Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baking Bread

If you have been reading this blog, you may have noticed we have spent a lot of time searching for good bread.  In December an acquaintence from Bahasa Malaysia class shared some bread he made  Since then the thought of baking has been on my to do list.  In late February the folks at CETDEM came to the rescue.  They offered a class in Organic Bread Making.  Liz was all for this... getting to taste good bread and getting me out of the house.

Our instructor at CETDEM

So on a Sunday morning I went off to the CETDEM facilities.  I went to the wrong facility....their office.  After a few calls, I got some sketchy directions, hailed a cab and went off to find the CETDEM community centre.  With luck, I arrived only a few minutes late, and hopefully did not delay the proceedings.

Sourdough Starter Chinese Style
There were 11 of us, 1 expat (me), and the remainder Malaysians (mixed Chinese and Indians).  We all washed up, and proceeded to watch and touch dough.  We first made a batch of sourdough starter....both using a Chinese traditional method, and using active dry yeast, water and flour.  We set those aside and began to make a whole wheat bread dough using organic bread flour, water, oil, yeast, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour and water.  After mixing for a while by hand we turned our the flour onto a stainless steel countertop.  We then learned the finer points of kneading.
Demo of kneading

It was much more strenuous that I was used to.  We used two hands, one to anchor the dough ball and the other to stretch the dough.  We did this for about 10 minutes, oiled a bowl, oiled the dough, covered it with a damp linen towel and placed it in a corner to rise.  No worries about finding a warm place in the kitchen here in Malaysia.

Shaped loaves
We then took an alread made batch of risen dough,  knoched it down and divided it into 300gm pieces.  These we stretched out, rolled, folded and placed into oiled baking pans.  We set there aside to rise.

Dinner Rolls
After talking, and waiting for our loaves to rise, we retrieved our original batch of dough, an divided it into individual roll sized pieces.  We each rolled the dough and placed them on a baking pan to rise again.

We never got to see our loaves of bread finish their rising, but the rolls rose quickly, and they baked up nicely in about 20 minutes.  I took one home to share with Liz.

A week later I got my hand at baking bread in Kuala Lumpur.  In the intervening week my local supermarket began a renovation and for several days had no flour.  At another market I found unbleached Gold Medal all-purpose flour, and an Australian brand of rapid rise yeast.  The former is not necessarily adequate for bread making, and the later was unfamiliar.  Added to that was an Australian brand of whole meal flour (not the same as whole wheat bread flour).  I used a recipe I gathered from the internet and proceeded to make bread.

Yes, my dough is rising in a wok.
Well the batch was extremely gooey, and sticky, so I added more all purpose flour.  I never was able to get to a nice smooth stretchy dough.  I suspect it was the lack of gluten in the flours.  The dough rose adequately and I punched it down.  I then formed the loaves and set them aside to rise again.  This yeast was very much so that you could observe the dough rising.  I think it was a combination of the activity of the yeast culture, and the heat in an non air conditioned tropical kitchen (you don't need to worry about finding a warm location in your kitchen).

I put two of the loaves in pans, and reserved the remainder of the dough for the freezer.  I had no use for 4 loaves of bread.  Unfortunately my freezer has a hot spot (where the defroster is located) and the dough continued to rise for several hours in the freezer.

And we have bread.
I do not have a proper oven, but I have a Faber Convection Oven (basically a souped up toaster oven). I set the temp gauge at 180C and hoped for the best.  After preheating, I put the loaves in the over.  No additional dough rising occurred during the baking process.  The loaves browned nicely, and a crust formed.  However the bread was grainy (probably a result of the whole wheat flour used), and did not have a well formed interior....and it was a bit yeasty in flavor.  But it was eatable and toasted nicely.

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