Monday, 13 September 2010

The lure of bread making

There is something magical about bread baking, something that I could hardly express with words...

The mere act of combining the simplest ingredients and kneading them together with your very own hands will set off a chain of magical chemical reactions. As you work your way through the combined mess of ingredients, kneading and stretching repeatedly, will magically transform something shaggy and ugly to something as smooth and soft as a baby's bottom. It is also about the mysterious actions of yeast coming to live, releasing carbon dioxide as it starts feasting on the sugars, causing the dough to rise and expand, all happening under a warm and comfortable environment. The aroma of bread baking in the oven...the moment of satisfaction when a freshly baked loaf emerges from the oven...makes me feel that all the extra effort is worth it. It is such a wonderful and rewarding experience only those who have walked through the entire process would be able to appreciate and enjoy their fruits of labour.

For the past week, I was able to indulge in my favourite past time. I finally got down to made this simple banana loaf bread, a recipe which I have copied down for quite sometime. Yes, my recipes are mostly handwritten as they are mainly copied from books which I borrowed from the library. I use a mixture of English and Chinese, using terms and codes that probably I am the only one on earth who could decipher ;)

As compared to store-bought banana-flavoured loaf bread, this homemade version has got only a slight hint of banana fragrant... it is 'there and yet not there', you know what I mean? Even though this bread is made with the straight dough method, without using any sponge dough or tangzhong, the texture remains soft for two days. Yet, this loaf may not pass a bread making test. I read that it is not the best way to judge a loaf just by its appearance and texture. Although the texture is soft, and the holes on the crumb appear to be evenly spaced out, lots of bread crumbs fell off as I sliced up the loaf. Evidently, I must have over-proof the dough, either during the first fermentation or the second rise :(

I guess, partly because of my repeated failures, I am constantly lured to make the next loaf, again and again. I probably won't give up until one day I am able to churn out a satisfactory loaf from my kitchen.

Banana Loaf Bread

(makes one 20x10x10cm loaf)

300g bread flour
42g caster sugar
4.5g salt
9g milk powder
3g instant yeast
90g banana, mashed
30g fresh milk
30g egg
45ml cold water
30g butter

  1. Stir bread flour, caster sugar, salt, milk powder and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, add in mashed banana, fresh milk and egg. Reserve about 30ml of water and add the rest into the mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients with hand and slowly form into a rough dough. Add in a little of the reserved water if the mixture is too dry.
  2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough till smooth. Add in the reserved water a little at a time, knead well after each addition. (This way, the dough will not be too wet and sticky). Use up all the reserved water. The whole process should take about 10mins.
  3. When the dough is smooth, knead in the butter. Continue to knead the dough until it no longer sticks to your hand, becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about another 20 mins. Do the window pane test: pinch a piece of the dough, pull and stretch it. It should be elastic, and can be pulled away into a thin membrane without tearing/breaking apart easily.
  4. Place each dough in lightly greased (use vegetable oil or butter) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about 50mins to 1 hour, or until double in bulk.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas. Divide dough into two equal portions. Roll into rounds. Cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 25mins.
  6. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough into a round disc, roll the dough from the centre to the edges until the diameter is about 9". Flip the dough over. Fold the dough 1/3 from the left side towards the centre. Fold over 1/3 from the right side, to form a long rectangle (about 9" x 3"). Starting from the shorter end roll up swiss-roll style. Pinch and seal the seams. Place the two doughs, seam side down, in a well greased pullman tin. (See illustrations below).
  7. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 55mins (at temperature 32 degC) or when the dough has almost reached the rim of the tin. Brush with egg wash.
  8. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 40 mins or until golden brown. Cover with a foil if the top browns too quickly.  Remove from oven, unmold immediately and let cool completely before slicing. Once cooled, store immediately in air-tight container.
Recipe source: 天然、无添加的手作面包 by 王传仁


Edith said...

Is there anything wrong with it? To me, it looks good enough to eat. Seems like you are also a Nutella eater like my son. He slapped on his nutella as thick as the bread. Terrible isn't it?

Bakericious said...

the loaf looks very good, can see is soft from the photo.

Jes's Deli Corner said...

Hi, when i c your illustrations, this reminds me the "chef in Black" cooking show :o) He used to sketch like that.

Small Small Baker said...

Your hand written notes are so much neater than mine. I don't even dare to take photo to let you all see. :)

fuat gencal said...

Merhabalar, Yeturla lezzet kareleri Bugün bacaklı çorba tarifi ile bloglardan seçmelerde. (
Sizinde her pazartesi yayınlanmasını istediğiniz yemek tariflerinizi beklerim.


Anonymous said...

I know exactly how magic and addictive bread making can be! It's so labourious but completely worth it!

Anyway I love how you copy your recipes down so neatly in a mixture of Mandarin and English- mine's purely in English but written in such shorthand I sometimes struggle to decipher what I meant :)

FL Mom said...

Looks great to me! Maybe a more ripened banana would impart more flavor? If they're just right for eating, they're usually not fragrant enough for baking. Maybe adding just a drop of vanilla while mashing would help bring out the banana flavor too. I'm not sure. Anyway, I volunteer to taste-test all your trials until you reach your goal. :)

Kitchen Corner said...

Really admire your passion on making bread and your hand written recipes really impress! I don't know what went wrong with the bread, but it seems quite nice and it's perfect for me. May be just lack of the banana taste but I think the softness of the bread would be the most satisfaction one!

Baking Fiend said...

Yr illustration for rolling the dough is so cute. :)

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Your banana loaf looks good enough to me. :) But I understand what you mean about the never ending quest to make the perfect loaf of bread....because I think I'm like that too, lol! I guess we just have to 加油加油!BTW, cute doodles, heehee. ;)

quizzine said...

I can understand the's beyond words, the anticipation, the preparation, the outcome, etc. Though I've not baked a bread for very long time, these feelings are always lingering in my head ;-)

Angie's Recipes said...

Love this banana soft and fluffy. Just what I need for a breakfast toast!

Happy Homebaker said...

Edith, the bread tasted soft and delicious, just that I won't consider I have done a good job. We love nutella, and I like baking with nutella too!

Jess, yes the bread stayed soft for 2 days.

Jes's Deli Corner, I have watched a few episode of Chef in Black, yes, I remembered he did sketches, but mine is like a pre-schooler's doodlings ;p

SSB, my handwritting looks horrible! Especially my Chinese characters, now I feel I am so "丢人献眼" (^_^")

eatandbehappy, my kids couldn't understand what I was writing too!

FL Mom, I did use a well ripened banana, maybe the amount is not that much as compared to the amount of flour and the other ingredients. I have never thought of using vanilla in bread making, thanks for the tips :) I wish I can bake you a loaf when I finally get there!

Grace, the texture of this bread is great, just that I may have over proof it, and maybe during shaping, I could have torn some of the gluten as I was playing with the dough ;)

Baking Fiend, it was done sometime back, when a reader asked me what I meant, so I drew the illustration and posted up in that post.

Bee Bee, too bad my bread machine broke down, if not I should be able to conduct more experiments!

quizzine, glad you understand what I was trying to convey.

Angie, thanks for always giving me your kind words of support and encouragements, it means a lot to me because I first started learning baking bread by going thru all the bread recipes which you have posted up :)

Hearty Bakes said...

I admire your inspiration & persistency in perfecting your skills HHB. I think you made the nicest bread around. I know i will turn to your blog anytime i'm in for bread making. I love the organised & detailed notes. Thank you for your inspiration. Keep up your good work! Your children are the luckiest one enjoying mummy's home-made bread bake with love.

Joyti said...

It looks like delicious bread. Its so much paler and prettier than normal banana bread. Looks like you could even use it for a sweet sandwich.

Aunty Liew said...

I like your sketch,so clear for illustration. My first baked of loaf bread was not so successful. I might try your way. Thanks for sharings.

Cosy Bake said...

Those selling off the selves are added with artificial flavouring. So shall not waste time....

I'm sure yours is far more better than those!

Miss B @ Everybody Eats Well in Flanders said...

Hello HappyHomeBaker

Just chanced upon ur blog, u have a great site with lots of recipes! Incidentally, I am also like u, I love to write down my favourite recipes painstakingly in a little notebook, but no cute illustrations like yours. I also try to borrow the books from the library & copy them, this habit stopped until I moved away from SG. In the internet age, it sounds a bit silly not to print recipes or refer them online, but writing them down is what makes those recipes endearing to you, isnt it? I share your sentiments exactly :)


Anonymous said...

I love how neat your handwriting is! And the diagrams are adorable too :) I can't see anything wrong with your loaf though. Looks perfect to me!

sherlyn said...

丟人現眼?I think your mandarin handwriting are so neat and nice. You should have seen mine, but don't think you will have any chance.

I mostly scan my recipes from the library books .. only when I need to use them, I copy them out from the PC. Silly isnt it? But I like to see pictures, so scanning is one of the way ...

water5melon2 said...

I really love the recipes that you post!! They always end up being delicious! =] I've just begun to start copying down recipes in a notebook like you.. hehe. I really admire u, i wanna be a good baker and mommy like u!! (i'm 14) I'm forever waiting for u to post more recipes, and reading about ur life is very interesting!!

Happy Homebaker said...

MissB, thanks for visiting:) I started copying down recipes when I was in secondary school...I still keep a very old notebook...the first few pages were my school notes, and the rest were our traditional recipes :)

Sherlyn, I used to scan recipes too, especially when I first started baking...I need to refer to those step by step illustrations, I am as silly as you, I will also copy down the recipes from the PC ;)

water5melon2, you are still so young! Thanks for reading my blog :D

Janetan said...

hi HHB,
now i'm waiting for the outcome. and i change a esbit ingredient on the flour..i use three types, high protein 120g, whole wheat flour/ATTA 80g and super fine flour 100g.. hoping the result will be as good as yours..

Janetan said...

is me again,HHB.just now i gently press it did bounce back is it mean the bread is soft? but the holes on the crumb doesn't appear to be evenly spaced out like yours.i have to wait until tomorrow to see the softness still the same.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Janetan, whole wheat flour will make the dough dry, so you will need to adjust the liquid amount otherwise the bread will be on the dry side?? You have also reduced the high protein flour to less than half of the original recipe, so I am not sure whether the final texture will be affected. Bread flour or high protein flour is required in bread making to give volume and better texture.

I think besides touching, you need to taste it to see whether it is soft. When freshly baked, this bread will be as soft as those store-bought bread loaf. Store it in airtight container and it should be able to keep well for up to 3 days.

Janetan said...

hi HHB,
oh my god, just like u said, the bread is dry but the taste is i steam the bread before i eat it..i change the measurement of the flour and flour's type because my high protein is not enough..i though the dryness is because i didn't knead enough in my kitchen aid mixer (i knead for 5 minutes after i added butter). what do u think? should i knead longer and how long??

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Janetan, I do not have a mixer, so I am not sure how long you should knead the dough. I usually knead by hand, and in the past I use my breadmachine to knead the dough. You can do a window pane test by taking a piece of dough and try to stretch it as thin as possible. It should not tear away easily, the dough should be elastic and stretchable to a thin membrane. Hope this helps :)

Janetan said...

guess i know what to do the next time i make bread.. anyway i'm so thankful that you willing to share your thought..thank you~