palate. Who knows?

It was disheartening to hear their critique, but I won't hold a grudge against any of them. In the end, I was motivated to try harder, to aim for perfection (knowing full well that I won't). I suppose that's what we all aim for. A perfect loaf of bread that tantalizes and satiates our senses.

Zita

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Balance and moderation in all,recognize what is really important and realize those things can change. Also realize that I can change and I can create the life I want to experience.

A comment on the critique you received-I wonder if you had met with only 1 of them (as originally planned) if you would have had a better expereience. It certainly sounds like a lot of posturing. How devastating but actually it is also heartening. They were most likely only trying to impress the others with their "knowledge" by trying to provide more shocking comments than the last person that spoke and their comments may have had nothing whatsoever to do with what they sampled. More importantly-what did you think of the loaf you provided for sampling and what will you do next time? Trust your instincts and next time someone tells you it tastes like shit-ask them how they know what that tastes like?  

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

very high.  When falling somewhat short at times you still are at a higher level than meeting lower goals not worth setting.  Don't worry about the critisism of your bake, that was what you were asking for, but learn from it and bake on.  For years chef's wanted me to taste their new ideas because they could count on me to give them the straight scoop.   They didn't need me of course because they had such a well trained pallet but still wanted suggestions to make their food better.  Got lots of free food that way and most of it was was terrific.  Your baking is all new to you and you are bound to struggle for a while until you get your baking legs under you.  Just keep on baking and it will improve - that is all there is to it.

This bread has a beautiful ,boldly baked  crust and your YW really put a  very nice airy crumb inside with nice irregular holes too!  The flavor profile may be a little odd and not what you expected with shoyu, burnt rice, nori and bonito flakes but, without the miso, how are you ever going to have a decent Japanese soup bread :-)

 It's nice to know Ian and I have a new convert when it comes to unusual ingredients in bread.  Try to stay out of auto parts stores though - you have been warned   :-)

Bake on

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Agreed---a goal isn't worth making if it's not set very high. I mean, of course, you can go too far with this. You have to be reaslistic and learn how to take incremental steps. Otherwise, none of your goals will be achieved. 

Haha, Japanese soup bread! Never considered that... You know, that does sound delicious...

There goes my brain again, conjuring wacky ideas.

Anyway, thank you for your encouragement, DA. You're one of the few members on TFL who inspires me to try my best---and that's why I'm glad to have you around. :)

Zita

varda's picture
varda

the fire and are still baking.   And what an honor to be criticized by so many esteemed cooks (at a time no less).   Always love to see your creative efforts.  Of course since I can only enjoy them visually and literarily, your emphasis on aesthetics is most appreciated.  -Varda

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you for your kind words, Varda. Puts a smile on my face. :)

Indeed, I survived the "fire" but came out with a few scars and calusses. I'm not sure if I'm a better baker for it, but I can say that I'm more tolerant to harsher criticisms. 

Wish you the best,

Zita

 

isand66's picture
isand66

Zita,

constructive criticism is a good thing but it sounds like your so called friends don't understand that lesson vert well.  Instead of being so negative they should have told you what they liked about your bake and what you could do better to improve it.  Your last bake looked pretty good so I doubt it could have been as bad as they told you.

its nice to see you experiment.  Just like my last bake you learn something new with each failure and I'm sure your next attempt will be closer to what you want.   Look forward to reading about your next bake.  

Regards

Ian

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

They didn't mention any positives about my bread. Rather, they focused on and pointed out the negatives---very bluntly. Should I be upset about this? Perhaps, but I prefer not to be. Feeling angry or holding a grudge just takes too much effort, and I'd rather put that effort into bread-crafting. 

(An enlightening quote I heard somewhere: "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting your opponent to die.")

Likewise, I also look forward to your bakes. We now share a common style in baking (i.e., experimenting with different ingredients) and I know we'll learn a lot from each other.

Take care,

Zita 



 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

The learning in baking NEVER ends no matter who you are or what you bake.  It does not do anyone any good to hit them over the head with critcism.  A word or two of friendly advice would go much further. 

In one capacity or another I have been involved in the food service industry, off and on,  for a very long time.  It has taught me to listen carefully to those who seek to further the craft with helpful commentary and ignore those with any other agenda.

Happy Baking,

Jeff

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Jeff. I needed to read that. Your last paragraph resonates much truth, I feel, and I'll take it to heart.

Wish you the best,

Zita 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Zita,

Wow, I am surprised you remained calm throughout their criticisms....which to me sounded rather harsh and not very helpful.  I love getting feedback from people BUT I do want specifics in regards to things I can improve on rather than flat out negative statements.  You are very brave!

Thanks for posting and I do just have to say - make sure you bake loaves YOU like to eat.....really, who cares what others think when it is you that you are feeding!  Just my opinion and I know you are a home baker - not a professional selling to the public where there are different challenges...

Take Care,

Janet

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

I wasn't calm... 

My body was as still as a boulder, but my emotions were as turbulent as the gusts and waves of a sea storm. Though, their critiques were helpful in two respects: 1) it helped me become more tolerant to harsher criticisms; 2) I became more wary about the characteristics of my bread (i.e., mouthfeel, taste, aroma, colour, etc.).

I should probably mention: Not only do I worry about what I like to eat, but I also worry about what others like to eat as well. In the distant or near future, I intend to bake and sell breads, and donate the profits or entire proceeds to charity.

Anyway, thank you for commenting, Janet. I hope you have wonderful day or night. :)

Zita 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

True, janet.. that was a really harsh comment.

Zita,

My advice to you, is to practice written and tested recipes from famous bakers, such as: Peter Reinhart, Daniel Leader, Richard Bertinet, Hamelman, Eric Kasyer.. Go ahead and buy a book, you won't regret it. When you think you've perfected a certain recipe or two, you may use that confidence to experiment with more complex flavors.

Having said that, i salute you for you bold endeavor to discover complex flavors in bread. I myself have started with wholegrain baking, before i even purchased a scale or a book, however, seeing the wonderful bakes on TFL, i decided to go back to basics, and started buying a book.

PS. you bread above looks excellent, Pity you didn't like the flavor.

All the best to you,

 

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

You're right... I should concentrate on the fundamentals, but I'm too partial to experimentation. It's hard to resist! Nonetheless, I wish I could get my hands on several books from the authors / bakers you mentioned. It's just that, they don't seem to exist where I am (i.e., Cambodia). To make matters complicated, ordering online is also impractical since the mailing system in Cambodia is unreliable.

As for the bread, the aroma was outstanding. Very roasty, smoky, and tantalizing. The roasted seaweed, I think, amplified the complexity of the smell. Too bad it didn't taste as great. This was largely the fault of the scorched rice grains, which casted a strong bitter taste.

Zita

catlick's picture
catlick

"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor"...

Carry on and keep experimenting!  I love your story!!!!

Breadingly yours,

Wendy

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

:) Thank you, Wendy! Glad you enjoyed my post. I'll continue experimenting and sharing my insights, I promise.

All the best,

Zita