The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Greetings from Islamabad!

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stefchik's picture
stefchik

Greetings from Islamabad!

Greetings to all from South Asia, I have been browsing on this site since more than 6 months now and finally decided to join, to thank many of you for the ideas, recipes, contributions and insight on our common passion to bake bread. Floyd thanks for maintaining such a site - great work.


My wife is in the foreign service and we are posted here since a year and a half, I have plenty of time in my hands and before that, in Moscow, I experimented once or twice to bake bread with no particular success. Here, however, we soon found out that bread was not so appealing and had a sweet taste! We tried many sources in vein, then we came across the No Knead Bread recipe, plunged into that for a few weeks with good results then I read at the TFL about Zoe & Jeff's Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, ordered the book and went ahead baking with great joy! Equipment wise other than a Kenwood Chef Classic stand Mixer which I had brought from Moscow, I had no idea what was needed, everything was bought or ordered from the States, baking stone, instant read thermometer, dough scraper, Silpat, etc. etc. from Texas running around in Austin at Restaurant supply companies, metallic baguette forms, brioche forms from Dehillerin in Paris, pizza peel from Super Peel (thanks Gary) ordered direct and posted to the Mission here (some strange looks when security opened the parcel - what do these people order?) - meanwhile had to do with a makeshift paddle like peel made by a carpenter in Rawalpindi, served the purpose and still does for pulling out loaves from the oven.


Now a year and a half later most of the tools are in place, only yesterday I ordered a couche from KAF and a Thermapen, books such as Peter Reinhart's BBA, Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible, ABi5, are all there, whole lot of material to keep me busy, a good sourdough starter in the fridge since January this year, I am motoring along.


My current passion is Anis Bouabsa's baguettes - thanks janedo and dmsnyder for your recipes, great work - since the first try it has been a success and a joy to bake baguettes this way.


Thought this would make a good insight how we manage in other parts of the world where we don't have the choice or abundance of flours and tools that are available in America, but hey, when there is a will there is a way.


Cheers


Stefan

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Stefan....great to have you here! You certainly have good equipment - and of course, the wonderful recipes posted throughout TFL.


 Please let us know what type of flours are available in your part of the world.

stefchik's picture
stefchik

Thanks LindyD,


Flours here are bit complicated, I didn't know what to make of them at the beginning, I have bought some 10kg flour bags at a ridiculously low price (less than $4 the bag of 10kg!) the white flour (it is called Atta flour here) had a tinge of yellow in it, no protein content marked anywhere, still I have used it but the consistency of the crumb in the baked bread was too dense. The whole wheat flour is actually quite good - same price range - I bake sourdough miches a la Poilane with it - and it is quite good both in taste and performance. Thanks to our dip-status, I import flour from Denmark once per quarter (together with our daily necessities and booze - this is a dry country), I can even get Gold Medal all purpose but it is the bleached type and though I have baked many a loaf in the early days of NKB when I didn't know anything about bleached and unbleached I rarely use it now; otherwise all other flours I use are from Denmark, they have quite a good selection of organic rye, bread and whole wheat as well as durum, not a bargain to bring here but what to do...


I better get on with the baguettes of the day,


Best


Stefan


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Stefan.


Welcome to TFL! I'm glad you like the Bouabsa baguettes. 


We have a very close friend who has two children in the foreign service. It's quite a career - for their spouses, too!


Atta flour is semolina - the same as is used for pasta and some breads in Italy. If sounds like you can source European flours. I'd love to be able to get German rye flours, French T65, etc.!


Anyway, look around TFL for recipes that call for semolina, and you're in business. 


Also, there are TFL members from the Middle East, if not from South Asia. They may know useful things about the flours you have there.


Happy baking!


David

stefchik's picture
stefchik

Thanks David,


You always enlighten me with your posts...good to know about the Atta flour; no wonder it is yellowish!


Ah, the Bouabsa baguettes are just great, you know, I have doubled the recipe and bake 1-2 and let the rest of the dough stay in the fridge for a few days more - no adverse effects, my only concern was that the crust softened quickly during cooling so following your advice I let the baguette(s) stay in the turned off oven on the stone for 5 minutes or so with the door ajar, works fine as you said.


Best,


Stefan

Nim's picture
Nim

I am from India and Atta usually means "wheat flour", semolina is "Rava" or "sooji" and is grainy in texture. In India, you have community grain mills (I would think Islamabad does too!) where you can mill your wheat berries. You get wonderful wheat berries in South Asia (grown in Punjab and other parts of Northern India) and milling them is not a problem at all. I am sure a few neighbors may have home mills too, and it is quite acceptable in our part of the world to share them. They will gladly mill your few pounds of berries if you request...

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Nim.


Are not Atta and Rava both milled from Durum wheat? Is Atta what we call "fine durum flour" and Rava is the more coarsely ground "semolina?"


Perhaps I am misinformed.


David

Nim's picture
Nim

David


Maybe you can help me here...I have not figured out the real difference between Whole wheat and Durum wheat. Is Durum whole wheat without the kernels? The reason I ask is I make bread and I make rotis/parathas/chapatis. The Atta I use for my rotis come from Indian grown wheat and I am never satisfied with the results from the 'stone ground' variety from the hard Winter Red variety that I get here in the US. My understanding is that the wheat variety grown in India is different in the berry form and hence different in texture and color. The grind is also finer.


Rava is milled from whole wheat but without the kernels and the bran, so it loses some of the nutrients but it is still whole wheat (unrefined).


I am sure this is the place where I may get an answer to this issue that has been nagging me for sometime.


 

Nim's picture
Nim

Oh, also, "fine Durum wheat" is Rava and coarse ground is "sooji" or semolina

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Nim.


"Whole wheat" means the flour contains the entire wheat berry, including the bran and germ. It could be milled from any type of wheat.


Durum is a type of wheat. Compared to other types, it is very "hard" and has a high protein content. Frankly, I don't know how much of the bran and germ is left in the "fine durum" or the "semolina" flour sold in the U.S..


If Atta flour is not made from durum wheat, I do not know the characteristics of the wheat from which it is milled. I can't do the research right now, but I am certainly interested in learning more about Indian wheats.


David

ques2008's picture
ques2008

nice to have you join the fresh loaf!

Nim's picture
Nim

Stefan


The TFL recipe for Semolina Sandwich loaf turns out absolutely beautiful with "Fine rava" powder that you should be able to get there. That does have a 'yellowish' color that is just lovely to look at. My 3 1/2 year old loves the bread for her lunch box.

stefchik's picture
stefchik

Thanks for the suggestion Nim and the info on Atta/Rava flours, I still have a large bucket and will try the recipe ASAP.


BTW Zoe & Jeff's ABi5 Master recipe makes a great Naan if you haven't tried. We bake that on the skillet quick and easy to go along with curry.


Best,


Stefan

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I recently took an Indian cooking class and our instructor was very specific about using Graham flour as opposed to whole wheat flour.It is diiferent and does cause different characteristics in the bread/chapatis/rotis made with it.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_flour

Nim's picture
Nim

I wouldn't think so becoz when we milled our wheat back home the berries all went in together, there was no separation of bran and germ and then mixed as Graham flour requires. Though the texture may be comparable, I don't know; I have never tried using it. I just buy my wheat flour for my rotis from the Indian stores and Brd flour from my local organic market.

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Stefan, you seem to have an amazingly upbeat attitude for someone living in what appears to be a volitile area of the world right now.  Not that this will be news to you, but the NY Times today has this to say about Pakistan:


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/world/asia/24pstan.html?hp


Anyway, I'm happy to hear that you are successfully baking and have managed to acquire all of the supplies that you need.  I feel guilty about complaining about living in a town with no Whole Foods!  How spoiled of me!


Good luck and happy cookbook reading,


Summer

stefchik's picture
stefchik

Thanks Summer,


Unfortunately there is very little we can do to change the local conditions and as you read the situation here is very volatile and worrying for the future of the whole region.


Still, some people have to be doing the jobs that have to be done on behalf of the governments that they represent, my wife is one of them and we both decided to extend for another year - so we are here until the summer of 2010 and I am grateful that this place has given me the opportunity to delve into a new world - the bread baking world - and develop skills that I never knew I had plus the joy of sharing and exchanging ideas via  TFL.


So, I will keep on reading as you suggest and baking in the wee hours of the morning - it is now 5:50 a.m.


Enjoy,


Stefan


 

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Stefan,


As a novice myself who is still happily reading cookbooks like novels, I can say that I never thought that I'd get into baking as much as I have.  It is truly an exciting new world!


Your wife sounds like a remarkable person.  i wish both of you continued luck and success.


Summer