Monday, March 25, 2013

Discovery of Sourdough Starter and Dealing with Waste

I recently ventured into the world of what I once thought was the improbable.......making home grown sourdough starter.

BTW, I found out online that one is supposed to name their sourdough starter for good luck, albeit two days later after I started my sourdough. Long story short, I decided to name my sourdough starter "Starter"! A little unimaginative, yeah, but hey, Starter and I are co-existing with each other just fine.

It took me all of 5 days to culture my starter and it was well ready by Day 6. Now, every recipe will tell you that you need to discard a cup of your starter (or however many ounces) after so many days before you feed it again with filtered water and flour in order for your starter to grow.

I get that. I really get that. Yeast being a microorganism in the air and they need food and water to grow, yada yada yada.....I am fine with that. However, like many bakers, I am not fine with the fact that I have to discard that one cup of starter daily after Day 3 in order for the starter to grow.

Seriously, have you checked the price of a pound of flour lately? Besides, I have grown very fond of Starter, and I just can't bear the thought of throwing away a big part of Starter.

In come the world wide web search on how to use the unfed starter. There is hope for Starter's spare existence after all.

The answer: Sourdough Waffle using unfed starter by King Arthur Flour.

If you have never have a taste of sourdough waffle, you are in for a HUGE treat! The sourdough waffle is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and oh, so light on your stomach. It's the perfect Sunday breakfast for the family.

Take a look at the deep pockets, they can hold a ton of maple syrup in it. Yum!

Sourdough Waffle Recipe using Unfed Sourdough Starter (from King Arthur Flour)

overnight sponge

waffle or pancake batter

  • all of the overnight sponge
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Make the overnight sponge. Combine the flour, sugar, buttermilk, and the cup of unfed starter.
2. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature overnight. 

3. The next morning, combine the two beaten eggs, salt, and baking soda in a clean bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the overnight sponge. Stir gently with a rubber spatula till everything is well blended. Don't overmix or you will end up with tough waffles.

4. Preheat your waffle iron. Pour in a generous half cup of batter into your waffle iron and let it cook for 3 mins 45 seconds. That is how long it takes for me to get a crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside sourdough waffle. Your waffle iron time may vary.

5. Next, smell check. If you own a lazy red mini dachshund who loves to lay in her bed in a sunspot but found her taking those precious steps to stand within steps of your waffle iron on the kitchen counter, something delicious must be cooking.

6. All done. Serve with butter and a healthy drizzle of maple syrup. Who am I kidding, drizzle? Serve it with a river of maple syrup.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Asian Hotdog Buns - the poolish starter dough method

Bread baking using a pre-fermented starter dough is nothing new to me. I have made a few loaves of really good ciabatta using the biga starter before and some noteworthy baguettes using the French poolish (No, it is not a bad word!)

So, why haven't I incorporate those methods to make the ubiquitous Asian buns which my family loves so much? Because I have never thought of it. Or maybe I have been so comfortable using the Asian Water Roux bread making method that I am biased towards it.

Why venture beyond my comfort zone? Well, it is about time and you can always learn something new.

In come this recipe from Corner Cafe ,whose wisdom to feature the article of bread making using a 16-hour bread poolish method in making Asian buns, a true gem in my book. That just opens up a new can of worms entirely. You mean I can actually incorporate other cultures bread making techniques into the Asian bun making frontier? Boy, oh boy! The dawn of a new Asian buns baking era has just begin, at least for me.

Just like the Water Roux method, the poolish buns give you that soft, moist, fluffy bun texture. However, I find that by using the poolish method, the buns seem to have a far more superior result compared to the water roux method, this come from a die hard water roux Asian bread making advocate.

The dough is extremely pliable, very easy to work with even for a beginner. The buns seem to stay really moist even the next day, unlike the water roux method whereby you will begin to see that the bread has dried out somewhat the following day, even if you store them in a ziploc freezer bag.

The drawback, of course, is the 17 hour total waiting time before you can use the poolish. To make the poolish, you have to first combine the following in a clean deep bowl.

Poolish Starter

150g bread flour
150g lukewarm water
1/8 tsp of rapid rise or instant yeast

Once you have combined all the ingredients, it has to be left in a warm place for 1 hour, covered. After which, it has to be stored in the refrigerator for a total of 16 hours prior to use. You heard me right, 16 hours. I dreaded the waiting period in my first attempt. As any bakers out there will tell you, when you chance upon a new recipe which you want to give it a try, you want to see the yield almost immediately. Preferably, the same day.

Nah ah! Not with this recipe. You have to ensure that you sit cool as a cucumber for 16 hours while the starter has time to rest and ferment overnight. To circumvent anxiousness and my inability to wait patiently for the long duration of time, I made my first batch of poolish the night before. More like at 6 in the evening, and that will give me a ready batch of poolish to work with in the morning. At least after 9am. No one should bake before 9am, unless you work in a commercial setting.

Then the fun begins.

1. Measure out your dry ingredients. Here you will need
250g bread flour
100g cake flour (or regular all purpose)
15g milk powder
50g sugar (if you prefer a sweeter dough, increase the sugar to 70g)

2. To this dry mix, you will add in
1 egg, beaten
100 to 120 ml of lukewarm water (use milk if you have omitted the milk powder in the step above)

3. Combine all ingredients till you get a slightly sticky dough. Knead to get a smooth dough. You can do this in a bread machine, a stand mixer or simply knead it by hand. I have done all three methods and found that kneading using the stand mixer will give you the best result.

4. Leave dough in a well greased bowl and cover with a clean towel. Let dough proof for 1 hour in a warm, dry place.

5. After the first proofing is done, take dough out and place it on a clean, lightly floured work surface. Divide dough equally into 12 portions. If you are making plain rolls, divide it into 16 portions. Roll dough into a tight ball and let rest for 10 mins before shaping.

6. Here's when the fun begins. I have learned from the aforementioned blog on how to shape your hotdog buns in the form of a croissant, sort of. First, you will want to roll the dough into a carrot shape.

Using a rolling pin. stretch the dough out thin, start from the narrow end and work your way to the wide end.

7. Place a hotdog on the wide end of the dough, the dough need not encase the entire length of the hotdog.

 Roll the dough towards the narrow end, you will end up with a croissant-shaped bun.

8. Placed rolled hotdog buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment, or lightly greased with butter, cover and let rise for 30 mins.

9. Preheat oven to 355F. Brush egg wash lightly on top of rolls. Bake for a full 22 mins, turning the pan halfway to ensure even browning. Let cool on wire rack before serving.

You can also change the filling to ham and cheese. Those are always a big hit at our house.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

World's Best Cake, Kvaefjord kake

As proclaimed by the Norwegians, Kvaefjord cake is the best cake in the world - Verdens Beste! Naturally, if they claimed it as the best, I will have to bake it to figure out why and how. Thankfully, after going through tons of recipes online, I happened to find one from the pNorwegian embassy pastry chef in D.C.

The best part about her recipe is that it has been converted into U.S. measurement, making it easier to replicate at home. So, one free weekend, and the obsession that kicks in to try my hand on the cake later, here it is.

The meringue part was definitely impressive. It makes the whole cake looks elegant and adds a nice touch of sweetness to the cake without being overly sweet. Nicely done! Absolutely love the vanilla pudding and whipped cream filling. With the addition of strawberries in the center, it just came out sublime. Light and airy, the best part is it doesn't weigh you down after you had a slice or two or three. Will I make this cake again? You betcha!

Verdens Beste Kake (Kvaefjord Cake)
Recipes adapted from here

Recipe For “Kvæfjord-Cake”:
Step 1 - First layer of base 5½ ounces butter
¾ cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
6 tablespoons milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder

Whisk the sugar and butter until smooth and pale. Fold in the other ingredients. Mix well. Spread on a 14 x 17 inch baking pan lined with baking/greaseproof paper.
Step 2 - Second layer of base (meringue)6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
Whisk sugar and egg whites together until stiff peaks form (meringue). Spread evenly over base made in step 1. Sprinkle 4 ounces sliced almonds on top of the meringue.
Bake the two layers together at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in lower part of the oven, for 25-30 minutes.

Step 3 - Filling
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (I used homemade vanilla pudding)
1 cup heavy cream
To make filling, whip the cream and make the vanilla pudding separately. Then mix the cream and vanilla pudding gently together, and refridgerate until cold and firm. Let the cake cool down after removing it from the oven. Cut it in half. Spread the filling on top of one half, and cover with the other. Garnish with fruit or berries.