My New Hobby

I thought and thought and thought about my new hobby – bread baking, and I wanted to write a long paean to it. But now the days keep passing me by and my workload has not lessened. The summer is zooming by and I’m sure Hisham thinks I’ve totally forgotten that he’d done all this work to get my pictures formatted for the blog.

Well, rather than research bread and write a history of bread, this will mostly be a photojournal of my new obsession.

For my birthday this year, Vin bought me a KitchenAid artisan 6 quart stand mixer:

[[image:bread01.jpg:Toy! My Toy!:center:0]]

It was exactly what I wanted, given that I’d been dropping hints and marking my Kitchen.com catalogs for months before my birthday. Vin finally just sat down, pointed it out and discussed with me what size, what features, what color, etc. I wanted. So I got exactly what I wanted for my birthday. I had really been wanting to try to bake bread since it always looks so cool in the cooking shows. And the machine is powerful enough to knead two loaves in one go! So I went out and got myself a comprehensive bread book.

Malaysians do eat a lot of bread (roti). We have our roti canai which is a flatbread usually cooked on a griddle with a little clarified butter. When Vin visited, this was one of his favorite things, eaten dipped in curry, dhaal, or sambal tumis. Of course there are other rotis such as roti naan, roti jala, roti telur (roti canai stuffed with an egg), murtabak, tosai, all of which are of Indian origin, but has been incorporated so wholly into Malaysian culture that you can usually get any one of them for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

When I was little, growing up in Malaysia, the only non-Malaysian bread we were exposed to was the crappy mass-produced sandwich white breads. Which I loathe with a passion. But when I started frequenting Italian restaurants and tasting the wonderful fresh-baked breads there, dipped in olive oil or with butter, I was sold! This is what I’m talking about! And with the help of my trusty bread book and new stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, I have been experimenting with varying degrees of success. Vin has happily consumed all of the products, in fact, to the point where he rarely purchases bread from the grocery store anymore. I come home on weekends and make him bread, free of any chemicals or preservatives.

So the following are some of the breads I have made so far, all of them non-Malaysian but it won’t get me into the guild yet.

Those on a low-carb diet might want to close their eyes now.. ūüôā

“Cuban Bread”, my very first two loaves ever:

[[image:bread02.jpg:Cuban Bread:center:0]]

“Feather Bread” I think this was before the bread rose.

[[image:bread03.jpg:Feather Bread:center:0]]

This is supposed to be after the Feather Bread rose…didn’t really look too different I thought.

[[image:bread04.jpg:Did it even rise?:center:0]]

But here it is again after it came out of the oven. The baguettes seemed to have risen nicely in the oven.

[[image:bread05.jpg:It turned out OK, whew!:center:0]]

[[image:bread06.jpg::center:0]]

“Schiacciata” being kneaded by my toy.

[[image:bread07.jpg:Hypnotic, really, the dough going round and round:center:0]]

It got reeeeeally big and pretty! I was so proud.

[[image:bread08.jpg:Look at the size of that thing!:center:0]]

The recipe said to slash an “x” at the top of the loaf. I did and look what happened? Turns out it had been allowed to rise too long. I was experimenting with the “highly active” yeast as opposed to “active”, and should have halved the rising time.

[[image:bread09.jpg:Poof! All the air went out of it!:center:0]]

Luckily, my handy dandy bread book had a troubleshooting section, and advised me to punch it down and allow it to rise again. No need to throw it away! This time I let it rise only 2/3 the amount of time for “active” yeast, just in case.

[[image:bread10.jpg:The rescued dough, re-rised like a phoenix:center:0]]

The acid test: what happens if I slash the “x” on the top of the dough?

[[image:bread11.jpg:X marks the spot! This time it didn’t collapse, yayyyyy:center:0]]

Luckily this time it did not collapse on me. It rose pretty nicely, even though the yeast had been going for a little bit by this time. And here’s the finished product:

[[image:bread12.jpg:Schiacciata:center:0]]

“Peasant Braided Loaf” – humble beginnings. The first time I made what has become one of Vin’s favorite breads.

[[image:bread13.jpg:Where the bread rises.:center:0]]

After a preliminary rising, the dough is braided. This was the first time I’d used my hair-braiding skills to braid my food.

[[image:bread14.jpg:Doesn’t really look like hair:center:0]]

After the braids rise, look how fat they got!

[[image:bread15.jpg:Now it really doesn’t look like hair!:center:0]]

It’s out of the oven now, with a dinner fork next to it for perspective.

[[image:bread16.jpg:Peasant Braided Loaf ready to eat:center:0]]

A different batch of Peasant Braided loaves.

[[image:bread17.jpg:These were longer, I think:center:0]]

“Rosemary Foccaccia” – these I only took pictures if the finished product. In fact, it’s already been sliced. Little bowl of olive oil for dipping action.

[[image:bread18.jpg::center:0]]

[[image:bread19.jpg::center:0]]

That’s it for now, folks. Wish me luck on further adventures in bread. I will branch out into Malaysian bread-making sometime.

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