Basking in Bread

Singapore, Artisan Bread –

New Zealand baker and co-owner of BAKER & COOK, DEAN BRETTSCHNEIDER, shares his thoughts about one of the most loved food products in human culture

Each handmade artisan loaf of bread is handcrafted with a specific objective in mind
Fougasse is typically associated with Provence in France but is also found in other regions
Challah is a special Jewish bread, usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions
Bread shapes are very historical but, as times are changing, we are seeing many breads crossing borders

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Like the best of beautiful buildings, the best breads are handmade and handcrafted. Is this true?

Very true. I often say that breads are created by design, because before we start we formulate the recipe to give us the foundations, an internal crumb structure and finally the texture of the crust which resembles the outer shell.

Each handmade artisan loaf of bread is handcrafted with a specific objective in mind. Even the decorations and slashes on the outer crust are there for a reason. So when you sit back and look at your baked artisan loaf, it’s a thing of beauty, then when you cut it open it oozes with texture and structure that opens your eyes wide open and then the taste should play with your mind with the simple but yet complex flavours you experience.

Form and function: The basic function of bread is to sustain life as food. As for form, why do different breads have different shapes and looks?

This is because of historical and cultural reasons. Many breads are shaped or cut (slashed with a sharp razor blade) to create their own unique signature not only of the bread but in many cases of the baker who created it. Slashing your loaf is all about creating a decorative pattern, telling the loaf where to ‘burst or erupt’ and most of all it’s the signature of the baker.

Many breads are shaped for religious reasons such as Hot Cross Buns and Challah Bread. Breads are also culturally shaped – for example, the flat breads of the Middle East are such that they can be torn and folded into ‘spoons’ to pick up sauces, meats and many other small pieces of food. Bread shapes are very historical but, as times are changing, we are seeing many breads crossing borders from one country to another to satisfy the international hunger for baking bread and building communities.

Just like creating a sacred space in a temple, making bread demands knowledge, respect, quiet, and love. Will bread collapse in the oven without these elements?

He, he, he. No, your bread will not collapse in the oven. BUT if you don’t give it these elements it, for sure, will not come out the best it can be. Like many things in life, if you are passionate then you go the extra mile and invest in obtaining the knowledge and then you apply it until you get it near prefect. Of course, love, respect, knowledge are all part of being passionate. At Baker & Cook our tag line is ‘passion is our main ingredient’ and we firmly believe that we put an extra measure of passion into our recipes and service.

Pain au levain uses natural yeast from the air

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While brick and mortar are not living organisms, yeast in bread is. Which type of bread uses the natural yeast that floats in the air?

Actually, any bread can use natural wild yeast; many of our breads at Baker & Cook  are what I call hybrids which contain commercial yeast and natural wild yeast. However, if you want to produce 100% pain au levain (sourdough) then you use around 30-40% natural levain which is made using natural wild yeast.

What is your favourite bread, and what do you eat it with?

Now that’s a hard one. I guess my favourite is the simple pain au levain or sourdough as many people call it. It contains three ingredients: flour, salt and water – you don’t have to label wild yeast as an ingredient as it is a natural airborne organism. I love it fresh with nice salted butter and homemade apricot jam.

What is your favourite food in Singapore? Do you like toast and kaya?

I must say, I do enjoy a good butter chicken curry and soft pillowy butter naan.

I’m not a fan of industrial soft white bread that is toasted at all, and kaya is a little too sweet for me. However my equivalent is a good piece of pain au levain toasted with lemon curd spread on it.

What advice do you have for someone who is learning how to make bread?

That’s easy. You MUST come along to our basic bread baking class at Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School. I am serious! Many people come to our class thinking they know how to make bread and they come up to me afterwards and say, “thank you so much. I learnt so much and I will not knead my dough the old way again”. We teach the ‘slap, pull, fold & rest’ method of kneading and the results speak for themselves.

Dean Brettschneider on Baking Classes at Baker & Cook

We teach the ‘slap, pull, fold & rest’ method of kneading and the results speak for themselves.” 

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Baker & Cook is an artisan bakery & foodstore chain founded and co-owned by master global baker Dean Brettschneider, who has more than 25 years of experience in the world of baking. Dean is also author of best selling baking and food books, and celebrity TV personality.

Book

Available at all Baker & Cook outlets and at all good bookstores or
www.bakingandcookingschool.com
Price is S$65.

Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs courtesy of Dean Brettschneider and Baker & Cook