Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making Homemade Bread in Malaysia

My first ever home baked bread sitting on willow pattern dinner plate

Yesterday I happened into the Bakery Supply Store located in Seremban in the small storefronts across from the Specialist Hospital. The Bakery Store has a few things that the other stores in Seremban don’t stock. Yesterday the Yeast section caught my eye which I must have missed last time I was there. I opted to buy Saf-Instant Levure Seche de Boulanger Dry Baker's Yeast in the small packets because I wasn’t sure if it was the right kind of yeast that I am used to in the States. I came home excited that I’m going to be able to make pizza crust with the yeast. So I am looking online and find that Saf-Instant made in France is one of the best Yeast brands world wide. It makes sense, the French do make good bread afterall! The Saf-Instant site explained this was the instant kind of yeast, which I’ve never used. The Seremban bakery store had some of the other Saf products available too, including larger size bags.

So as I am searching how much yeast to use to make pizza dough with the Saf-Instant product I came across some bread recipes. And then I found lots of blogs talking about Jim Lahey's, owner of Sullivan St. Bakery in New York City, ‘revolutionary’ home baked bread recipe which was featured in the NYTimes in 2006 here. Apparently, everyone in the US has since been baking this home bread recipe of his in their ovens at home. Well, I left NYC in early 2006 so I missed the article and knew nothing to date of the home bread craze going on since. Although I can say I have had some of Sullivan St. Bakery’s bread when I lived in NY and it was fantastic. It’s the kind of ‘gourment’ bread that’s been so popular in NY since the 90s and I would buy this kind of bread often (also to note this bread was always expensive starting at something like $4.00 per loaf and going up up up). One of the big bummers, in my opinion, of Malaysian foods is their bread selection. And Seremban has an even poorer selection than KL. So, I was thrilled, thrilled! to find a recipe to make this crispy type crust bread here in Malaysia.

So yesterday I started looking at the recipes online and other versions, but opted to start by making the original Jim Lahey recipe in the NYTimes figuring I could adapt it later. The only thing I needed was some kind of cooking vessel for cooking the bread inside the oven. I had seen some clay pots at the Family Store near my house, and I was fairly sure they would still be there. So last night I made the bread dough because it needed to sit out for 12 or more hours before the next step.

This morning the dough had increased in size and I went to Family Store and picked up a clay pot. Large in size it nearly fills the height of the oven. Based on Jim’s recipe I think I could have gone for a smaller clay pot, but the next size down there were only two at the store and the covers didn’t fit right on the top of the pots. So I went with the big one at 16.90RM (yes that’s under $6 US). I wasn’t sure if the clay pot was oven safe but for $6 bucks figured I’d give it a shot.... as my mouth was really starting to water for some of that bread.

Inside of this Clay Pot is glazed

Came home and did the whole recipe as called for. I think it was a success, the pot didn’t break or crack and the bread turned out good, there is some room for improvement both for taste and making the process simpler and less messy. R thought the bread could be more spongy and I agree, but overall not a bad loaf for about 30 cents (US). Oh, I might watch Family Store and see if they get any more of the smaller size clay pots, I would buy two so I can fit two of them in the oven at the same time and hence be able to bake two bread loafs at a time. One bad thing about this whole process is the heat from the oven in the house, like it’s not already hot in Malaysia!!!! So cutting down on the time the heat is on is a good thing and baking two loafs at once is better than two in a row.

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