Natural Starter Country Loaf

Natural Starter Country Loaf // Mono + Co

If there is anything that I have too much of in the fridge right now, it will be my raisin yeast starter.  About 200g of it in 3 different glass containers, resting in deep slumber at the back of my chiller.  I am slowly cleaning out one of the bottles with a schedule that yield 160g of active starter in 2 days.

Natural Starter Country Loaf // Mono + CoNatural Starter Country Loaf // Mono + Co

My chilled starter, I reckoned to be pretty healthy, gets all ready by 2nd feeding.  The timetable goes roughly like this:

Day 1 / 7am
start with : 20g of dormant/chilled starter + a clean glass/ clear plastic jar with at least 300ml capacity
add : 20g filtered water and 20g plain flour
stir : with a clean wooden chopstick to mix well until no visible traces of white flour

set aside : at room temperature (28-30C) for 24 hours

Day 2/ 7am
add :  50g filtered water and 50g plain flour to the 60g overnight starter
stir : with a clean wooden to mix well until no visible traces of white flour
set aside : at room temperature, ready to use when the starter rise to double/triple its volume, mine took around 4-5 hours
** After emptying the bottle, I do not wash it.
Instead, I reuse it to start the steps all over again, hoping that the activated starter remains in the unwashed bottle helps to kickstart the next batch making them stronger and faster to rise.

Proceed to bake your favorite bread.  I used mine to bake a country loaf recipe from this book,  but lend a slow fermentation technique from this blog to bake the end product.

Natural Starter Country Loaf // Mono + Co


Natural Starter Country Loaf

adapted a recipe from this book
295g plain flour
160g fed starter
6g salt
183g cold water

In a mixer bowl, add plain flour, ripe starter and salt.  Start the mixer to knead the ingredients on its lowest speed. Pour cold water slowly into the mixer bowl with the mixer running.

Continue to knead for 5 minuted, until the dough looks smooth.  This dough will be sticky.  Transfer to a covered container, and leave this in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Return the dough to room temperature and let it rise to double its volume, this will take about 3-5 hours depending on room temperature.

Transfer the dough onto a generously floured worktop.  With flour hands and a bench scraper, stretch and fold the dough into a rectangle shape like this.  Stretch and fold the dough 2 times.  Cover the dough with an inverted large mixing bowl or large plastic container and let it rest for 1 hour on the worktop. Repeat the stretch and fold steps again after 1 hour, and let it rest for a further hour.

Shape the dough and transfer to a well floured baking tray.  Cover and let rise for 2-3 hours.  I divided my dough into 2 equal portions and shaped them into long loaves.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C.  Make a few slashes on the surface with a sharp knife just before sending the bread into a preheated oven to bake for 35-40 minutes.

Cool on rack completely before slicing to serve.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread

Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread // Mono + Co

Something I tried out after noticing that my natural starter is getting stronger and more predictable.  Taro and passion fruit pulp are added to my usual taro bread recipe, skipping the butter.

Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread // Mono + Co Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread // Mono + Co

Sometimes things progress so slow that I can’t tell whether it has risen or not after 2 hours.  A photo taken before and after helped a lot.

Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread // Mono + Co

Stretch and fold is one of my favorite part of bread making.

Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread // Mono + Co

While slashing is the least….

Passion Fruit Walnut Taro Country Bread // Mono + Co

The result is a loaf with thin crackling crust and soft interior.

Have fun trying this recipe!


Passion Fruit + Walnut + Taro Country Loaf

160g natural starter
235g bread flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
85g mashed taro
pulps from 2 passion fruits
50g beaten egg
50g walnut, chopped roughly

In a mixer bowl, combine natural starter, bread flour, sea salt, mashed taro, passion fruit pulp and beaten egg.  Knead with a dough hook, the ingredients should come into a dough ball without any water added.  If it doesn’t, slowly add some water, spoon by spoon, till a ball is formed.  Stop the mixer and leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Knead with a dough hook until window pane stage.

After 15 minutes, start the mixer again and knead until window pane stage.  Remove bowl from mixer, and let the dough bulk rise for 2-3 hours, till the dough rise to double its volume.

Transfer the dough to a clean work top.  Sprinkle worktop and palms with flour if the dough is too sticky to handle.

Pour in the chopped walnuts. Stretch and fold the dough to incorporate the walnut into the dough, and firming up the dough at the same time.  I refer to this video all the time, demonstrating the stretch and fold method. Then cover the dough to rest for 60 minutes.  Repeat the stretch and fold + 60-minute resting time one more time.

Shape the dough this way, and place it on a floured tray or banneton and let it rise for about 2 hours.

When ready to bake, make a slash in the center with a sharp knife before placing it in a preheated oven at 200C, and bake for 35 minutes.  I created “steam” by placing my smallest ramekin with some ice cubes in the oven.

When done, remove bread from oven and place on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Natural Starter Raisin Taro Loaf

natural-starter-raisin-loaf-04

I pick up the natural starter baking habit lately, feeding the yeast early in morning, have the bread proofed, shaped and ready to be baked by end of the day.  All completed within 12 hours in a 30C+ room temperature.

natural-starter-raisin-loaf-014

The natural yeast starter I made from raisins is very strong.  After almost 1 month of ignoring it, leaving it at the back of the fridge, it came back alive, bursting with bubbling activity, tripling its volume after just 2 feedings.  The conversion of this natural starter in my root vegetable bread recipes was also a breeze.  Here’s to more healthy homemade bread!

natural-starter-raisin-loaf-008natural-starter-raisin-loaf-010natural-starter-raisin-loaf-011

The few natural starter bread loaves I have baked so far, adapted from my taro bread recipes, took about 2.5 – 3 hours for the dough to rise above the bread pan.

natural-starter-raisin-loaf-001

The crumbs were tighter, denser but still soft.  Another difference between baking with commercial yeast and natural yeast is that the bread continues to rise dramatically during baking.

natural-starter-raisin-loaf-012

So now that I have attempted the taro bread loaf with natural starter, I will try out my next few bakes with other vegetables to test out if starter ratio to flour is the same.


Natural Starter Raisin Taro Loaf

160g natural starter **
265g plain flour
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
100g mashed taro
65g cold milk
20g cold butter, cubed
55g raisins ***

** Raisin yeast starter.

*** Soak raisins in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze dry to remove excess liquid before use.

In a mixer bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together ( flour, sugar, sea salt) with a hand whisk.  Then add natural starter, cooled mashed taro and half of the milk.  Turn on the mixer to knead with a dough hook.  With the mixer running on its lowest speed (KA 1), pour the milk slowly in a trickle until the ingredients come into the ball.  You might not use up all the milk or you might need more, depending on the hydration level of the ingredients.  Once a dough ball is formed, stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid better.  Start the mixer again after 15 minutes to knead for 1 minute before adding cubed

Start the mixer again to knead for 1 minute before adding cubed butter one by one, and knead till the dough reach window pane stage.  Add raisins while mixer is running and knead for about 1 minute to incorporate the raisins into the dough.  Stop mixer and leave the dough to bulk rise in room temperature for 120 – 150 minutes, until the dough expand to double its volume.

After the dough has risen to double its volume, punch down the dough to deflate and transfer to a clean work top.  Sprinkle worktop and palms with flour if the dough is too sticky to handle.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions.  Flatten and shape each portion into a tight ball.  Arrange them in a well greased Pullman bread tin, seam side downwards.  Leave this aside to proof for 120-150 minutes, covered with a towel.

Preheat oven to 160C, and bake the bread for 35 minutes.

When done, remove bread from tin immediately and place on a rack to cool completely.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

DIY Facial Toner

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

I occasionally turn to my kitchen pantry for a DIY no-frills face cleansing regime since my journey started to educate myself on healthier alternatives for the little things we eat and use every day.  Skincare is definitely on the list.  The task of looking for effective skincare products with the least chemicals and even lesser packaging materials is more daunting nowadays as the number of brands and product range increased with more advanced research and development.

What used to be a simple clean + moisturize procedure has since morphed into a multiple-step skincare routine that requires ever more products.  There is no way I can fit so many fancy products in my tiny bathroom, so I zoomed in on some of the edible key active ingredients and made them on my own.  I am lucky that I do not have sensitive/ acne-prone skin or allergy reaction to these food ingredients.  But I will always test new ingredients on a small patch first (behind the ear or back of the arm) before applying on the entire face and neck.

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

So what can be made from my kitchen pantry?  Many skincare products sitting on the shelves have drawn their inspirations from natural food like fruit, honey, oat, seaweed, olive oil, etc.  I simply bump up their concentration level in my homemade version in place of chemicals with names that I can’t pronounce, like 100% raw honey facial cleanser, or a 50% oatmeal + 50% banana mask.

I like to make them in really small batches, sometimes enough for only one application for items such as facial masks, to ensure freshness and to avoid contamination and the inconvenience of storage.  I use various recipes in rotation, depending on what ingredients I have in stock.

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

One of the first few items that I DIY-ed and still using now is a toner made with only apple cider vinegar and filtered water.  I tried making my own after reading how apple cider vinegar benefits skin beyond the kitchen.

I have been using the one from Bragg, the raw, unfiltered and organic version with the “mother”- the beneficial enzyme, visible floating around when the bottle is shaken.  This is more expensive than the filtered ones, but a little goes a long way, after dilution, it costs less to make than buying the commercial toner.

I dilute 1 part vinegar with 8 parts filtered water, making 100ml or less each batch and store it in a clean glass bottle.  There are recipes out there that use more vinegar than mine but I thought it would sting my skin and choose the safer, more diluted recipe.

DIY Facial Toner // Mono + Co

Here’s another variation of the toner : some afternoons, I would save a few tablespoons of strong green tea from my teapot to mix with the vinegar instead of filtered water for extra anti-oxidant properties.  I usually make just enough for one application as this mixture needs to be store in the fridge.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Chocolate Raisin Bread

Chocolate Raisin Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + CoChocolate Raisin Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + Co   Chocolate Raisin Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + Co

Chocolate bread for breakfast is so indulging.  The plump and juicy sweet raisins in every bite made it even better, the trick is to soak them in warm water for at least 15 minutes.  With hydration, it also prevents the raisins from drawing moisture from the dough during proofing and baking, drying out the bread.

I didn’t add a lot of honey in case the bread becomes more of a guilty dessert than a healthy breakfast.

Chocolate Raisin Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + Co  Chocolate Raisin Potato Bread Loaf // Mono + Co


Chocolate Potato Raisin Bread

300g plain flour
30g cocoa powder **
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 small egg ***
50g water
150g mashed potatoes
35g cold butter, cubed
60g raisins ****

**  I use Van Houten cocoa powder.

*** mine weighs 55g with shells.

**** soak raisins in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze dry to remove excess liquid before use.

In a mixer bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together ( flour, cocoa powder, sea salt) with a hand whisk.  Then add honey, egg and water and mashed potatoes and knead into a ball with a dough hook.  Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  Start the mixer again to knead for 1 minute before adding cubed butter one by one, and knead till the dough reach window pane stage.  Add raisins while mixer is running and knead for about 1 minute.  Stop mixer and leave dough to bulk rise for 60 minutes.

After the dough has risen to double its volume, punch down the dough to deflate and transfer to a clean work top.  Sprinkle worktop and palms with flour if the dough is too sticky to handle.

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.  Flatten and shape each portion, rolling them up swiss roll style.  Arrange them in a Pullman tin, seam side downwards.  Leave this aside to proof for 60-75 minutes, covered with a towel.

Preheat oven to 160C, and bake the bread for 30 minutes.

When done, remove bread from tin immediately and place on a rack to cool completely.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Potato Raisin Bread

Potato Raisin Bread // Mono + Co Potato Raisin Bread // Mono + Co Potato Raisin Bread // Mono + Co     Potato Raisin Bread // Mono + Co

I love slightly sticky dough when I want to make soft bread loaves like this sugar topped raisin bread.  With eggs, honey and more than the usual amount of water added, the final dough will be much more wobbly than usual, but after 30 minutes in the oven set at 160C, it transforms itself into an almost sponge cake like texture bread.

I made 3 slashes to the bread before baking and topped with butter strips a sprinkle of sugar.  This is to mimic the sugar-topped bread rolls that are a common item in the neighborhood bakeries.  But I get to control the amount of sugar this time.


Potato Raisin Bread

300g plain flour
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon raw honey
140g mashed potatoes
1 egg **
85g water
20g cold butter, cubed
60g raisins

For toppings : 
butter cut into strips 
1 -2 tablespoons sugar

** I used a small egg weighing 60g with shell.

*** Soak the raisins in warm water for 30 minutes.  Drain and squeeze slightly to remove excess liquid before use.

In a mixer bowl, add dry ingredients : plain flour, instant yeast, sea salt and stir well with a hand whisk.  Next add raw honey, cooled mashed potatoes, egg and start the mixer running to knead with a dough attachment.  Slowly drizzle water while the mixer is running.  Once all ingredients come into a ball, stop adding the water and turn off the mixer.  Leave this aside to stand for 15 minutes undisturbed.

After 15 minutes, turn on the mixer again for 1 minute, before adding cubed butter one by one.  Knead this until it reaches the window pane stage.  Then add raisins into the dough, let the mixer run for another 1 minute to let the raisin be incorporated into the dough.  It is ok if the raisins are not mixed uniformly, this can be done during the shaping stage when the dough is repeatedly stretch and fold.  Remove bowl from mixer and cover to bulk rise for 60 minutes.

After 60 minutes, the dough would have expanded to double its volume.  Punch to deflate it and transfer to a clean worktop.  The dough will be sticky, dust worktop and hands with flour to make the dough easier to handle.  A bench scraper will be extremely useful for handling such sticky dough too.  Using the stretch and fold method, shape the dough into a slight oblong bread.  Leave it aside covered for its final  60 minutes proof.

Preheat the oven to 160C.  Slash the bread and place butter strips where the slash marks are.  Mist the top of the dough with water, then sprinkle sugar on top.  Bake for 30 minutes.

When the baking is done, transfer the bread to a rack to cook completely before slicing to serve or store in an airtight container.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// something’s brewing.  more on this 3 months later 😉

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// patching with a few simple (though ghastly unhidden) stitches.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// a practical reusable souvenir.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// an updated valentine’s day gift from 15 years ago, wool felted balls replace disintegrated worn out plasticky alphabets that spell out my name.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// luggage with a broken handle turned storage box.

Save

Save

Save

Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf

Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + Co

It’s always more exciting to bake Pullman loaf in a covered tin.  The bread dough is left to rise without a view during the last 15 minutes of proofing time, leaving this baker hoping hard that it will fill up to the brim without a hitch, preferably reaching all corners, producing a perfect squarish sandwich bread which sliced.

So it’s natural for my heart skipped a beat when I uncovered the lid after baking and saw this browned top crust, perfect.

Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + CoCondensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + Co

I adapted a recipe from Zoe, a cheerful mom who bakes for her happy kids in Melbourne.  The latest bread recipe she lauded to be soft and chewy is one with condensed milk added.  I simply love the sight of the tight crumbs in her photos, so I halved the recipe, added mashed taro (my secret to fluffy bread) on top of condensed milk (Zoe’s magic ingredient), switched 1/3 of the flour to wholemeal, and started kneading away.

Glad to have another reliable and versatile sweet loaf recipe in my (almost) daily bread baking repertoire.

Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + Co  Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + Co Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + Co Condensed Milk Wholemeal Taro Sandwich Loaf // Mono + Co


Condensed Milk Taro Pullman Loaf

adapted from here

200g plain flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 heap tablespoon milk powder
100g condensed milk 
68g steamed taro, mashed 
120g water 
20g cold butter, cubed

In a mixer bowl, place plain flour, wholemeal flour, instant yeast, sea salt, and milk powder and mix with a hand whisk to mix these dry ingredients well.

Add condensed milk, cooled mashed taro, and half of the required water, then turn on the mixer to start kneading with a hook attachment while pouring the remaining water slowly, stop the mixer when the ingredients have come into a ball.  Let this dough rest aside for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn on the mixer again to knead the dough for 1 minute, before adding the cubed butter one by one.  Continue to knead when all traces of butter are gone, until the dough reaches window pane stage, it will be very elastic and smooth and pull away from the side of a very clean bowl.

Stop the mixer and remove the bowl, let the dough bulk rise for 60 minutes covered with a pot lid or clean towel.

After an hour, the dough would have risen to double its volume.  Punch it down to release gas, transfer to a clean worktop.  Divide the dough into 3 equal portions (mine weighs about 212g each.)  Flatten each dough to push out gas trapped during the bulk rise stage, then roll out into a long oval strip.  Roll it up like a swiss roll from the shorter end, and placed it in a well greased Pullman loaf tin, seam side downwards.  Repeat with the other 2 portions of dough.

Cover the tin and leave it aside to proof for 60 minutes.  Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 160C.  Remove bread from tin immediately after baking and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing to serve or storing in an airtight container.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Homemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash

Homemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash // Mono + CoHomemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash // Mono + Co

Nowadays, I have recipes for so many homemade products, sometimes it’s really funny to look back on my old self: how I used to buy item after item for each and every possible purpose and ended up jamming the drawers and cabinets with too many bottles.  Some didn’t live up to their claims, so I tried out other brands, and ended up with multiple bottles of the similar thing, mostly half used.  Can you imagine the mess?

Since then, I have learned to make most of the household cleaning products and bathroom essentials with just a few basic items and find that they can be just as effective, but less harsh on our skin, like this homemade body wash with just 3 ingredients: pure castile soap, honey, and apricot oil.

I had bought the liquid castile soap for my children as their skin itch and flare up for subsequent hours after bathing with body shampoos and soap bars.  I tried countless body wash, the gentle ones, the soapless ones, the SLS-free ones, the PH5.5 ones, none worked.  In fact, I almost gave up on the first bottle of castile soap with citrus oil blend, which still gave my children rashes.  It was only when the shop owner recommended the unscented version that I hit the jackpot.  Since then, I have discovered that the same castile soap can be diluted in different ways to clean almost anything.

We are doing fine with the easiest and a highly diluted recipe of 1 parts unscented castile soap and 9 parts water, partly to save some moolah (this comes up to about $30 for more than 9 liters of body wash after dilution, though I am still sticking to the cheaper soap bars most of the time), and partly because I have learned that the amount of bubble doesn’t equate to the effectiveness of the soap. But occasionally, this mummy likes to get creative by adding pantry items for some much-needed nourishment of the epidermis.  Truth is, I derived a lot of affordable body care with luxurious sounding ingredients from the kitchen to pamper myself with, think ‘Himalayan Pink Salt’, ‘Coconut Milk’, ‘Oats’, ‘Molasses’, etc.  Come to think of it, many large brands also list these products on their ingredient list, but I am sure my homemade versions are more generous with these natural ingredients by proportion, just read on!

Finally, the best part about homemade body wash is that I don’t have to commit myself to a huge bottle of body wash for months.  I can make as little as a 30ml bottle that is akin to sampling, just in case of allergy, or a slightly larger 100ml if I really like it.


Homemade Honey + Apricot Oil Body Wash

3 parts unscented liquid castile soap
1 part honey **
1 part apricot oil***

** I used normal honey, but raw honey that has additional anti-bacterial properties, for an even more luxurious touch.

*** can be replaced with other scented or unscented oil, e.g.  jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil.

Pour everything into a clean container and shake to mix them up.  Don’t fill up the container to the brim as you need some air space to shake and mix the ingredients.  The ingredients will separate again when left sitting on the counter after a while, simply shake before each use.

Optional 4th ingredient: as the liquid castile soap I used is unscented, I sometimes like to add a few drops of essential oil to the final mix as natural fragrance.

HO

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save