Thursday, October 11, 2012

What I Am Baking Now

I have been baking a lot of bread since we moved to Bangkok. The artisan bread we find in the local grocery stores is very crusty (like "cut the inside of your mouth" kind of crusty) yet doughy on on the inside. After a piece or two, the bread sits in your stomach like a big boulder. There is a baker downtown (Urban Pantry - I couldn't find a link to their website) who offers a nice selection of artisan breads and gourmet food items. He delivers to Nichada once a week but, at $3.00+ for a rather small boule, it can be very pricey after you buy two or three loaves.

I love to make bread and used my bread maker all of the time when we lived in Miami. There was nothing better than dumping the ingredients into the bread maker, pushing a button and having the lovely scent of freshly baked bread permeate the house about 3 hours later. In Bangkok, because of the difference in electrical voltage, I can't use my bread maker. Even if I used an electrical transformer, my bread maker would be ruined - not exactly sure why but it has something to do with the heating and rotating elements. It isn't a big deal to make bread by hand but it is a process and does require some advance planning. On the days when I make bread, I carefully schedule the timing of any outside activities so I am back at the house at different times to move things along during the dough making process. It is certainly not as convenient to make the bread by hand but the end result makes it totally worth it - especially when I consider the options here in Bangkok.

In Bangkok, I usually make french baguettes but I have made dough for pizza and tried a few recipes using whole wheat flour. Although everything I have made has turned out fine, I have never been happy with how the dough rises - or more accurately, doesn't rise. Most recipes call for the dough to sit for 40 minutes - 1 hour or "until it doubles in size". Well, my dough always seems to fall about 25% short of doubling. This doesn't affect the taste so I don't know why I obsessed over it as much as I did but I wanted my dough to double, darn it! I tried a number of things - using warmer water, letting the yeast proof longer, using more yeast... but to no avail. A few weeks ago, the Embassy food market was out of the usual (American) yeast that I use so I bought a jar of Thai yeast on the local market. What an amazing difference! The dough plumped up just like it should have and the bread had a great crumb to it - so nice and airy! I have made bread and dough several times since then and have had great luck with how the dough rises. Maybe the yeast was more effective because the Thai yeast is cultivated in the same environment that I am baking in? Maybe the change in temperatures during the importation process for the American yeast affects its effectiveness? I don't know why the Thai yeast gave me better results but I will certainly be using it from here on out. 

So, where is all of this going? I branched out a little this weekend and made dough to use for calzones.
The dough is covered and doubling!
The doubled dough. I should note that the dough in the bowl on the far right did not double but that was my fault for being distracted and adding the incorrect amount of yeast.
I made three different kinds of calzones (2 of each kind) - cheese (for Caitlynne), pepperoni and cheese (for Christopher) and cheese, onion, mushroom and red bell pepper (for Kevin and I). Yes, often times I do feel like I run a restaurant.
Pepperoni and cheese.
I forgot to take a photo of the veggie calzone being prepared but here is everything  assembled and baking in my "barbie bake" oven. 
While the calzones were baking, I noticed they had expanded and were sticking together on their edges so I separated them with a knife. Unfortunately, I must have cut through the dough because you can see where the cheese filling leaked out. They didn't look very pretty but they were delicious and I will definitely make them again.
I served the calzones topped with seasoned tomato sauce which was okay but I think next time I will use true "pizza" sauce as it is much more flavorful. A green salad and fruit plate completed our meal. I froze one of each kind of calzone for dinner one night while Kevin is gone.

Have a great Thursday!

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