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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Almond Croissants - Naughty but Nice

I love almond croissant. It is my most favourite pastry item. S and I have our unofficial quest for the best croissant in Melbourne.

It’s actually not a planned quest but we just couldn’t help ourselves when we saw almond croissants anywhere we go...we always jumped to one. The one we enjoyed the most was from the local French cafe in Richmond near S’work,  Almost French. It’s humble cafe that made great bread and pastries. It is such a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

The croissant recipe came from Bourke Street Bakery cookbook but the almond croissant part came from Poh’s Kitchen’s first episode with Emanuelle, a French chef from Perth. Poh’s Kitchen show got me hooked from the first episode, with the almond croissant and all. I love the show. Coming from the same kind of background, South East Asian with Chinese heritage, I feel related to many of her recipes. Her food brings back my childhood memories.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wheat Germ Sourdough - a flavourful plain sourdough

I wasn’t aware of wheat germ before until I was introduced to it through the fantastic SFBI miche by a TFL member, which I also jumped onto the band wagon and made the bread sometimes ago (the post is here).

Wheat germ was toasted and added to that recipe. Toasted wheat germs produced sensational aroma and lovely nutty and creamy taste. I liked it so much that I was planning to make more bread with it. Thing was, I got a long long list of things I wanted to try baking, but so little time.

Now, few months later, I finally got around making wheat germ sourdough. I used a simple sourdough recipe with mixed flour starter (wheat and whole wheat) and included 2% of toasted wheat germ (in Baker’s Percentage term, 2% of total flour) in the recipe. The recipe also contains 10% whole wheat flour and 68% hydration.

A note in Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book recommended 2% as maximum amount of wheat germs in a recipe. The book suggested too much wheat germs can have a negative effect on gluten development. Apparently, a wheat kernel also contains 2% if wheat germs naturally, before it is processed, where germ and bran are removed.

I toasted the wheat germs longer this time, until it was golden brown. The texture and colour resembled crushed Wheatbix. The aroma was even more wonderful heavily toasted. It stayed in the kitchen long after the toast. The dough was so aromatic from the wheat germ and made the hand kneading rather pleasant.

I have been quite slack with adhering to the desired dough temperature lately. When temperature was around 20 -22 C, DDT (desired dough temperature) doesn’t matter much. However, the weather is now getting cooler in Melbourne. The evening and morning temperature (when I mix starter and final dough) are around 10 – 14 C. I started to notice that the starter wasn’t ready when it should be, the dough didn’t get fermented within the expected timeframe. Now, I am back to measure the temperature of all ingredients before mixing and change the water temperature to make sure that the final temperature will match the DDT.

Note: To calculate the desired dough temperature (source: Bread: a Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes),

- Multiply DDT with the number of ingredients in the recipe and
- Add friction created by kneading (20F, for example),
- For example, a dough require DDT 76F that have 4 ingredients with friction from kneading of 20F = (76 x 4) + 20 = 324.

To start with, you have to measure the temperature of all ingredients except water, add them all up with the friction, then subtract that total from total DDT, to get the temperature of water. The goal is to manipulate the water temperature to get the DDT.

Actual Temperature
60 F +
60 F +
60 F +
Friction factor
20 F +
Total before water
200 F -
Total DDT
324 F =
Water temperature
124 F

This bread was a great every day kind of bread. It made great sandwiches. It had a pronounced acidity from mixed flour sourdough starter. The crumb was open, chewy and moist. It had a fantastic creamy sweet aroma from the wheat germ and whole wheat, plus great health benefit of wheat germ. The wheat germ doesn’t last long once it is opened (because of its high natural oil content, it will go rancid relatively quickly). I’ll have to try making more bread with it before it is off. So, there'll be more of baking with wheat germs on the way. I'm already eyeing for something.  

Wheat Germ Sourdough
make 2 large loaves


Overall Formula
Baker’s Percentage
Bread flour
817 g
Whole wheat flour
90 g
617 g
17 g
Wheat germ
18 g
1.56 kg

Sourdough built
Whole wheat flour 68 g
Bread flour 68 g
Water 170 g
Mature culture 28 g

Final Dough
Bread flour 749 g (I used flour with 12.5% protein)
Whole wheat flour 22 g
Water 433 g
Salt 17 g
Wheat germ, toasted 18 g
Sourdough starter 306 g (all less 28 g for future use)


Prepare sourdough built:  Mix all ingredient together until well-combined about 12 – 16 hours before mixing the final dough. Leave it in a covered container at room temperature. Desired temperature 21c (70F).

Mixing: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, except salt and wheat germs.  Mix until the ingredients are incorporated. Leave it to autolyze in a bowl covered with plastic bag or wrap for 15 - 30 minutes. Desired dough temperature 24C (76F).

Meanwhile, toast wheat germ in a small heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until it is very aromatic and golden brown. Leave them to cool in a bowl.

Wheat germ: before and after toasting

Sprinkle salt and wheat germ over the dough surface and mix on the first speed for 3 minutes. Continue mixing on second speed for further 3 – 4 minutes, until a medium gluten development is achieved (the dough can be stretched gently, stay intact and doesn’t tear).

I kneaded the dough by hand and it took around 15 minutes to get medium gluten development.

Bulk fermentation: - Leave the dough in a lightly oiled container and cover the bowl with plastic bag or wrap for 2.5 hour until doubled in size. Do stretch-and-fold twice at 50 minutes interval (first fold at 50 minutes, second fold at 100 minutes).

Divide the doughs into two equal portions. Pre-shape the doughs into rounds and let them rest for 10 – 15 minutes under a tea towel.

Shape the doughs into oblong (batard) or boule (round) and place into proofing baskets/bowls. Slip the proofing basket into a large plastic bag. Retard the dough in the fridge overnight or proof at room temperature for 2 hours or until almost double in size.

Baking: If retarding, take the dough out of the fridge and leave them at room temperature for 60-90 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature and prepare the oven steaming.

Bake at 235C for 15 minutes with steam, reduce temperature to 220C and bake for further 25 – 30 minutes (total baking time is 40 45 minutes).

I usually leave the loaves to dry off in the off-oven with the door open for 5-10 minutes. This helps the crust to brown up a little more and stay crisp for longer.

Submitting this post to YeastSpotting.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Raspberry and Chocolate Tart - a by product of failed Easter Egg Macarons

I had a plan…I had a vision about my Easter Macarons. Egg-shaped chocolate macarons filled with rich chocolate ganache mixed with peanut praline. The size would be about actual egg-size and ganache would be piped onto the shells decoratively and they would be served as dessert.
That didn’t eventuate as my convection oven was broken. Actually, I was persistent with the idea even though my oven didn’t work. I took the macaron batch to S’ house and baked from there.
You know the baker’s saying, “You have to know your oven”. This saying is so true for macarons, the most temperamental of all baked goods! I sort of know that S oven is hotter than mine. The actual temperature is hotter/higher than the temperature gauge. But I guess, I have been complacent with the macarons (I haven’t had failed batches for ages). The little diva just wanted to remind me how diva-like she could be!

Shatterd mac, shattered me!

I was shattered when I pulled the trays out. The macaron shells were as shattered as me. The shells were cracked, broken and sticky. This happened because the oven was too hot. Too high heat made the shells rose too quickly when they were not strong enough to withstand the rise. So, they cracked as a result. And once they’re cracked, there was no steam trapped inside the shell to help it cooked and puffed up. So, there were little feet and the shells weren’t cooked well as a result.
Thing was, I already made the ganache filling. At first, it felt like I had lost my will to make anything out of it. I was so ready to chuck it in the bin out of the frustration (Gosh, I was so involved with my baking sometimes, actually most of the times!). As frustrated as it was, I could have never thrown away food, not when it was still edible, not when it was chocolate ganache.
So, here goes, the chocolate ganache has become raspberry chocolate tart. I adapted the recipe from Michel Roux’s Pastry cookbook. This tart is simple yet so effectively delicious. The tart has fresh raspberry mixed with fresh mint leaves as the base and they are covered with chocolate ganache.
My chocolate ganache for macarons was slightly thicker than Michel Roux recipe. As a result, the tart didn’t look as smooth and looked a bit heavy but they tasted great nonetheless.
I used frozen raspberries instead of fresh. It worked well even though they became thick paste when mixed with mints. Mixing mints with raspberry was a great idea. It added more depth to the flavour of this tart.

This is a fabulous tart with lots of flavour and texture;  sweetness from chocolate ganache, tart and tang from raspberry, refreshing from mint and texture from the tart base. My thick chocolate ganache looked clumsy on the tart and didn’t do it enough justice. I’m terribly sorry, Mr Roux.

The full recipe can be found here, in The Age newspaper website to which Mr Roux gave the interview about a year ago (the recipe is in page 2 and 3 or the web page).

Have a happy Easter to all!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Semolina Sourdough with sesame seed - this time with durum flour

Now that I finally found (the elusive) durum flour (after been making semolina bread with fine semolina all along and I posted a blog about my quest for durum flour here.), I wanted to find out what semolina bread with sesame seeds would really taste like with the durum flour, not fine semolina.
I made the semolina bread from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread cookbook a few times before with fine semolina as I wasn’t able to find the durum flour required by the recipe back then. I wanted (and hoped) to be able to make a comparison with flavour, texture between the same bread made with fine semolina and durum flour.

Fine semolina on the left and durum flour on the right

I found there were few differences that fine semolina and durum flour produced with  this bread, i.e. texture, keeping quality, dough structure and oven spring. In fact, there could be many more differences but these were the ones noticeable to me.
Taste-wise, I couldn’t tell the differences, however, the bread made with fine semolina was a relatively distant memory as well. The bread texture was similarly chewy and both tastes lovely with sweet creamy flavour.

Semolina mutigrain bread made with fine semolina months back

One big difference was the dough texture and structure. Fine semolina contributed to slacker dough as it hardly absorbed the water. The bread also staled quicker as a result.
Dough made with fine semolina tends to be flatter. I didn’t get much oven spring from fine semolina. With durum flour, the loaves appeared to be quite flat when they were taken out of the proofing baskets but they achieved great oven spring and better volume during the bake. This could be the result of better gluten structure which supported better rise.

Fine semolina worked in the recipe however durum flour would produce bread with better rise and crumb structure. Personally, if I can’t find durum flour, I’ll be happy with this bread made with semolina as well.
This dough was pleasant to work with. It has smooth and satiny texture. It was almost effortless to have gluten developed. In fact, Hamelman stated that durum flour had high gluten which can develop quickly. The gluten can also be unknit as quickly, care needs to be taken not to over-mixing the dough.
This bread is one of my favourite. I love the aroma and texture of sesame seeds in bread (or in anything really) and the durum flour also add sweet creamy flavour to the bread, and tender crumb. I used black sesame seeds instead of white as I find the black sesame seeds is more flavourful. I love its smoky flavour. I toasted the seeds in the pan instead of oven. It is something I enjoy, doing thing with my hand, and inhale the aroma of food as I go along.

Semolina Sourdough Recipe
Adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: a baker’s book of techniques and recipes
Make 2 large loaves

Overall formula
Baker’s Percentage
Bread flour
363 g
Durum flour
544 g
607 g
17 g
Sesame seeds, toasted
45 g
Total weight
1576 g

Liquid levain build

Bread flour 136 g
Water 170 g
Mature culture (liquid) 28 g

Final dough

Bread flour 227 g
Durum flour 544 g
Water 437 g
Salt 17 g (1T)
Sesame seeds, toasted 45 g
Liquid levain 306 g (all less 2 T)

Liquid levain: Make the final build 12 to 16 hours before the final dough. Leave levain in a covered container and leave it at room temperature.
Mixing: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, except salt and sesame seeds. Mix until they are combined and form a dough ball. Leave the dough in bowl covered with plastic wrap or bag for 30 minutes to autolyse.
Sprinkle salt over the dough surface and mix well. Mix on low-medium speed for 5-7 minutes until moderate gluten is achieved. I knead the dough by hand and it took about 15 minutes.  
Be careful not to over-mix the dough as durum flour gluten will quickly unknit if the gluten is overly developed.
Bulk fermentation: Leave the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap or bag for 2 hours or until it is doubled in size. It took 2.5 hours for me to fully ferment the dough.
Folding: Do one stretch-and-fold after 1 hour.
Dividing and shaping: Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Pre-shape into rounds and let the rest under a tea towel for 15 minutes for gluten to relax.  Shape the dough in round (boule) or oblong (batard).
Final fermentation: Approximately 2 hours or until it is about 1.5 of its original size.
I retarded the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge for 9 hours. After I took the shaped loaves out of the fridge, I let them  sit at room temperature for two hours before baking. The weather was getting cooler in Melbourne. It used to take only an  hour during late Summer.

You can apply untoasted sesame seeds on the surface of the bread by lightly spraying the top surface with water and press sesame seeds on the surface just before baking.
Baking: Baking at 235C for 40 -45 minutes, with steam for the first 15 minutes.
Submitting this post to YeastSpotting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Hot Cross Bun - not your traditional but it is so good

In Australia, Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns seems to stand side-by-side with the traditional ones with spices, sultana and peels. In most instances, it seems to outsell the traditional.

And I am not surprised. Who doesn’t like chocolate? It’s hardly anyone. Sure, chocolate chip Hot Cross buns might not be the traditional. But, hey...things evolve and develop...and here you go, Hot Cross Buns with chocolate chips, genius.

I made double batches of Hot Cross buns on the weekend, the traditional (as the redemption to the traumatised batch last week) and the chocolate. The recipe for chocolate’s is largely similar to traditional. I also added cocoa powder into the bread dough for extra chocolate flavour.

I didn’t use the mixed spice (sorry, the Hot Cross bun hard-core). I used crushed cardamom and cinnamon instead. Reading Flavour Thesaurus book by Nikki Segnit about flavour pairing made me want to try pairing cardamom with chocolate. The books suggested that adding cardamom to chocolate will enhance its flavour and make the chocolate taste rather expensive as a result. Well, that sounded tempting, an interesting way to add flavour to chocolate. I was so curious to find out.
I never cooked or baked with cardamom before. The aroma was fantastic and so addictive. Cardamom pods needed to be crushed to get the seeds. I used mortar-and-pestle to crush the pods and grind the seeds. When the cardamom was mixed with the chocolate bread dough, it did smell like an expensive chocolate bar. The aroma was so distinctive, citrusy, very outstanding. That was amazing. I wouldn’t have thought about this pairing if it wasn’t for the book. Now, I am thinking about cardamom scented chocolate ganache for macarons. Well, not until the oven is fixed anyway!

Cardamom pods were crushed and grinded

Even though I love cardamom and have it frequently with Indian dessert, I believe it is an acquired taste. I encourage you to give it a go. If not, you can replace the cardamom with more cinnamon powder.

I used Dutch cocoa powder in the recipe (and it was my first time using it, I usually buy cocoa powder from the supermarket, not specialty store). The flavour was so much more intense than the usual cocoa powder. Now, I will never go back to the usual cocoa powder again.

I also included the sourdough starter in the recipe. Again this is optional. The starter didn’t help with the rising much, if at all. It was there to add flavours to the buns. And indeed, it added the complexity to the flavour and I can’t detect any acidity of sourdough at all. Without trying to be overly excited, these buns were the best chocolate Hot Cross buns I ever had. They were soft and sweet, with fantastic citrusy aroma from cardamom. They were so addictive.

If you don’t use sourdough starter, increase the amount of flour and milk by 70 grams each.

If you don’t use cardamom, increase the amount of cinnamon powder by 1 teaspoon.

I used my homemade apricot jam mixed with water for the glaze instead of sugar syrup.

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: a Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipees

Makes 12 buns

IngredientsOverall FormulaBaker’s Percentage
Bread Flour377 g100%
Cocoa Powder15 g4%
Milk120 g32%
Water70 g19%
Butter57 g15%
Sugar66 g18%
Cinnamon Powder1.5 g0.5%
Salt3 g1%
Egg60 g16%
Chocolate chips 75 g20%
Cardamom seed1.5 g0.5%
Yeast7 g2%
Total Weight853 g228%

Bread flour 37 g
Milk 120 g
Sugar 9 g
Yeast 7 g, instant dry (2 ¼ tsp)

Final dough
Mature sourdough starter 140 g (at 100% hydration, water:flour, 1:1)
Bread flour 270 g
Cocoa powder 15 g (preferably Dutch cocoa powder)
Butter, soft 57 g
Egg 1 egg
Sugar 57 g
Salt 3 g (1/2 teaspoon)
Cinnamon powder 1.5 g (1 teapoon)
Crush cardamom seeds 1.5 g (1 teaspoon), optional (if not using, add 1 more teaspoon of cinnamon powder into the recipe)
Sponge 173 g (all of the above)
Chocolate chips 75 g (I used Ghiradelli semisweet choc chips)

Crossing paste
All-purpose flour 35 g
Milk 35 g
Cocoa powder 2 teaspoons
Sugar 15 g

Apricot jam 2 tablespoons
Water 2 tablespoons


Sponge: Mix yeast into the milk, add flour and sugar and mix until thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap or plastic bag and leave at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. The sponge will grow about 3-4 times of its original height. Desired sponge temperature is 26C, which means you will have to warm the cold milk up a little.

Mixing: Mix soft butter, flour and cocoa powder together until roughly combined. Add eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom and mix them altogether. Then, add the sponge and starter and mix until the dough ball is formed.

Knead until medium gluten development is achieved (that the dough can be gently stretched into a thin sheet without tearing). It would take approximately 6 minutes on second speed if using mixer, or 15 minutes mixing by hand.

Add the chocolate chips and mix until these are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Bulk fermentation: 1 hour – 1.5 hour, with a light fold after 30 minutes.

Dividing and shaping: Divide the dough into twelve 70-g pieces. Shape the pieces into rolls and place them inside baking tin. The dough should line in an even configuration. Leave spaces between each buns as the buns will expand during proofing and baking. Cover the tin of buns with a plastic bag to prevent surface drying out.

Final fermentation: About 1 hours.

Crossing paste: Make the crossing paste while the buns proof. Mix sugar, flour  and cocoa powder together. Add milk and mix until it is well combined and become a smooth paste. Fit a piping bag with a 0.5-cm round tip. Pipe crosses on to the buns, starting from left to right for each row, and turn the tin 90 degree to continue with other direction for the cross.

Chocolate crossing paste in the middle picture

Glaze: Mix apricot jam and water together and strain to a bowl. Alternatively, you can also use simple sugar syrup as a glaze (mixing one part water and one part sugar in a saucepan, and boil and simmer for 5 minutes)

Baking: Bake the buns at 220c for 14 to 16 minutes. Brush hot bun with the glaze.

Submitting this post to YeastSpotting.