The answer is yes and no.
NO you cannot tell the flavor of anything just by the look of it. But YES you can tell the texture of the food by looking at the cross section of it. The texture of a bakery product is mainly based on two things:
1. The chemical composition of the product
2. The microstructure of the crust and the crumb
When it comes to the texture, the product microstructure is more important than its composition. Without a suitable structure, usually a honeycomb structure, the product veers from a flaky and crunchy texture to an undesirable chewy and rock-hard one.
In all cases, there must be a small vacancy that separates the crust from the crumb. The separation makes the following possible:
1. During baking, the heat transfer from the crust to the crumb is slower
2. During baking, the crust can be baked more thoroughly than the crumb
3. After baking, diffusion of the moisture from the crumb to the crust is slower
The above are the main criteria if the crust is going to be crispy and stay for how long in ambient environment.
Then we need to go into details about the thickness of the crust. If the crust is too thick and is mainly composed of flour, then it will be too hard to chew on. If it is thin like paper (fig. b3, c3), it will absorb moisture too quickly and lose its crispiness. A decent thickness is when the crust is one or two tiny bubbles thick (fig. a2, b2, c2).
The crust texture can also be altered with the addition of other ingredients. A common addition is fat (fig. b1-b3) as it shortens the gluten chain and thickens the crust slightly. This results in a flakier and crunchy crust - provided that the crust is thick enough and thoroughly baked. Another common method is to have egg white and sugar to create the crust (fig. c1-c3). This can increase the crust thickness to a point where it becomes crispy and crunchy like rock candy.
In a bid to achieve a beautiful crumb, a common mistake is to create big bubbles in the middle of the crumb while the crust remains attached to it (fig. a1, a3, b1, c1). Unless the baker intends to pipe fillings within the product, this does not serve any purpose. It is also futile if the product is underbaked, a common problem when the crust is about the same color as the crumb (fig. a1, b1, b3). This leads me to another topic - whether we bake our bread too dark at Levain…
Are those packaged “XXX sourdough culture” the same as the traditional Sourdough? 究竟市面買到的包裝好的”XXX天然酵母”是否天然酵母?
The sourdough we use traditionally refers to over hundreds of different microorganisms coexisting in the same dough. Every different strains have different behavior in different environment. For example, when the sourdough is fermented at a cold environment, the microorganism that can produce carbon dioxide is getting relatively fewer and the one that can produce acetic acid is getting more. In the end the sourdough will only be able to produce acid and become unsuitable in bread making. Most of the microorganisms will not survive throughout the freezing or dehydrating process.
Therefore, whenever you come across the “easy-to-use-ready-made-XXX sourdough culture”, why not ask the following questions: First, after activation of such product will it be able to keep in refrigerator and be ready to use for several days? Second, will such product yield different flavor when proofing at different temperature?
The easy to use “XXX sourdough culture” is just another type of dried yeast. The convenience is for the salesperson not for the customers.
I always find it difficult to choose one or two product as a signature product for our bakery. Our goal is to make every product perfect. During the course of practicing the traditional art, we try to find new definition, and seek breakthrough in order to bring new character to our bread.
For example, a baguette reflects the understanding of the basic dough handling technique, weakening of gluten matrix through enzymatic activity, and the preservation of the flavor of flour.
A croissant reflects the understanding of the principle of emulsification of butter in flour, and the effect of low temperature to the gluten matrix and fermentation.
A sourdough reflects the ultimate understanding of the principle of fermentation, the cultivation of LAB and the formation of various flora.
Basically when you can master the above you can make any bread you desire. Thus whenever I come across a new bakery those will be my items to buy. However in Hong Kong the trend is always about melting filling of croissant, cheese tart and mango bread etc. Many borrow the reputations of foreign institute to try to make a fortune. For those share the same passion and integrity in baking as we do, please have faith in our aim and bare in mind this old Chinese saying, "Only in cold winter does one know that the pine and the cypress never shed their leaves".
The traditional croissant is a work-in-progress.
The traditional croissant is theoretically and technically based on puff pastry with one key difference: addition of yeast. Yet, given how similar they are in terms of their flaky exterior, it takes in-depth understanding of the fermentation process to bring out their unique differences. Otherwise even a properly made traditional croissant would be lost among other baked delectables and that would be a pity!
Let’s start with the puff pastry: its crisp layers is the result of appropriate formation of honeycomb interior structure. We create that through multiple folds of the butter and dough layers until they are appropriately merged. However when we make the croissant, we need to take into consideration the process of fermentation due to the presence of yeast. This causes the dough to rise, further stretching the butter-pastry layers on its own. With that in mind, the number of times we need to fold the croissant dough is less than that of the puff pastry.
Based on the above point, I deduced that to bring out the distinctive layers of the croissant is to keep to the minimal number of croissant dough folds. Furthermore, by making the exterior crispy and crunchy (similar to wafer), this fully utilizes the effect of fermentation. These two steps will help to differentiate the croissant from puff pastry, helping it stand out.
However there are several technical challenges to overcome:
1) Right blend of flour based on its ability to dissolve in fat (butter)
2) Osmosis activity due to suger
3) Yeast activity
4) Effect of freezing on the dough gluten matrix and yeast activity
5) Melting point of butter
Creating a croissant with a distinct textural contrast has taken me years. There is a lament lingerining in my heart whenever I hear delighted cheers on the uniqueness of our "Levain Bakery Style Croissants".
Objectives: How to make Poolish, Technique of handling wet dough, Shaping & Scoring of baguette
Products: Baguette, Ciabatta
A. For Baguette
Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix in the bowl until all ingredients are incorporated. Put the dough on the table and knead until a 80% gluten network developed. The dough consistency should be wet. Desired dough temperature 27oC.
50 min folding twice
Dividing and shaping:
Divide the dough into 350g. Preshape oval. After 10-15 minutes, shaping into desired shape.
25min at about 27oC
Load the bread into a 250oC oven with normal steam. Bake for 30 minutes.
B. For Ciabatta
Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix in the bowl until all ingredients are incorporated. Put the dough on the table and knead until a 80% gluten network developed. Add the extra water and oil and knead again. The dough consistency should be very wet. Desired dough temperature 27oC.
75 min folding 3 times
Dividing and shaping:
Divide the dough into 350g. Slightly elongate the dough.
25min at about 27oC
Load the bread into a 250oC oven with normal steam. Bake for 30 minutes.
Sourdough or wild yeasted bread is becoming more popular in Hong Kong. However, very few people know what exactly is sourdough, the benefits of sourdough, and how to distinguish a good quality piece of sourdough.
Actually sourdoughs have been cultivated by human civilizations for centuries. However due to the complexity of maintaining the sourdough, necessity for high quality of flours and stringent requirements of proofing environment, sourdough was very quickly replaced by dried yeast in the early 20th century . Dried yeast consists of strains that were isolated in laboratories for their high stability and high fermentation rate and then mass multiplied to become the very product that we can conveniently pick up at supermarkets.
But as the expectations of food climb among city dwellers, as a bakery, we must re-innovate on use of sourdough so as to achieve a distinct flavor and texture in our products that other competitors can easily mimic. The fact remains that sourdough culture is fragile and easily affected by its surrounding environment but it is capable of producing a wide variety of organic compounds during fermentation. These products include organic acids that assist in our body’s absorption of minerals and uncountable compounds that account for the complex flavour profile of a high-quality sourdough bread.
While the term 'sourdough' may sound exotic, it is really easy to cultivate your own. It takes a week to cultivate it from scratch, using just flour and water. After that, the sourdough simply requires regular feeding of flour and water to keep it alive. Despite the ease of keeping a sourdough culture, many of the commercially available sourdough breads are actually made with a high proportion of dried yeast and may not even have the slightest characteristic tang of sourdough. Even if the fake sourdough tastes sour, it may be due to the addition of 'sourdough acid powder'. To date, no enhancer is capable of replacing the complex flavor profile and textures of a 100% sourdough or levain bread. Try making your sourdough at home and you will be truly amazed by the flavor and intensity brought to the bread by the thriving cultures of microorganisms that has taken up residence in a little bowl of flour paste.
This is simple satisfaction, a sanctuary amid our hectic lives.
從麵包師的覺度欣賞麵包 From a baker's perspective is series of short articles published in 經濟日報 in 2013. I have decided to publish them on this blog as it answers many questions that bread enthusiasts often have.
從麵包師的覺度欣賞麵包1 From a baker's perspective is series of short articles published in 經濟日報 back in 2013. I have decided to publish them here as it answers many questions that bread enthusiasts often have.
It is my pleasure to share with you some of my thoughts on baking bread. Seven years ago, I started baking at home out of interest and upon graduation, I worked as a junior baker at a local chain bakery. As my interest grew, I started a bakery in Jordan, Kowloon with a friend. Today, I am the sole owner of two European artisan bakery outlets with a factory facility in Cheung Sha Wan. Through numerous trial and error, I found that many theories and concepts in popularised in well-known publications were simply untrue or inaccurate. I hope that my column will be of help to demystify baking, and to encourage independent critical thinking among enthusiasts as the judgment of bread quality is ultimately subjective.
Firstly, let us compare the different characteristic of Traditional French baguette and HK baguette. Both styles of baguette are made with basic ingredients and utilize the fundamentals of bread making. However, the criteria of a good French baguette very much differs from the criteria of a good HK baguette. Through comparison, we can understand a few basic principles behind the appreciation of bread.
According to my understanding, the above table summarizes the definition of a good traditional French baguette. The main criteria separating HK baguette and French baguette are their texture and flavor.
I once asked an applicant, who was applying for the post of a junior baker, what makes a good French baguette. His answer was simple: the crumb must have lots of open cells. He knew the key characteristic yet he could not explain why this characteristic is vital. On the other hand, customers would not ask for a open crumb baguette, but rather, a "crusty, fragrant baguette". A skilled baker must always think of ways to balance the ever changing demands of their customers and a product’s fundamental characteristics.