Category Archives: Sourdough

Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

It takes me about three days to make these Danish pastries made with 100% whole wheat flour – two if my sourdough starter is already bubbling strongly. I normally start preparing the dough for these pastries at the same time I bake bread because then my sourdough starter is highly active and thriving and I can kill two birds with one stone – prepare bread and pastries.

Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour

Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

My Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour are that they are made with wild yeast (sourdough starter). I grind the wheat grains myself before they are fermented in sourdough starter and turned into pastry dough. I have no white flour in my kitchen. White flour is devoid of nutrition. Wheat grains are loaded with nutrition but to access them you need to ferment them and that is why I need about two days to make my Danish pastries.

It is a myth that you can’t use hundred percent whole wheat flour to make them. I make them this way time and time again and they are perfect.Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour

When Kevin and I stay at hotels we usually take the breakfast buffet that comes with our stay. A well stocked breakfast buffet must have Danish pastries. I cringe at the Danish pastries at these places. They are just airy, empty shells made out of starchy white flour, probably bleached and mixed with commercial yeast.

White flour pastry is devoid of the richness of flavour that only sourdough pastry can give. Let the wild yeast work its way through wholesome, freshly ground wheat flour with no additives whatsoever and you will have some of the finest Danish pastries.  I don’t think you will find them in the hotels, though because it takes time to create not only the best tasting Danish pastries but also the healthiest. Commercial establishments don’t spend this much time to create the best food. If you can’t grind your own flour, get them at health food stores. If you need softer flour for buns for eg just buy sifted, stone ground whole wheat flour

It was a delight to make this batch last Sunday morning. They sat on the rack to cool down before I packed them in the car and took them to church. Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour and fermented by wild yeast/sourdough starter lasts longer. Those made with white flour and commercial yeast go stale in just one day.

 

Make Your Own Filling And Use Whole Berries

I know there are many different fillings for Danish pastries, but thus far I have been making them with creme patissiere which I make with kefir and eggs from my hens. Maybe one day I will try a different filling. On top of the creme patissiere I have put loganberries and blackberries from the garden and store bought organic blueberries. I was pretty excited to use these home-grown berries as they have been in my freezer for about four months.

The lovely thing about baking your own Danish pastries is that you can add a lot of creme patissiere and berries. Hotels and bakeries only give you a swab of both and the rest of it are all just flaky crust of the pastry. I like the pastry but only with a generous helping of the filling and berries.

With these Danish pastries, I piled them on as much as I could without them dripping. There must be enough to ooze into your mouth with every bite, unlike commercial ones where you chew on flaky crust all through and get only a trickle of the filling and maybe only the flavour of berries and hardly any whole berries.

 

Shaping Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

I made them in three different shapes – the pinwheel, vol-au-vent and the cinnamon rolls which you can also call the snail shape. I always have a bottle of cinnamon sugar handy for my baking needs. I grind sugar with pure Cinnamon quills which is Ceylon Cinnamon and not the Cassia variety. That is all there is to it to making cinnamon sugar. This way the sugar too becomes very fine, like castor sugar.

Cinnamon Rolls Among The Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

The cinnamon rolls have a thick layer of creme patissiere sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and raisins within its spiralling layers. In this sense it is slightly different from the other Danishes and lends a lovely contrast of flavours in a delightful breakfast basket.

Tom Yam Pizza

Tom Yam Pizza

All my pizza bases are freshly made with sourdough starter. I grind the wholegrains and use fresh flour. Flour does not last long. Flour sold commercially has had the bran and germ removed [the most nutritious part of the wheat containing the vitamins and oils such as tocopherol or Vitamin E] so it will last longer. Over 25 nutrients found in wholegrains are absent from white flour. In addition I ferment the flour with sourdough starter for hours to break down phytic acid so the body is able to easily absorp these nutrients. Please read “WhySourdough Starter?” to learn more.

Tom Yam pizza

Tom Yam Pizza Base

Ingredients

200 gm starter

600 gm (22 oz) wholegrain flour or spelt flour

400ml (14 fl oz) filtered water

2 tsp (10 gm) saltTom Yam pizza

Tom Yam Pizza Paste

Ingredients

Makes 3/4 cup [180 ml]

  • 4 Tbsp lemongrass
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger or galangal
  • 1 fresh red chili or cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 1/2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1/4 cup [60 ml] lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar [22 gm]
  • 2-3 spring onions, sliced

Pizza

Ingredients

Pizza base

Tom Yam sauce

Mushrooms

Red onions

Pumpkin, steam till partially soft

Fresh basil leaves

Tom Yam pizza
Chemical-free Swiss Browns from Shoalhaven Mushrooms

Method

  • First make the Tom Yam paste by simply blending all the ingredients in a food processor. To make the pizza sauce dilute the paste with a little water and add salt. You can keep this paste in the fridge and use the next time you make Tom Yam pizza or any other dish that requires Tom Yam paste. I don’t add salt when making the paste so I can adjust the salt in the different recipes in which I use this paste. Besides, ingredients such as shrimp paste, soya sauce and fish sauce in this paste already contain salt.
  • To make Tom Yam pizza base pour filtered water into a bowl. Add active sourdough starter. As I use a dough starter it won’t dissolve easily. You will need to just mash it into the water with the back of a spoon but it does not need to be completely dissolved.
  • Add the flour and roughly bring it all together like a lumpy mass. Don’t knead just yet. For the wild yeast to work effectively I prefer to leave this lumpy mass for about an hour before I add salt. Salt can hinder fermentation. After an hour or hour and a half, add the salt. Don’t leave it for longer than two hours before adding salt.
  • Once salt has been added, knead the dough till it is silky smooth – about 5 to 10 mins should be sufficient.
  • Leave at least four hours to proof. After proofing you are ready to shape it. For pizza, I never use a rolling pin. I just pull off enough dough to make a round ball and then press down on the ball of dough starting from the middle outwards, evenly on all sides into the shape of a disc. Don’t worry if it is not a perfect round shape. In fact true artisan pizzas are irregular shapes. This is more rustic and does not conform to the standard, uniform round shapes you would get from pizza parlours.
  • Leave the shaped dough anywhere from 30 mins to an hour [depending on how warm your kitchen is] for the final rise. If it is very warm 30 mins will do. Meanwhile heat the oven to 200°C for at least 15 mins. Then bake the pizza bases only till it rises and NOT till it browns. It should take about 10 mins. Then take out the bases.
  • spread the Tom Yam sauce over the pizza bases.
  • Slice the steamed pumpkin and spread out over the pizza base on top of the Tom Yam sauce. Add red onions and mushrooms. Finally the cheese.
  • Return the pizza to the oven to complete the baking. Rotate the pizza around so the bread will bake evenly and bake through until bread base is brown and cheese melted. Then turn off oven and take out the pizza and garnish with basil leaves and let it sit in the heat of the oven that is turned off for five minutes. Now the pizza is ready.

 

Baking with sourdough starter

Baking with sourdough starter

Sourdough starter is just wild yeast. As most bakers would use commercial yeast for baking, I use sourdough starter instead. Whether you bake professionally or at home, you will be familiar with commercial yeast usually sold in dried, powdered form. This yeast is saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain of yeast, man-made in a laboratory to control the activity of yeast so as to produce a consistent result at all times.

sourdough pizza base
sourdough pizza base

The problem with this is that our bodies are missing out on the variety of bacteria and wild yeast that are made up of many different strains and not just one. This rich diversity cannot be replicated in a laboratory.

Many people use both sourdough starter and commercial yeast but all my bread recipes use ONLY sourdough starter. I also use starter in some of my cakes and anything at all that requires grains/flour [Please read “Why Sourdough?” to learn the health benefits of doing this].

To bake with sourdough starter, obviously you need to have some starter. Click here for guidance to make your own starter. If you don’t have the time or find it is too much trouble, you can buy a starter from those who have already established theirs. I will be giving out my starters FREE to those who sign up for bread-baking classes with me. Otherwise you can purchase the starter.

sourdough starter
An active starter should look like this. Bubbly with some holes and about double in volume after feeding

For loaves that are about 800 gm to 1 kg, use about 200 gm of dough starter. Dough starter is a starter that has one part water to two parts flour. It is more stable, stores longer between feedings and develops more fully in taste over time. As it is also stronger, you get a better rise in the bread.

Using the sourdough starter

Once you own a sourdough starter, you will need to maintain it with regular feedings. Click on the same link above on how to make a starter to learn how to maintain one. The starter should remain in your refrigerator when not in use. I would say a dough starter can keep comfortably for a month or month and a half without feeding in the fridge. Having said that it takes a lot to kill a starter[but that’s another article in itself 🙂  ]

There are techniques to knead a bread properly to get the best rise. I will teach this in my classes or you can watch video tutorials posted by others online.

For all the sourdough bread recipes I give you on my website, these are the key things you need to remember:

1. As this is a website for healthy food I never combine commercial yeast with wild yeast

Nutrients in Wheat

2. All my flour is freshly milled as grains quickly lose their nutrition from the moment they are milled. The milling process is also very important. Commercial milling usually heat the flour destroying vital nutrients. They also remove the bran and germ which contain valuable nutrients because it gives the flour a longer shelf life. The flour you buy commercially that has been transported over days weeks and sitting on supermarket shelves has actually very little, if any, nutritional value.GrainParts_300x338_WGC

3. You start every bread recipe by mixing the starter with the liquid and then add the flour. Just loosely mix without turning it into a dough yet. Leave it to sit for an hour before you add salt and then knead into a dough.

4. Dough should be allowed to prove for a minimum of 4 hours. Advanced bakers like to extend this period through what is called retardation or slow fermentation in a fridge overnight for longer hours to develop the complex flavors of the bread.

5. Contrary to popular belief, sourdough bread need not be sour at all. Only if you leave it to prove for a long time will you get this sour taste.

6. You can bake bread quite successfully in a conventional home oven but ensure you have a tray of water in the oven just above the bread to allow for steam and moisture while baking.

 

English Baker In A Malaysian Village

English baker in a Malaysian Village

Artisan bakers have to be sought out as they don’t normally live in the cities. They bake in small quantities so they can preserve the quality. They care more for the art of baking than for profits.

As unusual as they come it does take the cake to see an English baker in a Malaysian village, surrounded by villagers who have probably never heard of the word “artisan” nor  “organic”.

Martin Prior’s most cherished memories are of baking with his grandmother at her B&B in the seaside town of Bournemouth, England from the tender age of eight.

Shoba Sadler at Whitebrickoven
Shoba Sadler with Martin and Mardia at their cafe and bakery

Martin left school at 14. After several odd jobs ended he up in the Navy and even worked with a non-governmental organization but never turned to professional baking until he retired to live in Malaysia with his Malaysian wife, Mardia.

“I didn’t think much of Malaysian bread and started to make my own. Relatives and neighbours who tried my bread loved them. So I started baking on a larger scale,” said Martin. “My big break came during Christmas. I was walking through the shopping mall with Mardia when a young woman pounced on me and pulled my beard and called me Santa Clause.

“Mardia and I entered her shop. She asked what we did for a living, so I said we were bakers. She made a face and then asked us to bake for her shop. I replied I would bring her some samples the following day. We have been baking for them for 10 years now.”

Martin uses only organic flour. Each batch of bread takes about two days to make.

Breadsticks with cheese, milk, butter, yeast, oregano
Breadsticks with cheese, milk, butter, yeast, oregano

“I use Levain made out of sourdough starter in my breads. As it is natural wild yeast you need to gradually build its potency. I feed it with fresh flour in two to three stages of about 8 hours each. This develops the great taste and strengthens the gluten for the best rise,” said Martin.

He and Mardia operate out of their village home making traditional sourdough breads with whole wheat, rye and spelt. They also make pastries, croissants and cakes specializing in vegan cakes. Most of their breads are vegan too.

Some of the specialities that can be ordered online are apple and oatmeal bread, 3-grain Miche, burger buns, tartine, soft pretzels, tea cakes and scones.

“Our organic grains are sourced locally but  grown in the USA, Turkey and Australia. We use no sugar in our core breads, less salt and absolutely no softeners or preservatives,” added Martin who sells mainly in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang through an organic chainstore, one leading supermarket and a few restaurants. He does also sell directly to the public if they order online through his website www.whitebrickoven.com.

To preserve quality, this English baker in a Malaysian village, grinds his own flour from these organic grains. He uses a stone mill specially made in the Tyrolean mountains of Austria that does not overheat so the healthiest part of the grains such as the germ and bran is preserved.

Martin proud of the woodfire oven he built himself
Martin proud of the woodfire oven he built himself

“Commercial milling using hammer and roller mills overheat the flour and that is the reason they have to artificially enhance the flour by adding back the vitamins they destroy in the process. Stone milled flour retains the important wheat germ which in the commercial form of milling is extracted and sold for animal feed. Yes the animals get the good bit,” he said.

Martin is a self-taught artisan baker. He has had no professional training but people flock to buy his bread as they are so good. He carefully looks into every aspect of taste and quality and even built his own wood fire oven in which to bake his breads.

Whitebrickoven in a Malaysian magazine
Whitebrickoven featured in a Malaysian magazine

According to Martin there are very few bakers in Malaysia who make natural bread as it requires long fermentation periods and cannot be mass produced. They are struggling to meet the overheads of running a business while staying true to their trade.

He finds Malaysians have yet to understand the importance of eating healthy and many are frightened off by the word “organic” and the cost of it.

“Malaysians need to think about spending more on their food to improve its quality. The country has a high rate of illnesses that are diet related,” Martin recalled while speaking from his home during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan last month. “During Ramadan thousands of stalls are set up to sell “delicacies”. A recent report I read claimed that half of these “delicacies” are not fit for consumption. Many of these purveyors are amateurs setting up only once a year to make a killing during the fasting month and have no skill in cooking nor nutrition. Mardia was so disappointed to find they were using ajinomoto in traditional foods such as keropok or crackers and colourings and flavourings that were never used by our forefathers. She is setting up a Facebook page to call on people to identify the real craftsmen of authentic, all natural food using traditional methods so consumers can support them and shun these other fake foods that are bad for their health.

Martin has a wide following of health conscious Malaysians who either buy direct from him or through the many stores he supplies. To keep up with all his orders he has recently upgraded his bakery by introducing a special software to better manage operations. With this software corporate customers can place and amend orders online. They can block out holiday dates to suspend regular deliveries during that time.

Pizza served at Whitebrickoven cafe
Pizza served at Whitebrickoven cafe

Individuals too will be able to see all the products available and their description and place their orders either for personal collection or to be mailed by express post.

To learn more about how to purchase Martin’s authentic bread, cakes and pastries go to www.whitebrickoven.com. They also have a special page for their scones which is a big hit among their customers.

You can also visit Martin and Mardia at their cafe which is situated right at their bakery and house in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, Malaysia. It is open to the public every Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm. You will get to drive through their quaint Malay village and if you stop to ask for directions you will probably be told to follow the aroma of freshly baked bread and you will get there. Being devout muslims they closed their bakery during the muslim fasting month of Ramadan and it is scheduled to be re-opened on the 2nd of August.

“Our bakery orders keep us very busy. So we don’t actually need a cafe, but the most satisfying aspect of my trade is meeting the people who support us. So many people forget that many of the customers come to see the owner. Not an ever changing employee. We enjoy talking to the people and finding out what they like and do not like. We get almost no feedback from the retail outlets. So come and have a chat with us on Sunday over tea and coffee, scones, pizza, fresh bread, cakes and pastries.”

 

Sourdough Bread Baking Workshop

Sourdough bread baking workshop

It was off to Mooladhara, for a sourdough bread baking workshop. Mooladhara, nestled in the tranquil foothills of the Watagan mountains is the rustic abode of Warwick Quinton.

Warwick is an artisan baker. A master craftsman of bread in a world that doesn’t know what real bread is anymore due to corporations’ greed to bulk produce, cut out the time needed for fermentation and I won’t even go into the unethical agricultural and milling methods of grains.

sourdough workshop
sourdough workshop at Mooladhara
sourdough workshop
Outside the bakery trailer, Gypsy which holds Luna the oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has contributed to much modern day woes such as gluten intolerancy, irritable bowel syndrome, candidiasis, Crohn’s disease, bloating stomach and many other diseases.

This word “artisan baker” has been exploited so much for marketing purposes today that the true meaning of the word is lost on the world until… you meet the real deal.

Warwick Quinton is the real deal. He ventured into sourdough baking in 1985 when there was no internet. He had to scour bookshops, libraries, health food stores and hippy kitchens to learn more about sourdough bread.

For centuries bakers have used nothing but sourdough starter to bake bread. The starter is nothing but flour and water that combusts over time into a bubbly blob caused by the voracious appetite of wild yeast and bacteria which are present all around us.

sourdough sciatta

 

sourdough workshop
pre-prepared dough

The problem with using nothing but starter is the difficulty in obtaining consistency in the end result because there are so many variables.

So commercial bakers look for shortcuts which will eventually hurt your health. But a Master baker knows how to work with these variables to consistently produced not only great tasting bread but bread that is good for your health.

Warwick’s “school” is a rudimentary, outdoor, makeshift classroom. We all gathered onto an elevated wooden platform for our sourdough bread baking workshop. There, prepared dough inside rectangular plastic containers awaited us, on long tables.

“The dough you see have been left in the fridge to ferment for 8 hours now. In my house we usually eat bread that has been fermented on average 14 hours,” Warwick informs his students, many of whom have traveled down from Sydney to learn from this sourdough guru.

Ever since Warwick turned his back on the corporate lifestyle of trying to bake in bulk while still staying true to his conventional methods, he has been happier as he has been able to concentrate on the craft rather than the “business”.

We had two dough to work with that day. One that Warwick had made and let rest for eight hours which we were to shape and slash and bake and take home by the end of the day. The other was the dough we had to prepare from scratch.Sourdough class

It was a very hands-on workshop with everyone getting a chance to knead, shape, slash while at the same time concentrating on his vigorous scribbling of invaluable information on the blackboard from pre-ferments to the various types of ovens and even how to modify your home kitchen oven for the best bread-baking experience!

Speaking of ovens, there was Luna, looming over our class eagerly waiting to devour our hand-crafted balls of dough. It seemed so surreal having a bread-baking class surrounded by nature and sounds of wildlife. Yet so apt as that was why we were all there.

Sourdough workshop
Adding the soaked wheat berries

To salvage the reputation of this “staff of life” that commercial industry has ruined to the point many people don’t even know what true bread tastes like. As Warwick said, “And that’s what I’ve learned about bread-making -it’s a confidence trick. But it’s so much harder now – we’re surrounded by ‘food porn’ on every newsagent’s window and our TV screens. We are spoilt for choice through the proliferation of Artisan Bakeries which seem to spring up in every town and suburb. Everybody knows what great bread looks and tastes like. Or at least they think they do. That’s until they try just one loaf of amazing home-made sourdough bread.”

I found several students at the workshop were not just there for the rustic allure of a bread-baking course in the wilderness. Not even for serious concerns about health, but those who actually liked the taste of rich, elemental sourdough bread. So much for the over-rated phrase, “Something that tastes this good, can’t be good for you.”

sourdough baking
Loading the dough into Gypsy the oven

One student was an old client who unabashedly admitted he follows Warwick wherever he moves his bakery. The workshop was a birthday gift from his children (probably because he is a big fan). He finally got to see what it takes to produce the loaves he loves so much. It takes a lot of time and care which the profit hungry bakeries of our era have replaced with production-line-factory-bread.

Finally it was time to fire up Luna while we added pre-soaked wheat berries to our dough and gave it a last round of thumping…oops, kneading 🙂 although Warwick did demonstrate a slap and twist technique I found quite appealing to relief stress.

Luna, the grand princess seated inconspicuously in her carriage, or rather bakery trailer, waiting to wave her flaming wand over plain dough and turn them into incredulous bread.

Ever the environmentalist, Warwick even uses old, stale bread as fuel for Luna. Yayyy! Thumbs up for Warwick.

Warwick’s only passion that can be said to rival that of sourdough baking is his love for building woodfire ovens. Luckily, they complement each other 😉

Check out his sourdough bread ovens; and for a quick oven demonstration.

At the end of a full day’s workshop we all went home with one still warm bread birthed from Luna’s belly and dough we made from scratch to bake at home.

Bell pepper on toast1

 

Orange Raisin Bread

 Orange Raisin Bread 4

Orange Raisin Bread

Ingredients

All my bread uses only wild yeast. So please read Baking With Sourdough Starter if you are not familiar with starters before you follow any bread recipe on this site

Mix sourdough to orange juice
Mix sourdough to orange juice

200 gms active sourdough starter

250 ml orange juice ( 1 cup)

125 ml water (1/2 cup)

600 gms wholemeal flour (4 cups)

150 gms chickpea flour (1 cup)

1/4 – 1/2 cup raisins as you prefer

Method

Mix orange juice and water together. Add active sourdough starter to this. Knead the dough. Incorporate the raisins into the kneading until it is properly distributed into the bread. Leave at least four hours to prove. After proving you are ready to shape it. Leave the shaped dough anywhere from 30 mins to an hour [depending on how warm your kitchen is] for the final rise. Upon the final rise, place it in a very hot oven with a temperature of 230°C for 10 mins. Then reduce the temperature to 200°C and allow to bake for a further 15 – 20 mins. Bakes an 1 kg loaf.

Orange Raisin Bread 2