Natural Starter Taro Chia Seed Bagel

Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co

I bake bread fervently for two reasons. One. To have control over the ingredients that goes into mine, that means no artificial flavors or unfamiliar additives that I can’t pronounce.  Two.  To avoid packaging, especially the plastic ones from commercial bakeries.  I have taken an extra step to buy as many ingredients as possible without packaging by sourcing them from dry goods stores at wet markets.  I am so glad that I have found plain flour, sold in bulk.  Being the main ingredient of bread, that’s a lot of plastic bags avoided, but there is still no avail for wholemeal flour.

Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + CoNatural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co

I am not a great fan of bagels but I am intrigued by that overlapping end that gives bagel its signature handmade look.  Some recipes suggest simply poking a hole through a dough ball and shape it further like a donut.  I found the method of flattening one end of a cylindrically shaped dough and wrap this end around the other end most useful.  For more shaping techniques, check out here and here.  The method I adopted is demonstrated with photos in the recipe section.

Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co

After proofing, the size of the hole became smaller as the dough expanded.  It was reduced further to resemble a belly button after boiling in water before baking.

Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co

I boiled these bagels in a small pot of water with honey added to get these golden brown effect after baking.  As this recipe yields 6 bagels, I boiled them one by one for 1 minute on each side, so that I won’t waste a big pot of water as well as honey, which is expensive.  Alternatively, cheaper malt syrup can be used.


Natural Starter Taro Chia Seed Bagel

160g fed starter
200g plain flour
100g steamed taro, mashed
3 tablespoon milk powder
45g water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
30g cold butter, cubed
1 tablespoon chia seeds

In a mixer bowl, add fed starter, plain flour, cooled mashed taro, milk powder, and water. Start mixer to knead on its lowest speed with a dough hook until all the ingredients come into a ball.  Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid better.

After 15 minutes, sprinkle the sea salt on the dough and start the mixer again to knead for 1-2 minutes before adding cubed butter one by one.  Knead until the dough reaches window pane stage.  Add chia seeds to incorporate.  Stop mixer and leave the dough in the covered mixer bowl to bulk rise at room temperature for 120 – 150 minutes, until the dough expands and passes the poke test, a sure sign that the first fermentation stage is completed.

After the dough has risen to double its volume, punch down the dough to deflate and transfer to a clean worktop.  Sprinkle worktop and palms with flour if the dough is too sticky to handle.  Divide the dough into 6 portions, mine’s around 100g each.

Take one of the dough and roll it on the worktop to get a cylinder shape, about 30cm long.  Using a roller pin, flatten about 5 cm of one end, then join the two ends to make a loop with the dough and overlay the flatten end to wrap the other end.

Natural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + CoNatural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + CoNatural Starter Taro Chia Seeds Bagels // Mono + Co

Arrange on a baking tray.  Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.  Proof these for an hour.

Fill up 3/4 pot with water, I used my smallest 16 cm diameter one to save water, and add 1 tablespoon of honey.  Bring the water to boil.  Gently pick up a bagel dough, and transfer it into the pot of boiling water, with its top side facing down.  After 1 minute, flip the bagel and continue to cook for a further 1 minute.  Remove the cooked bagel from the pot, and drain on a sieve, before arranging it on a baking pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 8 minutes. Turn the tray and bake for a further 7-8 minutes till the surface turns golden brown.

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Natural Starter Pumpkin Pullman Loaf

Natural Starter Pumpkin Loaf // Mono+Co Natural Starter Pumpkin Loaf // Mono+Co

I am so addicted to the height my natural starter gives to all the homemade bread.  The dough might take longer to bulk rise or ferment, but the magic they do once they are in the oven is amazing.

Natural Starter Pumpkin Loaf // Mono+Co

I sprinkled a mixture of white + black sesame seeds and slashed the loaf top lengthwise for decorative effect because I know the natural starter will create an oven spring that gives the loaf a beautiful split top look.  And I was not disappointed.

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


NATURAL STARTER PUMPKIN PULLMAN LOAF


150g fed starter **
245g plain flour
100g steamed pumpkin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
17g water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
20g cold butter, cubed
1 tablespoon black + white sesame seeds

** I used a starter made from raisin yeast.

In a mixer bowl, add the starter, plain flour, cooled and mashed pumpkin, and brown sugar.  Start mixer to knead on its lowest speed with a dough hook, and add water in a trickle until a dough ball is formed.  You might not use up all the water or you might need more, depending on the hydration level of the ingredients, especially with pumpkin.  Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid better.

After 15 minutes, sprinkle the sea salt on the dough and start the mixer again to knead for 1-2 minutes before adding cubed butter one by one.  Knead until the dough reaches window pane stage.  Stop mixer and leave the dough to bulk rise at room temperature for 120 – 150 minutes, until the dough expands and passes the poke test, a sure sign that the first fermentation is completed.

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.

Flatten the dough with a rolling pin to push out air bubbles trapped inside during the bulk rise stage.  Shape the dough into a long roll that fits inside a Pullman tin, mist the top of the dough with some water, and sprinkle black and white sesame seed mix on top evenly.  Then place the dough in the tin and proof for another 120 – 150 minutes, till the bread height rise to reach the top of the tin.  Make a deep slash across the top of the dough, lengthwise, before baking in a preheated oven at 200C for 25 minutes.

Remove bread from tin immediately after baking and cool completely on a rack before slicing or serving.

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DIY Scented Vinegar Cleaner

DIY Scented Vinegar Cleaner // Mono + Co

White vinegar is one of the natural cleaning products I use at home to replace toxic household cleaners.  Mix it with equal parts of water, it becomes an all-purpose cleaner that removes grease wonderfully and disinfects effectively.

While it doesn’t smell as good as it cleans, vinegar actually has deodorizing properties, after drying up, that is.  I have since learned a neat trick to transform my bottle of vinegar into a more pleasant smelling eco-cleaner, by simply infusing the vinegar with ….. orange peels!  My family devours bags of oranges weekly, so I have no problem cumulating enough peels for this eco project.  You can use essential oil too, but this is a cheaper method, using citrus peels that would otherwise be discarded.

I have since upsized my vinegar purchase to a 5-litre version which is way cheaper so that I can make this all-purpose vinegar cleaner in bulk, in 2 weeks.

DIY Scented Vinegar Cleaner // Mono + Co

What you need:
// Get the cheapest cooking vinegar you can get your hands on.
// Reuse an empty glass jar/plastic container, you can make as much or as little as you want.  However, being a really effective multipurpose cleaner (except on marble, granite and hardwood surfaces), you may find yourself running out of it very soon if you make too little.  I use it mostly on ceramic tiles in the kitchen, bathroom and glass surfaces.
// Citrus peels.

How:
// Fill the container with citrus peels.
// Pour vinegar to cover the peels and leave aside for 2 weeks.  You will notice the color of the vinegar will turn dark gradually.
// Strain the peels from the infused vinegar which by now will smell more like store-bought orange oil cleaner.  Store the liquid in a clean container, away from the sun.

To use:
// Mix equal parts of water with the citrus infused vinegar. Fill up a spray bottle with the diluted vinegar and use it as an all-purpose spray cleaner.  Just remember to avoid marble, granite and hardwood surfaces.
// I use the concentrated version to scrub/ wash bathroom floor.  Love the smell.  And since it does not lather up like standard detergents, I need not rinse with a large volume of water.

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Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this morning ritual that saved a lot of yeast packaging being discarded.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this repurposed Nutella glass jar,  so the kids can see their savings grow, instead of a number.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this diy all-purpose citrus vinegar cleaner.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// this glass pot to replace my 9-inch baking tin cum food saver, because it comes with a cover.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// reading for pleasure, 15 minutes every day.

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Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

These are basically cinnamon buns with the sugary fillings and glaze removed.  I thought it was a good idea to add mashed carrots into the dough since they go so well with cinnamon and raisins in my carrot cakes.

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

Because I did not spread butter and sugar on the surface of the dough, there were no pretty swirls on my cinnamon buns. If you prefer to see that on your rolls, brush a generous layer of melted butter, followed by another layer of cinnamon grounds, brown sugar and raisins before rolling the dough up.  The layer of fat will keep the dough from sealing up during slicing and proofing.

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

I baked these buns in my 9-inch/ 23cm clear glass pot instead of my round tin as I wanted to utilize the pot more.  It also serves as a great storage container for the buns since it comes with a heavy glass lid.

Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns // Mono + Co

I feel great seeing carrots in my breakfast rolls!


Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Buns

235g plain flour
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon grounds
1 small egg, beaten
95g carrots, steamed + mashed
25g water
25g cold butter, cubed
50g raisins **

** 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 (plain flour, yeast, sea salt, brown sugar, cinnamon grounds) with a hand whisk.  Then add beaten egg, cooled mashed carrots and water.  Turn on the mixer to knead with a dough hook.  Once a dough ball is formed, 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.  Stop mixer and leave the dough to bulk rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.

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

Roll out the dough to a rectangle sheet, spread raisins on the surface.  Roll up the dough from the longer edge and pinch to seal.  Slice the roll into 8 pieces and arrange them in a 9-inch pan.  Leave this aside to proof for another 60 minutes, covered.

Preheat oven to 170C, and bake the bread for 25-35 minutes.

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

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Natural Starter Walnut Boule : Overnight Fermentation

Natural Starter Walnut Boulet // Mono + Co

This homemade bread is by far my best attempt to use ingredients that I can purchase sans the packaging.  The dry goods stores in wet markets and Victoria Wholesale Center are my best bet for sources of bulk food. I simply plan in advance to know how many reusable containers or bags to bring along.  I buy plain flour, brown sugar and walnuts packed in my own containers.

The best part about buying from these unofficial bulk stores is that I can buy as little as I need, I usually don’t require that much.  Thanks to the flexibility, for example: I can purchase just enough dried Chrysanthemum to make a day’s supply of Chrysanthemum tea, without the need for storing the unused portion.

Natural Starter Walnut Boulet // Mono + Co

Another important ingredient that I have been making my own is this natural yeast starter.  This also helped me to do away with packaging from the instant dry yeast.  Simply feed it with an equal amount of flour and water, it will actively multiply itself in the next few hours and I will have enough to bake a bread and some balance that I can keep feeding subsequently to maintain a continuous supply of natural starter for homemade bread.

Natural Starter Walnut Boulet // Mono + Co

Once the starter doubles its volume and passes a float test (see photo, above), it can be added to a favorite bread recipe in place of instant yeast.

Natural Starter Walnut Boulet // Mono + Co  Natural Starter Walnut Boulet // Mono + Co Natural Starter Walnut Boulet // Mono + Co


Walnut Boule

160g fed starter **
295g plain flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
50g water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
25g cold butter, cubed
75g walnut, chopped roughly

** I used a starter made from raisin yeast.

In a mixer bowl, add the starter, plain flour, and brown sugar.  Start mixer to knead on its lowest speed with a dough hook, and add water in a trickle until a dough ball is formed.  You might not use up all the water or you might need more, depending on the hydration level of the ingredients.  Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid better.

After 15 minutes, sprinkle the sea salt on the dough and start the mixer again to knead for 1-2 minute before adding cubed butter one by one.  Knead until the dough reaches window pane stage and add chopped walnuts to mix.  Stop mixer and transfer the dough into a covered container, leave this in the fridge overnight for its first fermentation.

Take out the container from the fridge and leave it on the counter for 2 hours to return the temperature of the dough to room temperature, it will expand its volume at the same time.  Transfer the dough a floured worktop and do a stretch and fold step like this.  Sprinkle worktop and palms with more flour if the dough is too sticky to handle.  Leave the dough aside, covered, for 1 hour.

Shape the dough into a boule like this.  I arrange it on a floured baking tray and leave it to proof for one last time for 2 hours inside the oven.

When ready to bake, take out the bread from the oven, and preheat the oven to 220C.

Sprinkle a coat of flour, then 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.  I also place a small metal cup with 3 cubes of ice at the corner of the baking tray to create a “steaming effect” during the first few minutes of baking.

Cool on rack completely before slicing to serve.

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Natural Starter Wolfberry Taro Loaf

Natural Starter Wolfberry Taro Loaf // Mono +Co

Ideas continued to flow as I rummaged through the fridge, looking for natural food additives for my next homemade bread recipe creation.  Then I saw a jar of wolfberries sitting next to my sesame seeds, and other items that I like to add to my vegetable stir fries.  It’s been quite some time since I last restock on this powerful anti-oxidant fruit, so I know I haven’t been eating my wolfberries as often as I should.  After all, it is a well-known ingredient that is said to improve vision.  Gosh, I wish I could make my kids eat more of this too.

So after putting aside a handful that I will be snacking on after dinner, I have about 20g of the berries to be added to my bread recipe.  I soak them till soft with 35g of filtered water, then I whizz them with a hand blender into a bright orange slurry mixture, which explains the color of the bread.

Now I have one bread recipe that is good for the eyes, naturally enriched, no less.

Natural Starter Wolfberry Taro Loaf // Mono +CoNatural Starter Wolfberry Taro Loaf // Mono +Co  Natural Starter Wolfberry Taro Loaf // Mono +Co


Wolfberry Taro Loaf

160g fed starter **
265g plain flour
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
100g mashed taro
20g wolfberries
65g water ***
20g cold butter, cubed

** I used a starter made from raisin yeast.

*** Use 35g of the water to soak the wolfberries till they are soft, then blend into mixture.  Remaining 30g to be used at the kneading stage.

In a mixer bowl, add the starter, plain flour, raw sugar, sea salt, mashed taro, and blended wolfberries.  Start mixer to knead on lowest speed with a dough hook.

Slowly add the remaining water until the ingredients come into a ball.  You might not use up all the water 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 to knead for 1 minute before adding cubed butter one by one, and knead until the dough reaches window pane stage.  Stop mixer and leave the dough to bulk rise at room temperature for 120 – 150 minutes, until the dough expands and passes the poke test, a sure sign that the first fermentation is completed.

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.  Shape each portion like this.  Arrange them in a well greased Pullman bread tin, seam side downwards.  Leave this aside to proof for 120-150 minutes, covered.

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.

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Shaping A Mountain Pullman Loaf

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + CoShaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + CoShaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Notice the similarities between these 3 loaves I have baked?  I started shaping my bread this way when I was learning to bake cottony soft Japanese-style milk loaf.  I have since been using this method whenever the dough is not too sticky to handle.  If they are too sticky, I will go back to this easier method.

The taro loaf dough I mixed yesterday looked perfect for this after a 2-hour bulk rise.  So here we go:

The "Poke" Test // Mono + Co

A simple poke test tells me that the dough is done with the bulk rise.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions, shape each into a ball and let them “relax” aside, while we start working on the first piece.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Flatten the dough into long oval shape, pushing out any air pockets in the dough.  This is to get rid of large holes inside the baked bread.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Fold in both sides,

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

and flatten again with rolling pin.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Flip the piece over,

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

use the rolling pin to flatten and push out any visible air pockets of the underside of the dough.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Roll the dough up, swiss roll style,

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

to get this.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Rotate the rolled up dough 90 degrees, and flatten the dough again into a long piece.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + CoShaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Then roll up the dough once more time.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Pinch to seal the dough.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

With the seam side facing downwards, place the first piece of shaped dough inside the Pullman tin, arrange it in the center.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

Repeat with the remaining 2 portions, and cover with a towel to let it proof.

Shaping A Mountain Pulman Loaf / Mono + Co

When the dough has risen to reach the top of the pan, the bread is ready to be baked according to the recipe.

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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.

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