BreadBakingDay #02 Roundup

BBD #02The BreadBakingDay #02 Roundup is online. I thank Becke (Columbus Foodie) for hosting this month’s event, and Zorra (Kochtopf) for founding it. And to the 32 participants who baked fruited breads from all over the world, wow! Once again, a really impressive array of creations I’d love to try. So many breads, so little time…

Ulrike (Küchenlatein) will host BBD #03, and she is asking everyone to make a sourdough-leavened bread, preferably rye. This is great, because I’ve been wanting to experiment more with rye breads. Guess I better get busy!

Bread Cat

Kevin, Susan, and Beth at A Year in Bread (one of my favorite sites) have called for favorite bread stories. A contest, actually, but I would have written this even if there were no prizes at stake. I don’t know if it’s really my favorite story, or even a good story, but it’s one that means something to me right now.

Bread Cat

StripesWe have a cat named Stripes. (This is what happens when you let 4-year-olds name pets.) We adopted her about 12 years ago, when she started hanging around our back porch. We thought she was a stray, but we learned that she had belonged to a neighbor, and when the neighbor got a dog, the cat refused to step foot in the house ever again. (For whatever reason, this did not happen when we got a dog, a few years later.)

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My Take on Melon Pan

Last week I wrote about some of the interesting Japanese breads I met on my recent vacation. Melon pan, a soft, sweet roll encased in cookie dough and scored to resemble a melon, captured my imagination as soon as I tried it, and I knew I would attempt to recreate this adorable little bread in my own kitchen.

melon-pan-small.jpg

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Cherry-Pecan Bread

I was delighted when I learned the theme of BreadBakingDay #2, hosted by Becke of Columbus Foodie, was Bread with Fruit. What a great excuse to bake, again, one of my favorite breads: 50% whole wheat, with dried sour cherries and toasted pecans. The earthy flavor of whole wheat, the tartness of the cherries, and the slightly sweet spiciness of the nuts combine to make a bread that is always a hit with my family and friends.

ww-cherry-pecan-small.jpg

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The News from Tokyo: Japanese Bread

I have been in Japan for the past week! Of course I was interested to find out what the baking scene is like here, and I was a bit surprised to find that bakeries are perhaps more numerous than I found even in Paris. The Japanese do bake and eat a lot of bread and pastries! Much of it is Western artisan style, and although I did not sample any of those breads, I must say that, if appearance is any indication, these bakers really give the Europeans and Americans a run for their money. In fact, the Japanese team won the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, a triennial international artisan baking competition, in 2002 (they came in third, behind the USA and France, in 2005).

Anpan

But I wanted to know if there was a bread that is distinctly Japanese, and a Japanese friend directed me to Kimuraya in the Ginza district. Established in 1869, this is one of the oldest and most well-known bakeries in Tokyo, and its founder is responsible for introducing their signature anpan, a uniquely Japanese bread. These small buns bear a resemblance to miniature hamburger buns or bagels but are soft, a little sweet, and filled with sweet red, white, or green bean paste. The filling may also include a little pickle, sesame paste, or other ingredients. The dough is made with the same yeast used to ferment sake.

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Flour + Water = Starter

Ah, summer… corn on the cob, lazy reading in the hammock, and… sourdough starter, of course!

Mature sourdough starter

I’ve been taking advantage of this warm weather to try raising some starters from scratch. I had done it before in a week-long class (in fact, that’s the starter I’ve been using for months), but we were able to keep our cultures at a constant 80 degrees F, and we added extra malt to jump-start the process. I wanted to see how it worked with just flour and water, in the warm but fluctuating room temperatures of my non-air-conditioned house in these beautiful early summer weeks in northern California.

Success! Raising a starter seems to be something that is perceived as mysterious, complicated, or hard. But in my experience, it’s not; it just requires attention and patience.

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