Archive for the ‘ bread ’ Category

Back to Bread….

Well, I’ve had a rather long hiatus. Mostly due to my own laziness. I blame it on the heat. I’ve skipped continents again, and am now writing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Yes, that’s in Asia.

My location has a lot to do with the theme of this entry. Having spent considerable amounts of time in two different Asian countries, and conversed with many an expat, I’ve come to the conclusion that proper whole wheat bread is really hard to find in this corner of the globe. The whole concept of eating bread, as opposed to rice or noodles or root veggies is still relatively new to  Cambodians, and so the selection around town is pretty dire.

Most Cambodian bakeries I have frequented don’t bake anything remotely similar to whole wheat bread. Some expat-minded grocery stores have what we’d call in North America 60-40… a mix of white and whole wheat flour. So, unless you are willing to cross town and dish out an extra dollar or two for a whole wheat loaf at a European bakery, you’re more or less stuck.

Enter our breadmaker. Now, we’ve had this little Panasonic bread maker for a couple of years, ever since a family friend moving back to the U.S. gave it to us, as they could no longer use it because of the difference in electric current. Despite my mother’s excitement, it sat unused in a pantry under our stairs for two years. Who could blame her? We were spoiled in Europe, as good fresh bread was basically a staple at our local grocery store.

Our move to Cambodia finally put us in such a desperate, breadless situation that I decided to see what this whole breadmaker thing was about. I’m still experimenting a lot with bread, and trying to understand the relationship between salt, sugar and yeast, so I’m not quite ready to start inventing my own stuff. I’m not quite ready for the heartbreak of an unleavened loaf just yet.

I found this great basic recipe on allrecipes.com, and tweaked it a little. I bought wholemeal grains… basically the ‘wheat’ part of whole wheat flour that you would usually buy in the west, and mixed it in with white flour to create whole wheat flour. I put in about 1.5 cups of wholemeal and then add in white flour until I have 3 cups of the mix. This usually comes to about 425-450g, which is important because you need to have the right amount of yeast, and because breadmakers usually have a maximum amount of flour you can put in. Ours has a max of 500g.

Anyway, the bread was a success! It’s very soft, slices well, and is great as sandwich bread. I usually make a loaf or two a week, depending on how fast my family eats it. I have to say, as a foodie, the most exciting part of baking the bread is the smell that fills the kitchen… and of course, cutting that first slice of the loaf. Yum yum!

In time, I want to try my hand at brioche and foccacia. Stay tuned for more breads soon, I hope.

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Joods Brood

Challah, or ‘joods brood’ as I affectionately like to call it, is one of my favourite breads. Rich and yellow, it gets its colour from lots of egg yolk. I was first introduced to challah in Montreal, which has a pretty decent Jewish population. The West Island bakery, Yagel Bagel makes delicious challah. Whenever my family visits our relatives in MTL, they stock up on challah, because they go like hotcakes when we’re around.

Challah is a bit sweet, but neutral enough so that you can pair it with many things. It’s equally delicious as sandwich bread, or for breakfast with some jam, and of course, on its own.

Since I have yet to track down a Jewish bakery in The Hague, I’ve resorted to making challah at home. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com. I’ve found that much of the advice added by the site’s users is worth considering. I ended up adding more yeast to my bread in order to make it slightly more airy.

I haven’t made challah in a while because, like many breads it’s a long, long grueling process. Don’t get me wrong–it’s certainly very rewarding, but I’d often wake to find a freshly-baked batch of challah from the night before decimated within a few hours– that’s how addictive they are. Next time I make challah, I’ll inaugurate our bread maker and see if it cuts down on the baking time. I’d probably have to bake for a half a day in order to ensure a week’s supply.

The characteristics of the Montreal bread that I most enjoy are its colour and its texture. With this recipe, no matter how yolky I made my dough, I couldn’t quite get it as yellow as Yagel Bagel’s…. which leads me to believe they’re either using a flour that’s more yellow, or they’re using food colouring.

Getting the bread to be just that right level of softness took a few tries. As I mentioned above, I ended up adding more yeast in order to get the bread as light as I wanted. I also had to let it rise for an extra hour before I achieved the softness I wanted. Keep your eye on the dough though–you don’t want it to fall!