3. Quality and recipes

3.2. Specialties from all over the world

Introduction

This topic is of course endless and it would be rather impossible to describe here all types of bread. Suffice to say that, if there are in a town 5 bakers, there will be 5 different kinds of bread, because the secret of bread does not lie in the recipe but in the way the product is made. So by definition we had to limit ourselves and we made a choice of a number of products which however are distinct and well know all over the world. So, in this chapter, we describe a number of products and their production methods from a selected number of countries (which we've put in alphabetical order).

One final remark. If one travels the world, it can be noticed that in countries where the artisanal baker holds a strong and important position in the market, the quality of the bread will be noticeably higher then in countries where the industrial baker holds the strongest position. This is not meant to be negative towards the industrial baker but the business drivers are in each case distinctly different. The artisanal baker will position himself as craftsman who offers choice and quality. The industrial baker will always be more price conscientious and aim for efficiency. From that point of view traveling through Europe can be a most rewarding experience. In countries, where the artisanal baker is strong (such as in Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland), you will find a vast choice of delicacies (at sometimes unreasonable high prices !) while in countries such as the Netherlands or the United Kingdom, you will find rather mediocre products at relatively low prices. The same holds true for the United States.


Armenia

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At Easter the Armenian baker will make "choereg". To make it he will use the following recipe : flour (100 %), water (40 %), eggs (25 %), butter (15 %), sugar (7,5 %), yeast (5 %), salt (2,5 %), mahleb (2,5 %) and sesame seeds (1,5 %).

Mahleb is made from the stones of dark sour cherries. The stones are being grounded and the flour which is obtained in that way has a typical pleasant flavour. In the Middle East it is rather common and can be obtained from any shop that sells herbs and spices. There is also a typical Greek product which is called "tsoureki" in which mahleb is used.

Make the water lukewarm, add one coffee spoon of sugar and the yeast. Stir until dissolved. Melt the butter without burning it. Let it cool down again until it is still just liquid. Add the butter to the flour as well as the yeast suspension, the rest of the sugar, the salt, the mahleb and the eggs. Knead to develop an elastic dough adding some more water or flour if needed.

Leave the dough to rise for 3 hours and mix again to obtain a degassed homogeneous dough. Divide into equal pieces of about 550 g, shape them into strings and plait the strings. Put the dough on a baking tray and leave to prove for 90 minutes. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Bake the bread in a moderate oven at 170 – 180C for about 40 minutes until golden brown.


Belgium

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In Belgium one can find a large number of real delicacies such as "boterpistolets" from Antwerp (bread rolls with butter), "rogge verdomme" (sweet rye bread with raisins) and "boterkoeken" which are also sometimes called "expo's" by the Belgian baker. They were invented by the Belgian baker at the occasion of the World Exposition of 1958. They are made from Danish pastry and have a particular shape. But one of the nicest products you can find in Belgium is "suikerbrood" (sugar loaf).

To make it one can use the following recipe : flour (100 %), water or milk (60 %), "parelsuiker n 4" (50 %), butter (10 %), yeast (6 %), salt (2 %). "Parelsuiker" is a kind of sugar, pearl shaped and the number 4 indicates the size (5,6 – 8 mm in diameter, about the size of a hailstone). This kind of sugar is a real Belgian speciality as well : it is just hard enough to just melt in the dough during baking so one gets the effect of soft moist sugar patches in the crumb. It are the particular characteristics of this kind of sugar which makes the bread so exceptional. The same type of sugar is also used in the typical waffles made in the region of Lige (gaufres ligeois). Due to the rather large amount of sugar, one needs to use quite some yeast. Another point to remember during production is that the bread has to be baked at low temperature. Because of its large sugar content, it colours quite quickly and might get too dark.

In order to make a good sugar loaf, it's necessary to make a well developed dough of about 24C. Leave to rest for about 20 minutes and add the sugar, gently folding the sugar into the dough. Divide immediately into pieces of about 425 g in order to make loaves of 350 g. Scaling has to be done manually because the sugar, which is before baking rather hard, will break the safety pins in automatic dividers.

After scaling and rounding the dough is placed into aluminium trays. Normally the bread will be oval shaped because this allows to make a somewhat flatter product which does not need to bake as long as a round bread of the same weight. After proofing (40 to 45 minutes) the product is baked in a moderate oven for about 25 minutes.

Also in the northern province of the Netherlands, in Friesland, a similar product is made. Normally it contains some extra ingredients such as cinnamon and a dash of lemon peel.

We spoke already of the "gaufres ligeois" which are made from the same recipe. The dough will be divided into pieces of 55 g and after proofing they will be baked using a waffle iron of course. "Belgian waffles" are quite well known in the United States. What Americans don't realise is that there are many types of waffles in Belgium, all of them which are real delicacies.

Belgium has another product which can only be found in Belgium. And although it name is "pain la Grecque" (which translated literally means "bread made the Greek way"), it has nothing to do with Greece. I want to talk about it here because it is one of these products which seems to disappear from the bakery. I have to admit that it's rather painstaking to produce is, but one baked it is a fantastic product.

It is made from wheat flour (100 %), milk (7 %), yeast (10 %), brown sugar (7,5 %), eggs (5 %), salt (1,5 %) and cinnamon (0,7 %). Half of the flour is mixed with all the milk, the eggs and the yeast. The mixture is allowed to ferment for about one hour in a cool place but not in the fridge. Then all the rest of the ingredients are added and mixed until an elastic smooth dough results. The dough is allowed to rest for about 15 minutes and then degassed. Divide into pieces of about 100 g and shape them rectangular about 6 – 7 cm wide and 12 – 15 cm long. Flatten them and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Put the dough pieces on a well buttered baking tray and allow to ferment for about 45 minutes. Degas the dough pieces again and give another proof of about 30 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180C. After baking, turn the baked product around and remove the rims. The product should be chewy and not dry.

Finally there is a product called "mastellen". It is one of the few products in Belgium that contains cinnamon. Contrarily to the Dutch, Belgian people are not too fond of cinnamon. Mastellen are a typical product of the "Waasland" region, which is located somewhere between Ghent and Antwerp.

To one kilogram of flour, add half a litre of milk, 75 g of yeast, 5 grams of cinnamon, 300 g of butter, 20 g of salt and 50 g of sugar. Add the butter, the sugar and the cinnamon at the end of mixing when the dough is nearly fully developed. Leave the dough 30 minutes to prove and then divide in pieces of 55 g. Shape the pieces into round balls and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Make a ring out of the dough pieces similar to bagels or donuts (in some villages the baker really makes a ring or a hole in the middle of the dough piece while in other villages he will rather make a kind of dimple in the middle of the product). So all those who thought that a ring shaped product was typical American, can forget about it. That kind of shape exists in Belgium since the Middle Ages. People used to take the mastellen to the church so the priest bless could them and they were supposed to be a good remedy against rabies. After proofing they are brushed with egg and baked for about 10 to 12 minutes in a rather hot oven (200C).


Brazil

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The most famous speciality of Brazil is without any doubt, "po di queijo" or cheese bread. You can wonder whether this product is still can be called bread because it is made from cassava flour. Nevertheless the product is such a delicacy and is made by all bakers all over Brazil that this product must be present in the list of the world's specialties.

There is also no yeast in the formula and the increase in volume is due to the development of steam within the product during baking. This is similar to the process the volume increase when baking choux paste. The product has a short shelf life and is normally eaten immediately after baking. In Brazil the baker uses "queijo de Minas" (cheese from Minas) which is rather difficult to find in other parts of the world, but the product can be made with a mixture of Parmesan cheese and Cheddar for instance.

Po di queijo originates in the province of Minas Gerais and is served in about every restaurant with every type of meal. As a matter of fact the original product did not even contain cheese. In the 17th century, the slaves of the rich landlords made a kind of cooked "starch balls" from the cassava flour and used this as their staple food. It's only about 200 years later that people started adding milk and cheese.

There are also two types of cassava flour (called "polvilho" in Portuguese) : there is a type which is sweet and a type which is rather sour. Both start from the flour of the cassava (or yucca) root which is mixed with water. The sour type is obtained by the fermentation of the water solution by Lactic acid bacteria. Afterwards the slurry is dried and the result is sour polvilho.

The recipe for po di queijo is the following : polvilho (100 %), eggs (50 %), skimmed milk (25 %), grated cheddar (25 %), sunflower oil (22 %), parmesan cheese (6 %), salt (1,2 %). The first step in the preparation is to boil the milk with the oil, slowly and gradually add the cassava flour in order to obtain a homogeneous mix. Cool down to lukewarm, add the eggs and mix to get a pliable elastic dough. Finally add the salt and the cheeses.

Divide the dough into pieces of about 25 g, shape into round balls and brush with some oil. Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes until the products become pale yellow in colour. The breads may not become too dark or crusty. This is a slightly coloured pale product, not crusty but soft. The Cheddar will also impart a yellowish colour.


China

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Lao bing is flat bread made from weak wheat flour (8,5 % proteins, 10 % at the very most). So this product is rather made from cake flour then from bread flour. Lao bing only contains 3 ingredients : flour (100 %), water (10 %) and salt (2 %). The dough is prepared with water of at least 30C.

After mixing the dough is covered with a moist cloth and allowed to rest for about 30 minutes. After resting, it is divided in small pieces of about 30 – 40 g each, which after another short rest of about 15 minutes, will be laminated, oval shaped 13 – 17 cm large, 23 – 26 cm long. After laminating the dough pieces are amply brushed with peanut oil and rounded again. After another 15 minutes rest period, the dough pieces are again laminated in the shape of pancakes and baked in a pan. During baking the bread is turned over frequently in order to bake it evenly at both sides.


Finland

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The people from Finland have the same relation with rye bread as Popeye has with spinach. "Crispbread" is a part of the daily menu in Finland. Everyone in Finland is convinced that rye bread "keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise". As with most rye bread the use of sourdough is a must.

Traditionally a Finish sourdough is made from rye flour and "viili". Viili is fermented milk product. Fermented milk plays an important role in the daily diet in Scandinavia. A lot of people produce themselves at home sour milk products. As a result of the rather cold climate the fermentation is normally done with mesofile starter cultures, especially with lactic acid producing lactococci. Viili is thick, slimy, sour milk product made from full fat milk. Microbiological analysis shows that many different kinds of lactic acid bacteria are present in viili. Lactococcus lactis ssp cremoris, Lactococcus lactis ssp lactis are responsible for the consistency of the product while the flavour is imparted by Lactococcus lactis ssp lactis var diacetylactis, Leuconostoc mesentoroides ssp cremoris and Leuconostoc mesenteroides ssp dextrancium (Rogniski 1993). Another rather specific aspect of viili is that it contains also a mould called Geotrichum candidum, which is responsible for the formation of small quantities of alcohol. This mould brings down the pH and produces, apart from alcohol, also CO2.

Another specific aspect of the production of sourdough in Scandinavia (and Russia as well as a matter of fact) is that, as a first step during the production of the sourdough, the flour – water slurry is boiled. By doing this the so-called background flora is killed of course but at the same time the starch in flour is gelatinised so the starch is more readily available for the lactic acid bacteria.

The technique of boiling first the flour with the water becomes more and more widespread in Europe. In Germany, the process is called "Kochstuck" while the final fermented sourdough is then called "Aromastuck". In some cases the water is replaced by beer which is left open for a while so all the carbon dioxide is removed from the beer.

A very well known bread in Finland is "ruisleipa". The first step in the production of this product is the preparation of the sourdough, which is made as follows : boil for about 3 minutes a mixture of 125 g rye flour and 125 g water. Leave to cool to room temperature and add 50 g of viili. Leave to ferment for 24 hours in a cool place at about 8 – 12C (not in the fridge !). Boil 125 g of beer and 125 g of rye flour, cool down and add the mixture to the sourdough. Leave for another 24 hours in a cool place. Cover with a plastic sheet.

The third day the bread can be made using the following recipe : wheat flour (100 %), sourdough (100 %), rye flour (65 %), water (55 %), butter (5 %), yeast (2,5 %) salt (1,8 %). After mixing divide the dough in equal portions of about 400 g. Leave to rest for 30 minutes and shape the dough in disks of about 3 cm thick and 20 – 25 cm diameter. Make a hole in the middle of the disk. Proof for 2 hours and bake at 200C for about 30 – 35 minutes.

Another speciality of Finland is called "pulla". It's a soft sweet roll made from wheat flour. To the basic recipe lots of ingredients such as cinnamon, cottage cheese, lemon peel or dried apples can be added. The composition of the basic dough is the following : wheat flour (100 %), milk (50 %), butter (25 %), eggs (10 %), sugar (5 %), raisins (5 %), yeast (5 %), salt (2 %), cardamom (0,5 %). Beat the eggs together with the sugar. Add the milk, the salt, the yeast and the cardamom. Add about three quarters of the flour to the mixture and mix until homogeneous. Add the rest of the flour and mix to a smooth elastic dough. Finally add the butter and mix until the dough breaks easily loose from the sides of the mixing bowl. Cover and allow the dough to double in volume. Mix again and add the raisins. Divide the dough in pieces of 1 kg and shape the dough into a ring. Leave to ferment during 90 minutes. Brush with egg yolk and bake at a moderate temperature. After baking brush with sugar syrup and decorate with almonds.


France

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France is the country of the baguette. Of course, when one travels from Lille in the north to Nice in the south, he will find many types of baguettes. So the French talk about a baguette or a parisienne, or "le pain briare", but there is quite some difference between the baguettes of the different regions in France.

To make a traditional baguette the baker will normally use malt. Pain briare is made of wheat flour, gluten, rye flour, salt, sourdough, malt and ascorbic acid. The dough is prepared with lots of water (up to 80 % on flour weight) and a little yeast (maximum 1 % of the flour). The dough will get a floor rest of about 1 hour. The dough will be scaled into pieces of 320 g and these will get a first proof of another hour. Finally, the dough pieces will be moulded into the typical long shape and get an 1 hour final proof.

The difference between a baguette and a pain briare is big. The later has a hard rather dark crust, a glassy brownish crumb structure with a very irregular structure. A baguette on the other hand has a white crumb, a rather regular crumb structure with a few bigger cells and a thin shiny golden crust.

Each baker in France still knows the method to make tasty bread. He will use sourdough or "poolish" in order to get the typical taste. The small baker in France also will distinguish himself with the quality of his products and his bread is very recognisable. In France the expression "pain maison" (bread of the house) is protected. Don't buy just anywhere your daily bread, buy from the artisanal baker is the well-known slogan.

In France people also eat other types of bread of course. A well-known type is "la boule" (literally translated it means the "the ball" or "the bulb"). It's a bread with a rather long shelf life and is made with sourdough. For each kilogram of flour, 400 g of sourdough is used, 3 g of yeast and about 0,650 litre of water. Here as well a long fermentation process is used : floor rest of 1 hour, an intermediate proof of 1 hour and a final proof of 2 hours. In France, sourdough bread, may not contain more then 3 g of yeast per kilogram of flour.

Baguettes are traditionally made with little yeast. The dough will get enough time to mature and to rise. However even the French baker uses more and more the so called bread improvers. In combination with these chemicals, the baker uses more yeast and ascorbic acid in order to "tune up" the bread. As a result the baguette lost its original goodness. Fortunately there has been a counter movement and "pain tradition" is now a protected trademark in France. Only when the baker makes the bread according to a strict set of rules (such as the use of sourdough, little yeast and no ascorbic acid) he can call it "pain tradition". It also has to be baked on the stone heard of the oven. A bread baked on a baking tray in a rack oven can be easily recognised because it will have the typical pattern of the small holes in the baking tray.


Germany

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Germany is many known for its rye bread of course. This doesn't mean that there are no other countries where rye bread is as popular as wheat bread. Not only in the Scandinavian countries rye bread is very popular but rye bread is also very popular in Poland and Russia for instance. The steps to make rye bread are fundamentally the same as to the ones to make wheat bread. However there are major differences in the production methods of the two types of bread.

To make rye bread a sourdough is fundamental. It is absolutely necessary to use sourdough when making rye bread. The reason for this lies in the fact that rye does not contain gluten which are responsible for water binding and the gas retaining characteristics of a wheat dough. In a rye bread, these functions have to be performed by the pentosans which are abundant present in rye. In conditions of low pH, the capability of the pentosans to dissolve in water and to absorb water is largely enhanced.

The acidification of the dough happens through the use of sourdough. Due to the lower pH the enzyme activity is inhibited and this enhances the water binding capacity of the starch. As a result the volume and the crumb structure of the rye bread will improve. The acidification also helps to extend the shelf life of the product. Due to the low pH, the growth of spoilage micro-organisms is inhibited. Also the nutritional value is positively enhanced by the acidification : the minerals present in the bread will be more readily assimilated in the human body. Finally sourdough also contributes to the flavour of the bread.

When making sourdough more water is used compared to doughs made from wheat flour. Mixing is also less intensive then for wheat doughs as there is no gluten network which has to be formed and developed. The water absorption by the pentosans goes rather quickly and easily hence the use of intensive mixers is not necessary to make a good dough for rye bread.

Mixing times are influenced by a number of aspects. The most important ones can be found in the following table :

short mixing time

long mixing time

high speed mixer

slow traditional mixer

the higher the percentage of rye flour

the higher the percentage of wheat flour

weak flour

strong flour

low bran content

high bran content

particle size of flour : fine flour

particle size of flour : coarse flour

high dough temperature

low dough temperature

low water content of dough

high water content of dough

indirect mixing (autolysis)

direct mixing

It's obvious that all rules of good manufacturing practices apply to rye bread as well i.e. correct scaling is important, humidity and temperature should be controlled tightly etc. Additionally it is also important that the sourdough is fully matured. When indirect mixing is applied (adding or production sourdough in various stages), a bowl rest after mixing is not required. In the case rye bread is made using direct mixing, a bowl rest of 20 to 50 minutes is necessary, although the length of the bowl rest depends on the percentage of wheat flour used in the dough.

After mixing and floor rest, the dough is divided. Here as well it is important that all individual pieces have about the same weight and shape in order to insure a smooth and regular baking process. There is of course also here a legal aspect. In those countries where the weight of a loaf of bread is legally determined, scaling has to be checked regularly as the specific weight of the dough will change during operations.

After scaling the dough pieces are allowed to relax for 10 to 20 minutes and will then be moulded into their final shape which can be round, oval or sausage like to make tin bread. The equipment used to divide and mould rye bread however is totally different from the equipment used for wheat flour. During these operations relatively large amounts of dusting flour are required because rye doughs are stickier then wheat doughs.

After moulding the breads are put in baskets or baking tins and are allowed to rise. If a short final fermentation period is desired proof temperatures will vary between 35 and 40C instead of the more common temperatures of 25 – 30C. With the short fermentation time, relative humidity should not be too high : 60 – 65 % will be enough. With longer fermentation time it is better to choose a relative humidity of 80 % or slightly more.

It is common to choose a slow fermentation process. Aside from the lower temperature, the dough will be a little more consistent and less yeast will be used. The fermentation process of rye bread should be carefully monitored. Rye doughs are less tolerant then wheat doughs and errors which occur during fermentation will easily and immediately have a negative effect on the quality of the final product.

With regards to the baking process, it can be said that the same principles are in play as with the wheat dough. In other words, baking times depends foremost on the shape of the bread (time necessary to reach 100C in the centre of the bread), baking time depends on the shape and not on the weight of the bread and also not on the baking temperature, there is water migration towards the centre of the loaf, all phenomenon take place simultaneously in different spots in the crumb depending on the temperature of that spot, crust characteristics are determined by baking temperature. Baking time however is longer for a rye bread then for a wheat bread and this is due to the rate of heat transfer within the crumb. Generally speaking the following table can be consulted as a rough guide for baking times for rye bread :

weight

type

temperature

baking time

500 g

rye + wheat

210 – 260C

35 – 40 min

500 g

wheat + rye

180 – 230C

30 – 35 min

1000 g

rye

220 – 270C

55 – 65 min

1500 g

rye

220 – 270C

65 – 90 min

In the previous table "rye + wheat" means that the percentage rye in the dough is higher then the percentage of wheat, while "wheat + rye" indicates a reverse situation.


Greece

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A very well know speciality from Greece is "tsoureki". It has a rich recipe type Danish pastry (but not laminated) with lots of eggs, butter and milk. It is mainly consumed around Easter and a real traditional tsoureki will be decorated with boiled eggs, painted red. The product however is available all year round, without the egg and as a morning roll of about 50 g.

The composition of the dough is the following : flour (100 %), milk (33,3 %), eggs (22,2 %), butter (11,1 %), sugar (10 %), yeast (5 %), salt (2,2 %), mahleb (1 %) and cinnamon (1 %).

Separately mix the flour, the salt and the cinnamon. Make a slurry of the yeast, using some of the milk. Mix sugar and butter and then add the eggs until smooth. Add both mixes to the flour mix and knead to a homogenous elastic dough. Brush the surface of the dough with sunflower oil and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to ferment for 1 hour. Degas and leave to ferment for another hour. Divide the dough into dough pieces of about 500 g, mould in the shape of a sausage and make a plait with 3 dough strings thus making breads of 1,5 kg. Leave to prove for an hour and brush the surface of the dough with a mixture of egg and water to which a little honey was added. Decorate with flaked almonds and bake for 35 – 40 minutes at 190C.


Hungary

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Vazsonyi is a typical speciality from Hungary. Originally it was made on the farms in small villages but nowadays it can be found in most bakeries in Hungary. Typical ingredients are wheat flour, rye flour and mashed potatoes. To make this delicious product one can use the following recipe : wheat flour (100 %), water (65 %), rye flour (11 %), mashed potatoes (3 %), salt (2 %), yeast (1,5 %).

This product is made with a sponge and dough method. A sponge is made using all of the rye flour, three quarters of the water, one third of the flour and one third of the yeast. The sponge is allowed to ferment for 5 – 7 hours at room temperature. Afterwards, the rest of the ingredients is added and mixed until a smooth dough results. After mixing the dough is immediately divided into pieces of 520 g.

After rounding and proofing of the dough pieces the bread is baked for about 25 – 30 minutes at 200 – 220C. This will produce a product which stays fresh for quite some time and the staling process will be slow. This is due to the presence of the mashed potatoes which of course contain virtually nothing else but starch. Potato starch however doesn't have the same staling pattern as wheat starch and therefore the product will stay longer moist and soft.

The addition of mashed potatoes is a technique that was rather wide spread in Europe after the second world war when there was a shortage of wheat flour. Today the mashed potatoes can be replaced by potato flakes which are readily available in the supermarket.


India

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"Chapati" is a typical flat bread that can be found everywhere in India. The recipe is rather simple, the product is easy to make and can be prepared quickly. It has to be consumed very quickly because it stales very quickly.

To make "chapatti" you need wholemeal flour (100 %), water (60 %) and salt (2 %). Sift the flour and set some of the bran aside. Add half of the water and the salt. Mix and gradually add the rest of the water until an elastic dough is formed. The dough should be slightly moist. Divide into small pieces of dough, roll them into the rest of the bran and some flour. Leave to rest for a couple of minutes and make disks of about 170 mm diameter. Heat a frying pan without butter or oil en bake the chapatti for about half a minute either side. Turn the chapatti over and bake again for 30 seconds. Repeat this until the chapatti is well baked.

"Naan" is another very well know product from India. To make it you will need the following ingredients : flour (100 %), yogurt (26,5 %), milk (22 %), eggs (11 %), sesame oil (11 %), sugar (6,6 %), yeast (5,5 %), salt (1,5 %), sesame seeds (1,5 %).

Add to 50 ml of lukewarm milk, 5 g of sugar and all of the yeast. Mix to a homogenous yeast suspension. Take care not to warm the milk too much.

Heat the yogurt to about 60C. This is necessary to inactivate the lactic acid bacteria present in the yogurt Add the rest of the sugar, the milk, the eggs, the oil and the salt and mix. Add the flour and the yeast slurry. Mix to make a elastic homogeneous dough. Leave 2 hours to rise and mix again. Divide into equal portions of about 100 g and shape them into disks of about 200 mm diameter. Brush with sesame oil or melted butter. Decorate with sesame seeds or with other kind of seeds such as onion seeds. Bake in a preheated oven at 230C until golden brown.

Pappadam is a bread made from lentil flour and is as thin as a pancake. It looks a bit like a tortilla but it's not soft, baked dry like a cracker. Sometimes it contains all kind of spices and herbs but in the south of India it is produced without spices. In the northern parts of India, red peppers or garlic is added. Sometimes the dough is baked in a pan, sometimes it is grilled.


Italy

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A very well known speciality of Italy is the "focaccia". However there is such a vast choice, that it is impossible to describe all types. Each region, yes, nearly each village in Italy has its own focaccia. Sometimes the Italians will call a focaccia, a "pizza bianca" or "white pizza", indicating that the product is similar to a pizza but without tomato sauce. In most cases it's much thicker then the traditional pizza from Napoli. A real pizza is only a couple of millimetre thick, whatever fast food chains made of it. A focaccia on the contrary can be 3 – 4 centimetres thick. As result you will find it more then often cut in two half's which are then decorated with all kind of nice things such as olives, Parma ham, mozzarella cheese, garlic etc.

Then there is of course the ciabatta. This is a bread made with a rather slack dough containing about 65 – 70 % of water on the flour and 3 to 5 % of olive oil. After mixing the dough is allowed to fermented in the mixer for 90 to 120 minutes. Afterwards it will be have to be treated very delicately in order to maintain the gas bubbles in the dough. The baker will gently laminate the dough and cut rectangular pieces of about 250 to 300 grams of about 10 by 20 centimetres. These dough pieces are allowed to ferment for another 90 to 120 minutes in a rather dry proof box (not more then 60 % relative humidity… Italian bakers don't mind that the dough crusts a little). After about three quarters of the proof time the baker will pull the dough until the piece is about 30 centimetres and turn it around so the dry side lies underneath. This handling is called "stirare" in Italian, and literally means "to iron". It is due to this treatment that the product gets its typical "ciabatta" shape. I'm sure you all know that "ciabatta" means "slipper", but the product actually looks more like a dog bone with an irregular cracked crust.

Together with the irregular open crumb structure showing big shiny holes, a rather thick crust is typical for a good ciabatta. A ciabatta is by definition always baked on the oven floor and I'm convinced that the crust is one of the reasons why this product became a world wide success in no time : due to the fact that more and more products are baked in a ventilated hot air oven, the crust of all products, whether it are baguettes or croissants, become more and more similar. Ciabatta made us rediscover the goodness of a bread baked on the oven floor.


Ireland

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Barm brack is normally made with yeast but there are also recipes out there which call for baking powder. It is a typical Irish bread which is normally sold at All Saints. There is also a similar product in Scotland. Special about this product is that the raisins and the orange peel is allowed to soak overnight in tea.

To make this delicious product you will need the following ingredients : wheat flour (100 %), milk (55 %), raisins (33 %), currants (33 %), orange peel (7,5 %), butter (5 %), sugar (5 %), yeast (3 %), salt (2 %), eggs (1 %), ginger (0,5 %) and nutmeg (0,1 %).

Add the yeast to the milk and make a suspension. Mix the flour, the salt, the sugar, the ginger and the nutmeg. Add the yeast and afterwards the butter and the eggs. Knead until smooth and elastic. At the end of mixing add the raisins, the currants and the orange peel. Divide in pieces of about 500 g and shape them into a cylinder. Put in a buttered bread tin. Leave to prove for one hour and bake for about 45 minutes at 200C.


Japan

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A typical and traditional homemade Japanese product is "saka-manju". Nowadays it is made on an industrial scale with a number of different fillings such as read bean paste, meat etc. A peculiarity of this product this that it is not baked in a traditional oven but that the product, after fermentation, will be steamed, as for instance rice is steamed in Japan. Steam baking is rather common in Japan.

The composition of the product is usually as follows : flour (100 %), water or milk (50 – 55 %), yeast (2 – 3 %), sugar (5 – 10 %), lard (3 – 5 %) and salt (0,5 %).

The yeast is dissolved in lukewarm milk together with the sugar. The mixture is added to the flour and mixing is started. During kneading the salt and the melted lard is added in order to get a rather stiff dough. It's obvious that the melted lard should not be hot but just liquefied.

The dough gets a bowl rest until it has doubled in size and then it is mixed again. At that moment the dough will be moulded in a "sausage" shape and slices of about 2 – 3 cm thick will be cut. The slices are flattened, the filling is dosed on the dough disc and will then be closed so the filling sits in the middle of the dough. The product will get a short proof time (about 10 – 15 minutes) and will then be steamed.

Sometimes sake is used in lieu of yeast. Sake is a beverage made from fermented rice. Steaming is quite an interesting technique and there are many different types of steamed bread in Japan. They all have the following characteristics in common : rather big volume (2,5 – 3 times as big as the non steamed product), shiny crust as white as a sheet (because of the steaming no Maillard reaction can take place), elastic, resilient crumb which does not stick to the teeth on mastication.


Mexico

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Anyone who says Mexico thinks of "tortilla's". Tortilla's look like thin pancakes made from bread dough. They are normally filled with meat and beans and then folded or rolled. It's therefore very important that the tortilla's are soft and pliable. Tearing while they are being rolled is considered to be a product fault.

Originally the product was only made in the north of Mexico. Today it is readily available in the south of the United States and throughout central America. Tortilla's are made at home and are supposed to be consumed within one day. Today with the use of emulsifiers, they can be kept for 3 to 5 days, especially when they are kept in the fridge. It's important to store them in the fridge or another cool place in order to avoid spoilage by mould growth.

Tortilla's are made with flour with a high protein content. Apart from flour (100 %), the dough contains water (40 %), margarine (12 %) and salt (2 %). A rather simple recipe, without yeast. After mixing the dough is divided into pieces of about 20 to 30 grams which are allowed to rest for about 15 minutes. Afterwards they are laminated into round flat pancakes of about 12 to 15 cm diameter. The thickness varies between 2 and 5 mm. Baking is done on a hot plate (so not in an traditional oven) at about 200 C. After 15 to 20 seconds, depending on the thickness, the product is turned around. The other side is allowed to bake for another 10 to 15 seconds.

In Guatemala, a totally different recipe is used : flour (100 %), water (44 %), sugar (25 %), eggs (4,5 %), oil (4,5 %) and salt (2,5 %). For the rest, these tortilla's are made in the same way as above.


New Zealand

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Rewena is a Maori bread made with sourdough. The sourdough is made from potatoes. Actually the use of mashed potatoes in bread is nothing out of the extraordinary. Also in Belgium, just after the second world war, when wheat was scarce, bakers used to add potatoes to the dough. The Maori sourdough is composed of 3 medium sized potatoes, 250 g of flour, 235 g of the water in which the potatoes were boiled and 15 g of sugar.

Allow the potatoes to cook well. Separate the water and the potatoes and allow both to cool well to room temperature. Mash the potatoes and add the flour and the sugar. Finally add the water. Cover and allow to acidify at room temperature during 48 hours.

Add to the sourdough 750 g of flour, about 400 g of water, 30 g of yeast and 20 g of salt. Mix until smooth and homogeneous. Add some more water if necessary. Leave to ferment during 30 minutes and divide the dough into pieces of 250 g. Shape into a disk. Brush with sunflower oil and leave to proof during 1 hour. Bake at 160C for 30 – 35 minutes.


Pakistan

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Puri is quite similar to chapati bread from India. The following recipe can be used to make puri : flour (100 %), yogurt (22,2 %), sesame oil (11 %), sugar (6,6 %), salt (1,5 %) and pepper (0,4 %).

Mix all ingredients until a smooth and elastic dough results. Leave the dough to rest for about 10 minutes and divide it into pieces of 40 g. Shape the individual pieces into pancakes. Heat oil in a baking pan and bake the puri about 1 minute either side. Serve hot.


Poland

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"Babka" is a typical product from Poland of which many different kinds can be found. Certain types are made at special occasions such as Easter or Christmas. The following recipe is for the Easter babka.

To make a babka you will need flour (100 %), milk (37 %), butter (37 %), egg yolk (20 %), raisins (15 %), sugar (15 %), yeast (5 %), orange peel (3 %) and salt (2 %).

Mix all ingredients, except the raisins and the orange peel, until you get a smooth elastic dough. Add some extra milk if necessary. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rise until double in volume. Add the raisins and the orange peel and mix until they are homogeneously distributed throughout the dough. Divide into piece of 550 g and round. Put the dough pieces in a well greased round baking tray. Leave to rise for 1 hour and bake at 190C for 35 minutes. Cool down and decorate with sugar icing.


Sweden

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Limpa is a dark rye bread which is normally served with smorgasbord. It is quite sweet because of use of the brown sugar and molasses. But in combination with the rather salty, savoury smorgasbord, it is a real treat for your taste buds.

Limpa is made with the following recipe : flour (100 %), water (85 %), rye flour (65 %), broken wheat kernels (15 %), molasses syrup (10 %), butter (10 %), buttermilk (6 %), yeast (3 %), mixed peel (1,5 %), aniseed (0,5 %) and flax seeds (0,5 %).

Mix the wheat kernels with the aniseed, the flax seeds, the salt, the mixed peel and the molasses syrup. Boil the water and add the water to the mixture. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the butter followed by the buttermilk, the rye flour, the wheat flour and as last the yeast. Mix until smooth but stiff. Divide in pieces of 525 g and shape oval. Leave to prove for 2 hours, degas and shape again into an oval piece of dough. Leave to rise for another hour and bake for 35 minutes in an oven at 180C.


Turkey

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In Turkey bread is called "the food of friendship". Bread is treated with respect and it is regarded as a sin when bread is thrown away. If however it is too old and has to be thrown away anyway, before doing so, Turkish people will kiss it and touch it with the forehead. Only afterwards it will be hanged in trees to give it to the birds. Also when it falls by accident on the ground, Turkish people will pick it up, kiss it and bring it to their forhead as sign of respect.

Turkish housewives are masters in using old bread : it will be added in little cubes to a typical soup which is called ky orbası, or the bread will be moistened with water and oil and then roasted or it will be mixed with vinegar and garlic to make sarmisakli sos of it which is normally eaten with fried fish.

In Turkey there is a large variety of bread most of them being flat. Don't forget that the very origins of bread are to be found somewhere in the flatlands of central Asian regions. The most traditional bread in Turkey is yufka, a paper thin bread made from unleavened dough. Even today you will find anywhere in Anatolia women who make this type of product using a "oklava". These breads, like more thin breads, are not baked in an oven but on a hotplate or on the walls of a stone oven. As a matter of fact something similar exists in Greece : "fillo" dough. This is puff pastry that after lamination will be so far stretched that is become so thin that it is possible to read the newspaper through the dough. The following pictures were taken during a trip in Turkey (june 2013)

The best known bread of Turkey is of course the pide. It's a flat bread of which there are numerous different types such as Karadeniz pidesi, helva pide which is mainly made in Bursa, and the Ramazan pide, just to name a few. Pide is a rather big, flat ( 2 to 3 cm thick) soft bread which is used to dip into all kind of sauces, olive oil or yogurt It must have a fine regular crumb and a thin crusty crust. It is normally baked in a rather hot oven for a rather short time. Before baking it can also be decorated with all kind of things such as sun dried tomatoes or olives. In that way it becomes similar to a pizza. As a matter of fact, Turkish pizza's are delicious.

To make pide you will need the following ingredients : wheat flour (100 %), water (35 %), melted butter (10 %), yogurt (5 %), sugar (3,5 %) and yeast (3,5 %). The dough is mixed were well until a rather elastic dough is made. The dough will get a floor rest until double in volume. After degassing, the dough is divided into pieces of about 350 g. After a short resting period of about 15 minutes, the dough pieces are shaped into disks which are allowed to ferment for another 15 minutes. The dough is baked for about 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the disks. A couple of minutes before the end of the baking time, the bread is removed from the oven, quickly brushed with melted butter and decorated with sesame seeds. The bread is then allowed to bake for another 2 tot 4 minutes.


United Kingdom

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The bread in England is really horrible. Luckily it always gets toasted. The UK a clear example of what happens to the quality of bread if the small artisanal baker disappears. Big bread factories start to compete amongst each other and quality is seldom an issue. Add to this situation retail chain which always want to have their products cheaper and cheaper and you get a situation in which products of poor quality at a ridiculous low price are sold.

This phenomenon one can observe in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands where the small baker has disappeared. In other countries, such as Switzerland, Belgium and Italy, where the small baker has a strong position, the industrial baker had to take the artisanal baker as a benchmark and in these countries also excellent bread is being produced by the industrial baker. And sometimes even better when it comes to efficiency and hygiene.

England however has two products, which, in the strict sense, are not really bread but which are worth mentioning. I'm talking about scones and muffins. And although Americans might think that muffins are American (as they do think that pizza is an American invention), it must be said that muffins are as English as the queen.

Let's first have a look at scones. Interesting to note is that the word "scone" derives from a Dutch word namely "scone" or "skone", which means "nice". So scones literally means "nice little bread". The reason was not that it was beautiful to look at but, in the Middle Ages, is was called "nice" because all kind of ingredients such as honey, raisin, nuts etc. were added. Scones are made with baking powder.

If you want to try to make pumpkin scones yourself, you can use the following recipe : flour (100 %), pumpkin puree (100 %), sugar (50 %), eggs (25 %), butter (7,5 %), salt (2,5 %) and baking powder. The quantity of baking powder depends on the type you use.

The first step in making scones is to mix all dry ingredients. Cut the butter in small cubes and mix them into the mixture. Gradually add the liquids (eggs) and the pumpkin puree. If needed a little milk can be added to make a smooth but dry dough. Laminate to dough into a dough sheet of about 25 mm thickness and cut round dough pieces out of the sheet of about 50 mm diameter. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes at 220C.

Muffins are nothing else then cakes but very fluffy and very light. There are numerous varieties. The most popular one seem to be the blueberry muffin, but apple and spice and double chocolate are of course also real delicacies. The follow recipe is a recipe for almond muffins : flour (100 %), milk (33 %), sugar (33 %), sunflower oil (23 %), broken almonds (20 %), eggs (16 %), salt (1,5 %) cinnamon (0,5 %), nutmeg (0,3 %). Again the quantity of baking powder depends on the type of baking powder.

Mix all raw materials and beat in order to obtain a smooth batter. Divide into paper cups and bake for 10 – 15 minutes at 200C



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