The last time I made Rye bread it was at the King Arthur Flour Baking School in Washington. It was a 100% rye brick. It was so hard I could not cut it with a knife. Since I didn’t have an axe on hand, I threw it into the garbage bin where it landed with a thump and a din.
Since then I’ve only used rye in very small quantities in my sourdoughs. However at 30g a batch, it’s going to take a while to work through my 5kg bag. I decided to give Rye another try.
Paging through my Gisslen’s “Professional Baking” book, I chose his version of Pain de Campagne. This is a straight dough made with a rye poolish. Overall it’s 30% rye-70% wheat combination with 65% hydration. It is very sticky dough to start (nowI remember) but it firms up nicely when developed.
I couldn’t resist cutting it soon after cooling. The crumb is fine & even (which I think is typical) and the crust chewy & nutty. I had it with a slash of cold butter and it was good. I could imagine this with as an open faced sandwich: cream cheese and smoked salmon or grilled cheese with tomatoes or smoked meat with honey mustard. Hmmm. I could make this again.
In Hong Kong and Singapore it’s hard to find a bakery not selling these pillowy soft breads. They are slightly sweet, tender and chewy with a butter slicked soft crust. Fillings tend towards sweet – red bean paste, coconut and custard – and salty sweet – cha sui buns, curry beef and onions, ham, cheese and onions. My kids favorite were hot dog buns – unadorned sausages wrapped in a spiral of bread. In Singapore, variations included bright green pandan, light brown gula melaka and brilliant yellow mango flavored buns.
Nice though it was, this sweet bread was the ONLY style of bread available in Singapore bakeries. Good on its own for snacks, they are less than satisfying with soups, meats and meals. Eating them at dinner was like eating Twinkies with your roast beef. The unavailability of ‘regular’ bread was the reason I started making artisan breads at home.
Now that I’m back in Canada and living in remote British Columbia, the situation is reversed. In my little town, there is no bakery. There is a supermarket with an in-store bakery. It does passably well with white and whole grain pan breads. Their danishes and croissants are of the pre-made, mass produced variety. Their Hong Kong buns? Nonexistent. My solution? Start making it at home.
Here’s my first batch. Shaping is not as good as it could be and it’s a bit too brown on top but the taste – it’s just as it should be. Want to give it a try? Here’s a recipe.
I’m going whole hog with the West Coast lifestyle thing.
Well, maybe not ‘whole hog’, that’s not vegan. But I may be going ‘loco.’
I’m buying local anyways. I joined the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild (TUCG) which provides locally sourced food and vegetables to Vancouver Island’s restaurants and foodies.
Aside from ordering a la carte, I can buy a Food Lovers box featuring the best veg and fruits of the week. Sometimes it’ll include an unusual but not too weird item. Exactly what’s in the box is a mystery until pickup.
Here’s what my first box looked like.
Fruits included raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries and first of the season peaches.
Veggies were french beans, fresh picked bib lettuce, cauliflower and purple kale. The kale was the not too weird vegetable. And carrots – lots and lots of carrots – a whole layer of them was hidden beneath the kale. An additional bonus was a swag of fresh sage and bay leaves, complements of a nearby restaurateur.
Cherries are my favorite summer fruit, so I started into those as soon as I got home. Peaches are my second favorite but I had to wait a day for them to ripen. They were juicy and flavorful.
Kale was the challenge item. I’d signed up for the box because I wanted to try at least one new item a week; something I’d never cooked before. This week it was kale.
I decided to start small. I picked a few leaves from the bunch, discarded the hard spines and chopped them into bite size pieces. In a medium hot saute pan I browned sliced garlic then added the kale. I expected it to cook down like spinach but apparently this leafy veg is different. Unlike spinach which breaks down into a soft mess of greens, kale renders no water and goes crispy in the pan. The leaves tasted a bit bitter, so I decided to chopped them finely, season it heartily and add to eggs and Parmesan cheese for an omelette.
The kale omelette didn’t taste awful. I felt nutritionally virtuous eating it. Honestly though, I think it was much improved by the accompanying baked beans and crusty hearth bread.
Problem is … I used only one tenth of the bunch of kale received.
What am I going to do with the rest of it?
I guess that’s the challenge for the rest of the week.
I am settling in to a new home on the Pacific West Coast of British Columbia.
The trek from middle Ontario was a long and eventful, even if by air rather than wagon trail. Just like the old time pioneers, I packed my sourdough starter in my trunk. Unlike the pioneers, liquids are not allowed in carry-on and I had to figure out how to store my starter for travel.
King Arthur had the recommendation to dehydrate and pulverize it into SD starter shards.
However, now I’m trying to bring the starter back to life.
That is not going so well.
Three days after re-hydration and two feedings later, this is what my Toronto starter looks like.
I’m going to give it a few more feedings and a couple more days.
But if it doesn’t liven up soon, I’ll have to give up and catch some wild Pacific yeasties to make a brand new, West Coast starter.
In the meantime, I’ve been missing my bread.
One cannot survive on store ‘boughten’ loaves alone.
I don’t have all of my bread making gear in place but I decided to give my kitchen oven a try. These are my First Breads. They are poolish based, made with Western Canada AP flour, whole wheat and rye.
There was a pretty nice bloom from my un-trained oven. As to be expected, regulating the temperature was a problem but it’ll figure itself out. The bread itself tasted lovely and it had a good, hearty chew. Yum. Nothing says Home like a slice of warm bread and a slash of cold melting butter.
I realize I’d made a promise to do weekly posts on Breads. What was I thinking? That’s insane. Good thing all my faithful viewers are not bread-heads. Y’all still reading ’bout Ham Choy. Well, I still don’t have anything new to say about Ham Choy.
But I will give you a glimpse of what I have been baking.
Bread Pudding, Panna Cotta with Rasberry couli, Creme Caramel
I’m learning how to make breads at the George Brown culinary school. Last week’s class was French croissants. It was my introduction to laminated breads i.e. breads made with layers and layers of butter.
Through a series of missteps and happenstance I ended up making over six kilos of dough.
If you’re familiar with the lamination process, you will appreciate the magnitude of that effort. Suffice to say it took twelve hours of kneading, rolling and folding to produce these three batches of dough.
I cut and baked the first batch at school. This first set I called my ‘learning batch’. They were less than perfect. I’d cut them too big, shaped them wrong and had not left enough time for proofing. While they tasted ok, there was obvious room for improvement. I took the remaining batches home for practice.
Two batches (4 kg) of dough make a lot croissants. The good news is that raw croissant dough can be frozen. The bad news? I didn’t have enough freezer space.
What to do with all that dough?
Have a Croissant party!
After spending all day Saturday prepping the dough, I spent all day Sunday making pastries. I’d learned a lesson or two in school. My pastries there had been large and under-proofed. At home, I was extra careful in cutting and shaping, aiming for smaller and consistent sizing. Altogether I made about seven or eight dozen croissants. Pain au chocolats, Croissants Almondine. Cinnamon Raisin. Croissant Beurre. Baking trays lined up around my kitchen and everything smelled wonderful.
Croissants must be eaten on the day they’re made. Preferably within two hours from the oven when they’re warm, flaky crisp, soft and redolent with the smell and taste of butter.
Even with seven hungry friends and take-home party bags, I had left over croissant dough. These were the rolling bits and ends that couldn’t be re-rolled into pastry (a big NO-No with laminated dough.)
What to do with all this dough?
Improvise and make Crois-Bits!
I slashed the remnants into to smaller pieces, tossed them with sugar and leftover frangipane and baked them up into into crunchy little bites. They were light and crisp and perfect with my morning coffee.
But still there was more. All the coffee in the world, couldn’t make me finish two dozen Crois-Bits.
What to do with all these croissants?
Make Bread Pudding, of course!
And because these are croissants and not plain old bread, they’re called Diplomate au Bavarois.
Finally, after a week of croissants, I am out of dough. At least, I’m done with the batch that wasn’t frozen.
This Saturday though, is another class. We are making Danishes!
Poverty forced Hakka people to be creative cooks, and the result was salty, rich and hearty dishes that reinvigorated the body. While the cuisine is still popular in Hong Kong, chefs are unsure how long Hakka culture can endure
Interesting article on Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong , published by the South China Morning Post.
It’s been a while since I last posted. Months actually. The funny thing is, my Stats page tells me this site has been getting regular hits every day. Without exception every day someone views Ham Choy is Kiam Chye is Hum Choy. If I was a Views hound, I’d rename the blog to The Ham Choy Chronicles and post exclusively about this Hakka staple.
Too bad I am not a hound. I blog about what I like and I have a new obsession: Bread.
Encouraged by my limited success I continued to make more bread. That was two years ago. Fast forward to November 2017 when I signed up for an advanced workshop on Artisan Bread at the King Arthur School @ The Bread Lab in Washington State.
For four days I learned how to make bread. Straight dough, enriched doughs, biga, poolish, sourdoughs, ryes. We covered all the basics of handmade, long rise bread. Some of it went over my head but I grasped the fundamentals and relished the fruits loaves of my learning.
Ever since I’ve been making hearth style breads regularly. I don’t buy grocery bread anymore. And I’m still learning. There are vast libraries of knowledge on breads and legions of bread enthusiasts in the blogosphere. I’m joining them. Every week I’ll be posting something about bread.
Sorry, Ham Choy readers.
But who knows, maybe someday I’ll experiment and create an new type of bread: Ham Choy buns. You’ll be the first to know.