Baker’s Percentage

One of the most confusing concepts in my bread making journey has been the “Baker’s Percentage”. It took me quite a while to get my head around it properly. It was difficult because I was figuring it out by myself. However, when the penny did drop, baking bread has become an even greater pleasure and joy! Once I understood this concept, I discovered that I did not need a “bread recipe”. What is more important to understand are the “proportions” required for different ingredients when making bread. The Baker’s Percentage also allows you to scale your bread to the quantities of dough you require for a given batch of dough ingredients. Scaling is not about doubling or tripling or halving a recipe necessarily. Here’s the thing, if you are like me, where mental maths is not a forte, then a calculator is your best friend when making & baking bread and using the Baker’s Percentage. Most of us carry one in our back pocket these days – you know, that thing we like to call a smart phone.

So how does a Baker’s Percentage really work?

Continue reading Baker’s Percentage

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Do you celebrate Mother’s Day with baked goods?

Happy Mother”s Day

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Mother’s Day: An annual event either the 2nd Sunday in May but also 4th Sunday in Lent

Mothers have been honoured since ancient times traditional. However, it is a relatively recent phenomenon that there is a specific day assigned to Mother’s Day annually now. This was thanks to a campaign initiated by

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BREAD – A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman

BREAD by Jeffrey Hamelman sits on my bookshelf full of scribbles and is very heavily underlined in places. It continues to be one of my favourite bread books that I keep returning to when I need clarification. I wish I’d had the book when I first started my bread journey – hah, better late than never!

It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or an experienced bread maker/baker, the book is packed with valuable information and insights. The foreword to the book by Raymond Calvel is testament to this.

Now, before I continue on, in the interest of transparency and full disclosure the book links are affiliate links to my book review. You do not have to use them if you don’t wish to do so. However, if you like what I write and share here about the book, by clicking on the affiliate link you will help me potentially acquire more books in my subject area to review here in future and in return hopefully help you decide whether it is a book you wish to acquire too. I have chosen Book Depository because they offer free shipping worldwide.

The reason I am starting to review books is because as I share my bread making experience I’m also asked what books would be useful in the pursuit of further knowledge in this field, so here goes, for better or worse.

Who is Jeffrey Hamelman? In brief, he is the director of King Arthur Flour, which he joined in 1999 to teach and open their bakery. He is a Certified Master Baker in the USA and recipient of the Golden Baguette Award from the Bread Baker’s Guild and author of the book I’m reviewing here, which is now in its second edition. Here is a link to read more on Jeffrey Hamelman’s: Thought’s On Bread from a post in BREAD Magazine which also published an in depth interview with Jeffrey Hamelman in issue 19 – July 2016  you might like to read.

Jeffrey Hamelman’s book on BREAD is divided into two parts:

Part One walks you through the processes in bread making; the types of ingredients used and how these will affect your bread making; concluding with the different kinds of shaping techniques to be found in making bread. The latter being what truly accentuates bread making as an artisan craft.

Part Two introduces you to the actual making and baking of breads. Understanding how yeasted pre-ferments work and how bread making benefits from this. Then there is the question of breads and their formulas. Bakers prefer to work in formulas because it is a clear way of understanding the proportions used in the baking process.

My only critique in Hamelman’s book is his explanation of the Baker’s Percentage, which you will find in the appendix. Why? Because, the percentages are dealt in pounds. In order to understand baker’s maths you are way better off doing your calculations in metric. The use of pounds is way too convoluted and is probably a reason why many people find it so difficult to get their head around it, specially if they are trying to figure it out in pounds. Nevertheless, understanding baker’s percentages is great because it enables any baker to compute quantities and to scale them accordingly with this method. It is the universal recipe language between bakers – bakers don’t bother writing a recipe, they simply convey the percentages they have used in their bread formula. I’m not going to go into it here though as it is not in the context of this book review. Thankfully all the recipes in the second edition have both the pounds and metric amounts configured, plus even volumetric cups (which I never recommend as no cup volume of flour or salt is ever accurate). Working out the percentages on the given metric amounts isn’t really rocket science although a calculator does come in handy and anyone with a cell phone these days has one at their finger tips (curiously J.H. does not have a cell phone if he can help it).

Until I read Jeffrey Hamelman’s BREAD book I’d never really liked linseeds in my bread. They were hard and nasty bits that got stuck in between my teeth. It was pretty much an AHA moment when I discovered that it is best to soak them the night before and even add some of the salt, if not all of it because this would help inhibit enzymatic activity. It is thanks to this that I have been able to develop my popular “Sun n’ Seed” loaf which I teach in my Grains & Soakers Class.Sun N' Seed Loaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, there are two editions of this book and it is best to get the revised 2nd later edition because as I understand the first edition has limitations on the metric information and some indexing issues as well. All the recipes have step by step instructions and what I love best in the book are the blue inserts that explain more in detail stuff that will affect your baking. For example, explanations how: “Steam” in the oven contributes to your bread baking results; “Benefits of Pre-ferments” and more. They are a treasure trove of information nuggets spread through out the book. If you are keen on understanding the different nuances in baking and not just having recipes, this book is a little encyclopedia of bread information. This book stands as a firm staple in my stable of bread books. Hope you found this useful! If you have any questions happy to answer them in the comments section.

Happy Flour Power! 

Tia

P.S. I actually was fortunate enough to meet Jeffrey Hamelman when he came over to Adelaide for Tasting Australia’s Loaves & Fishes evening. He is a lovely, soft spoken man who truly loves this baking craft. Here a link to a great photo of him I found on the web by Nani Gutierrez. I also found a fascinating interview of him where he discusses his sense of life, and did you know that amongst other things he has been an avid bee keeper since 1982?

JEFFREY HAMELMAN: BREAD - A BAKER'S BOOK OF TECHNIQUES AND RECIPES  [AFFILIATE LINK]

 

Tortillas

I have always been fascinated how flat breads are a world wide phenomena one way or another. Practically every culture has their own version of it, whether it is leavened or unleavened. Mexican tortillas are particularly interesting because of their fusion between the Old World and New World. Thanks to the discovery of America, Europe was introduced to corn based tortillas and they in return introduced wheat based ones to America when settlers started to grow wheat. What I wasn’t entirely aware of is the process that goes into producing/making corn based masa harina. Continue reading Tortillas

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread

These days it is possible to find Tsourekis  all year round, a traditional Greek Easter Bread prepared on Holy Thursday and served Easter Sunday to celebrate the breaking of Lent.

Many families have their own special recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next – one of the best things when it comes to traditional recipes. Godparents in Greece will gift these to their Godchildren and vice versa.

Traditionally the preparation of Easter Tsoureki will begin on Holy Thursday. The eggs will be dyed on that day and the dough will be made and baked in readiness for Sunday.  I love Tsoureki and I only became familiar with it since I’ve lived in the Riverland where we have and extensive Greek community. It all started when I became curious about certain spices that suddenly appeared in our local supermarket during Easter: Mahlepi & Mastika (I wrote about these a few blogs ago). These are the key ingredients in a Tsoureki and it is said that:

without these ingredients a “Tsoureki would not be a Tsoureki” 

I have also been told that the aroma of these special ingredients will evoke nostalgic tears into the eyes of some. There are other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed and fennel that are used on occasion. I’ve even noticed cardamom and the use of bay leaf in some but I’m not sure how traditional this would be. Perhaps such ingredients are the secret ingredients used in the variations of different family recipes…

Dyeing eggs is a big Easter tradition in many countries, and during Easter the emergence of different egg dyes is also very noticeable at our local supermarket. In a Tsoureki, red eggs are embedded into the dough to commemorate the blood of Christ. The colour red also represents life and the egg is a symbol for the renewal of life. The Greeks also refer to Holy Thursday as: “Red Thursday” in reference to eggs being dyed red that day.

Tsourekis are braided either in a log form or into a circular ring, as the latter is a symbol of eternity and the renewal of life. Three braids are used in the braiding, along with three eggs  because this represents the Holy Trinity.

The origin of Tsoureki breads in Greece possibly started during the Turkish Ottoman occupation approximately 400 years ago. The word Tsoureki is derived from the Turkish word “corek”, which means bread made with yeast, who baked similar breads, both savoury and sweet, in various shapes and sizes. The Greeks adopted these by making their own version with eggs, butter and milk. These types of breads are also known as “Labropsomo” and “Labrokouloro”. During Byzantine times they were called “Kollyrides”, another special bread made during Easter with an egg placed in the middle.

Tsoureki dough can be prepared the night before, as the dough will benefit from an overnight ferment, allowing those delicious spice flavours to develop. Once the bread has been braided and shaped the next day, the dough will then have its second rising whilst the oven heats up. The amount of eggs, butter and milk in the recipe will help keep the dough soft and moist, perfect for Sunday when the celebrations begin.

If you would like my version on how to make a Tsoureki you can contact me via Flour-and-Spice and I will email you my pdf version for the recipe. To discover how to make your own you can also join my classes at the Chaffey Community Centre (to book call 8586 5745) or book me and I will show you how to make it in your very own oven! – If you get in touch in time I’m also happy to make them to order, just drop me a line via Flour-and-Spice

HAPPY GREEK EASTER EVERYONE & HAPPY FLOUR POWER!

Tia, your BreadCoach

Flour-and-Spice

 

Why do we need steam when we bake bread?

Back in November I had a question regarding steam and the Maillard reaction in baking via the BREAD Magazine Newsletter Jarkko Laine (Editor of BREAD Magazine) and I produce every week – it’s free, so do subscribe to it. As you may or may not know, professional bakers inject steam into the oven during the baking process. Those who are aware of this often think they cannot accomplish a professional baker’s bread because they cannot replicate this process. Well, this isn’t exactly true, steam can be created in a domestic oven – the only thing you cannot replicate in a domestic oven are the bread volumes professional bakers bake in theirs.

Back to the initial question: “Why do we need steam when we bake bread?”

Continue reading Why do we need steam when we bake bread?

“S”spells Spelt

I like baking with spelt which is an ancient grain increasing in popularity around the world. Contrary to some popular belief, spelt is not “gluten free”, it simply has a different genetic makeup to normal wheat. However, it does appears to be a lot kinder to the gut. This is true especially when it is allowed to go through a proper long fermentation process using natural levain. It has a lovely nutty flavour when baked, the crust gets nicely caramelized with a chocolaty colour. So what else is there to know about spelt… Continue reading “S”spells Spelt

Kulitsa & Pashka & Tsoureki & Challah

Kulitsa/Kulich & Pashka/Pasha are very Eastern European celebratory traditional Easter foods.   Curiously, many of these Easter breads are very similar… Continue reading Kulitsa & Pashka & Tsoureki & Challah

What is Mahlab/Mahlepi/Mastixa?

This is an unusual condiment used in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, generally in the context of baked goods.

Continue reading What is Mahlab/Mahlepi/Mastixa?

How Did Pancake Day come about?

Pancake Day, also know as Shrove Tuesday is the day before lent which starts Ash Wednesday which is the day after on the religious calendar. From a religious point of view, it is the time when many Christians, in remembrance of Jesus, abstain from eating any rich foods during lent. This tradition is believed to be the reason why Pancake Day came about… Continue reading How Did Pancake Day come about?

sourdough, real bread, baking, wild yeast, spices

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