A Dough For All Day

Sometimes you feel the need to center your day around baking.  Or maybe you have company and want to wow them with your amazing baking prowess.  These things happen and it’s important to have a battle plan.  On major time saver is the amazing versatility of bread.  Specifically, we’ll look at how we can make several bread products with only one dough. Continue reading

Genesis of a Recipe: Brioche

There are some recipes that every serious baker should have.  Pie dough, for example. Or a good chocolate chip cookie.  A cake to bring to parties is also useful to have on hand.  The recipe I’ve been giving thought to lately is Brioche, a rich, buttery bread.  Brioche is versatile, being commonly used in a variety of sweet and savoury applications.  Useful and delicious. Continue reading

The Cost of Bread and the Metric System

“The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.”
-Abraham “Grampa” Simpson

Working, as I have for the last month, in a bakery that specializes in bread, I have a few observations.  The first regards the metric versus the imperial system of measurements.  Why anyone would choose willingly to use pounds and ounces to measure anything simply boggles my mind.  The simple act of altering quantities of measurements requires a calculator far too frequently.  But that’s really more of an aside.  The company I work for (being owned by former Americans) uses imperial measurements, but that’s just something I have to put up with.  No, I have another rant planned for today. Continue reading

French Bread Villians

DSCF2338We all know bread has a long and storied history.  Did you know that there is a connection to the fencing world as well?  It’s true.  Cardinal Richelieu, the villain of the famous novel The Three Musketeers was actually responsible for implementing many bread laws in France.  He dictated the laws regarding the ingredients that could be used, which led to the classic french bread we know today.  I don’t know that he had anything to do with the shape, but it doesn’t seem unlikely.  So there you have it.  Cardinal Richelieu, antagonist to the King’s Musketeers and father of the baguette.  Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

Freestyling Bread, Made Easy

Bread is a wonderful thing loaded with symbolism, metaphor and history.  I think it’s intimidating for a lot of people, though.  It’s seen as a strange and unstable alchemical thing or a mythic beast waiting to attack.  It doesn’t have to be though.  Bread isn’t a monster.  It’s cuddly and warm and just wants to be your friend.  One thing they do say is that you should never freestyle bread.  Thankfully, as with most things they say, this isn’t at all the case.DSCF2008 Continue reading

Bread Around the World: Char Siu Bao

It’s a new year, according to the Lunar Calendar, the Year of the Snake.  Since any new years is traditionally a time of new beginnings, it seems a great time to introduce a feature on international breads.  I am very fortunate in that my city is home to a world class China Town with some beyond excellent cuisine.  My Kung Fu Sifu always said he preferred the Chinese food here to his native Hong Kong.  Any time I’m in China Town and feeling peckish I always hit up New Town Bakery for one of their steamed buns, the most popular of which is Char Siu Bao, probably more commonly known as BBQ Pork Buns.  Used to be the thought of missing out on these and other Dim Sum staples was enough to deter even the thought of moving out of Vancouver.  Fortunately I have since learned much and can make my own buns to rival those of New Town’s.  They’re not too hard to make, can easily be frozen and enjoyed later, be microwaved or steamed and are damn near irresistible. Continue reading

Le Pain by Numbers

Home bakers are more than common.  There is after all a reason why every house I have ever been in has an oven.  The lucky ones even have two.  Nevertheless a person can go their whole lives making chocolate chip cookies out of a package and never know the divine pleasure of home baked bread.  To this end I thought I provide a step by step guide to making almost every kind of bread.  First know that truly excellent bread is not easy.  Secondly, it is of the utmost importance that this doesn’t discourage you.  Though it can take a while to develop a feel for bread and its dough, the journey is more than worth the time and energy required.  Please keep in mind that the difference between mediocre bread and excellent bread is the experience of the baker.  So, without any more ado, great and simple hamburger buns in 7 simple steps. Continue reading

A Sourdough Safari

Day 0

Bread has been around for a long time and yeast has ever been an important part of bread making.  Time was, if a baker wanted to buy yeast then he had to get it from the local brewer as it is only quite recently that yeast has become available commercially.  Most makers of bread chose instead to capture their own wild yeast, a practice that is less common today.  So it is in the spirit of tradition and adventure that I intend to embark on a grand safari to go forth and capture wild yeast and its companion bacteria lactobacillus to make my own sourdough starter. Continue reading

Sharing My Toys

A part of why I enjoy baking and swordplay both, is the potential for collecting.  There are always new things to play with and a learning experience to be had with every new tool.  When it comes to baking, I divide these tools into two categories: those that make production go faster, and those that make the finished product prettier.  Sometimes it can be both, and occasionally a piece of equipment can be an essential tool.  Essentials are fairly limited, though.  All you really need to bake (besides an oven) are bowls, spoons and some method of measuring. Continue reading