Bread baking: a relearning journey

After baking my own bread at home for so many years, I am so used to removing pretty loaves like this and this out from the oven. When I saw my first finished bake from the bread machine, I can’t help feeling disappointed.  A shapeless loaf with a crust that looked too smooth/shiny/thick.  I didn’t know where to start slicing.

Yup.  I finally bought myself a breadmaker.  It’s so difficult to find an opportunity to make bread at home lately.  The bread-making process is not difficult; just plenty of watching and waiting.  15 minutes here, 60 minutes there, another 40 minutes of something, before finally bake it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Followed by the tedious job of cleaning the kitchen tools and utensils after cooking: measuring bowls and spoons, mixer bowls, dough hook, and kitchen board…

So I revisited my wish for a bread machine, looking forward to fresh, healthy, homemade bread every morning.   The decision process was pretty fast because  I have done my homework so many times in the past.  I chose a model that comes with a ceramic-coated pan, instead of a Teflon version.  The rest is then up to my relearning journey to convert past recipes into breadmaker-friendly versions.  My first two attempts were alright, edible but nothing close to the texture I have perfected with natural bread improver using root vegetables.

As with my past kitchen experiments, I am journalling it here so that I can refer to it and improve as I bake more often.  A third loaf is cooling on the rack as I type.

For my own reference only.  If you have the same breadmaker (it’s a Song-Cho) and a tried and tested recipe for it, share with me!

Experiment No.1 "Pumpkin Loaf"
Water 250ml
Butter 24g
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar  3 Tbs
Flour 420g
Pumpkin puree 100g
Milk powder 2 Tbs
Instant yeast 1 tsp

//Menu Selection: 
Crust color@light

Pumpkin Sourdough (No Recipe)

Pumpkin Sourdough // Mono + Co Pumpkin Sourdough // Mono + Co Pumpkin Sourdough // Mono + CoPumpkin Sourdough // Mono + CoPumpkin Sourdough // Mono + Co

No recipe because while mixing the dough, I got lost halfway jotting down how much flour I have topped up.  Did I stop after 2 tablespoons? Or was it 3?  But I remember starting the mixture with 270g of flour.  Without adding water, the dough was already wet with liquid from the starter, pumpkin, and honey.  I enjoyed the bread: sweetness from the pumpkin that ends with tangy flavor. Crumb is moist and slightly burnt crust was thin and flavorful.  Definitely worth trying again to find out the amount of flour I added.

Ingredients + steps for my future reference:
+ plain flour, unknown amount
+ 150g fed starter
+ 120g mashed steamed pumpkin
+ 2 tablespoons raw honey
Mix and left to autolyse for 1 hour.
+ 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Knead with mixer until the salt is incorporated into the dough.
+ 18g cold cubed butter
Knead till window pane stage.
Transfer to a covered container and leave in the fridge for 1 day.
Next day, remove from fridge, shape the dough gently into a ball, creating a smooth and stretched outer surface.
Line the bottom of a dutch oven with rice flour.  Place the shaped dough inside, dust surface of dough with rice flour, score the loaf to liking and bake covered for 40 minutes in a preheated oven at 250C.  I made a 30 degree cut to create “ears”.
After 40 minutes, remove the cover and bake for another 20 minutes at 220C.  When done, transfer the bread to a rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour, before slicing or serving.

Pumpkin Sourdough // Mono + Co







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


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.