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.
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.
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.
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.