Bread Making @ Creative Coffee Morning

Mmmmm, it’s divine!
In my mouth, there was a large chunk of focaccia with olive. What was so special about this focaccia? Because…. (an imaginary drum roll please), I baked it myself!! How about that! Last Wednesday morning, Kate, aka “Madam Bentley”, invited me to Creative Coffee Morning in Balham and we learnt how to bake bread together.

We met up at the station at 9:30 and walked to Sophy’s place in which the workshop was to be held. It was a beautiful morning – the weather was behaving impeccably since the previous weekend, birds were chirping cheerfully and the air was sweetened with blossoming shrubs and trees. It would have been just perfect if I weren’t a total wreck, physically though. I joined an ice hockey practice the night before. After two years of staying away from skating and puck-handling resulted in my body aching all over, especially my thighs and arms…

At Sophy’s, we were greeted by Sophy and Aminta’s, our organisers / teachers and two other pupils. Aminta handed us aprons and poured us mugs of coffee which was greatly appreciated…

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While we sipped the cups, they explained that we were to bake focaccia and hot cross bun.
We studied a list of ingredients and carefully adding them up in the glass bowl…

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To the flour mixture, an egg and tepid milk were added. Then, kneading commenced on the well-floured surface…

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At first, the dough was very sticky. It clung to our fingers like glue. Aminta demonstrated how to knead and we emulated it the best we could. Then, the stickiness gradually disappeared as we kept on working on the dough with more flour on the surface. Aminta smeared the surface of the bowl with butter, explaining how important not to forget to spread butter up to the rim of the bowl, ‘The dough can’t rise to full if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl’. While the bowl was covered with a tea towel and put aside, we had another cups of coffee with a slice of cake. I was still knackered from the last night’s strenuous activities, if Sophy didn’t keep on offering me a fresh cup of coffee, I might have been nodding off on the spot…

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By the way, Kate dropped her sunglasses while we were measuring the flour! It proved that we couldn’t be too cool when we were baking bread…

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Another round of kneading started after an hour of resting the dough. I never knew that bread making was so physical! The dough became bouncy and tough to roll out so I had to rest my body weight on my wrist in order to stretch it out over the surface.
Kate was doing likewise, next to me…

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After the dough was expanded, it was folded in to half. This process was repeated for considerable duration until my hands got really tired…

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Then, each dough we were kneading was cut into 6 pieces, rolled out, shaped into balls and arranged on the baking tray. Aminta placed a kitchen towel over them again so they could rest for another half hour…

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Then, we worked on focaccia, the same process minus adding dry fruits…

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The dough was rolled out and indentations were made, using a wooden spoon handle…

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Into the indentations were olives. And then, the surface of the dough was smeared with olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt and rosemary…

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By the time we had finished preparing the focaccia, the hot cross buns were ready to be given the finishing touch. Beaten egg was glossed over the balls…

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In the meantime, Kate was mixing flour, water and sugar…

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The light-brown mixture was placed into a piping bag and each ball was x-marked, gently pressed with a backside of table knife. Then, we decorated our would-be hot cross buns by carefully squeezing out the flour & sugar mixture and tracing over the dents on the dough. Once all of them were decorated, they were placed in the oven. How exciting…

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Voilà, the real piping hot cross buns straight out of the oven!!

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Quickly, they were transferred to a wire rack and glossed over with the syrup made of sugar and water so they would stay glossy and moist…

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Don’t they look divine?

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Then, my focaccias came out of the oven too…

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My lovely plump beauties!!

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As soon as we were out on the street, Kate & I gobbled down a hot cross bun and it tasted so heavenly.
That evening, Hubbie came home much earlier than usual and we devoured all hot cross buns with tea. ‘It’s soooo delicious!’, he exclaimed. Honestly, it tasted miles better than any hot cross bun produced commercially. It was a real eye-opener for both of us. Comes this Easter, we are going to bake our own hot cross buns from scratch. While Hubbie is doing all the kneading, all I have to do will be supervising him. What a winning formula (for me)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Moomin Bakery @ LaQua

A word, “Moomin”, evokes fond memories of the childhood amongst most of the Japanese. Despite being Finnish **** characters, the inhabitants of Moomin Valley is extremely popular in this far-east country. My first encounter with them was through a series of TV cartoons aired as a part of “Calpis Theatre” (カルピス劇場) – the programmes sponsored by a popular soft drink company. I was instantly besotted with a protagonist, Moomin, who resembled a hippo and his peculiar looking relatives and friends. I looked forward to watching the cartoon every Saturday (or was it on Sunday?), and drew him on my notepad tirelessly for the rest of week. When the series came to the end eventually, I was understandably crestfallen, felt the same sort of emptiness when SATC was finally over.
This is the Moomin I grew up with…

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Apparently, Tove Jansson, a creator of Moomin, disapproved of the appearance of the Japanese Moomin. She thought it was too round and fat. However, the Japanese animators / character designers were very concerned of the aesthetics of the original Moomin because his feature was more angular and wouldn’t be found cute “Kawaii” and cuddly by the Japanese audience…

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Hmmm…, how would I feel if I were in Tove’s shoes?
Probably, I would have felt the same frustration if my creation was not honestly depicted. Japanese anime Moomin & Tove’s original Moomin, they do look rather different, don’t they?
Despite the discrepancy, it was also undeniable that the Japanese Moomin cartoon endeared these fascinating characters from Finland to millions of the Japanese children and parents alike and found a permanent place in their hearts. I hope Miss.Jansson knew about it.

After stuffing ourselves with pancake at Bubby’s, mum and I took subway from Shinbashi and traveled to Kōrakuen, our next destination. The station was the closest to LaQua Tokyo Dome City, in which existed the Moomin Bakery & Cafe…

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Since the premises opened its door in 2003, the bakery had been introducing Finnish style baked treats to the Japanese bread lovers. Especially, rye bread is one of Finnish specialities. However, comparing it with its German counterpart, Finnish rye bread is sweetened with honey. And this sweet flavour really appeals to the Japanese tastebuds…

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We weren’t even remotely hungry after Bubby’s so decided to buy a few pastries for snack later on…

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Their shelves were laden with tempting looking breads…

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Many of them were not only cute to behold but also a tasty fusion of the Japanese & Finnish culinary cultures…

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Some pastries were literally out of the cartoon books..

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Amongst breads, there were also biscuits…

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and chocolate. Perfect as gifts…

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Small kitchen utensils were also on sale…

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A “Stuff It Yourself” goodie bag in various sizes…

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Fellow visitors were shopping for Moomin treats and souvenirs…

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We were a bit disappointed that they weren’t fully stocked with the Moomin merchandise.
Still, they sold some tableware…

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and party paraphernalia and phone straps…

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Cuddly toys for kids..

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and Moomin tote bags for grown-ups…

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Next to the bakery was a cafe with a special menu for Moomin fans…

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In spite of being an ordinary weekday afternoon, their tables were fully occupied…

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A kind diner allowed me a picture of her latte…

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and a plate of Moomin pancake…

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We bought some treats for ourselves…

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The pastries were filled with custard, one was flavoured with raspberry and the other with chocolate. They were really tasty.
I learnt recently that a Moomin themed amusement park are planned to open in Japan in 2015. Mum and I are really looking forward to visiting there together!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Seed Loaf @ St.John

One late evening, Hubbie presented me a brown bag, ‘This is for you’.
He had a meeting with a retoucher at St.John Bread and Wine on Commercial Street that afternoon. And he decided to bring home some bread.

Oh yeah, I like St.John…

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Which one did you buy?

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The loaf was tightly wrapped in a waxed paper.
He said it was a seed loaf.

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Hmmm… It smells gorgeous!
The aroma of the loaf was amazing. It smelled buttery and sweet. I was so looking forward to eating it with dinner.

While I was rubbing my hand with glee, Hubbie sliced it and piled the pieces on the plate.
At the table, I picked up the loaf and bit into it…
What? What? What?? This is not a bread. This is a CAKE!!
I turned to Hubbie and stared at him. He also realised the error and mumbled, ‘But they said it was a loaf’. Well, next time, please ask them if it really is bread…
Astonishingly, Hubbie seemed to be not that bothered about carrying on eating the loaf with dinner. However, I forbade him to put butter on it though. After all, it was a cake, not a bread. *SIGH*
I finished my dinner without bread but ate the loaf as dessert with a cup of tea.
And it was very agreeable, indeed…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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