Quote

“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Bread maker" or "Bread Machine"


Freshly baked bread
It's a couple of weeks now since I made my first bread and I like to share the background for making my own bread, the selection process, the technical difficulties to get a machine and my first experiences.

Background

If your background is European and you experienced the bread in the Philippines (or in other Asian countries, perhaps excluding Vietnam with its French background) you understand what I am missing here.

Then you know that the bread here is not what we call bread in Europe and the different things we put on top of the bread is also very limited, like jam, cheese, meat/sausage slices, spreads.

I love European bread, like you can find in e.g. Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Greece. Different tastes, crusts, shapes, flour sources. And of course the many cheese and sausage toppings and all kind of spreads.

If you don't have this background, you probably don't understand my problem and better skip the rest of this blog.

The bread has to be cooled down before it can be cut in slices
First of all the bread here in the Philippines is always made from bread flour, I have never seen whole wheat bread, which is much tastier and healthier and gives a better crunchy crust. The bread has never a good crust and most disgusting is that the bread is sweet. Even the sugarless and sugar-free breads still have a sweet taste. By the way that is also true for meat like ham, salami, sausages and marinated meat.

Some bakeries here sell Baguettes or Flutes, which are sold as Italian bread in stead of French bread. The best bakery I found so far is the "French Bakery" as in SM MOA and other shopping centers in Manila and surrounding places. When I visit Manila, I always go there to buy sugar-free bread and put it in the freezer in home.

Another observation: PanDeSal is the number one Filipino bread, but it is again sweet. The word is Spanish and means: bread with salt, but the salt is replaced here in the Philippines by sugar.

I have been to several bakeries and asked for a "make to order bread" without sugar (actually bread always needs some sugar for the yeast to rise the bread dough). But if I try to "word" my request it's like they see water burning and always the message is: "No sir, we don't do that".

So I did some research on bread making machines and decided that I wanted to buy one.

Selection

There are many brands of bread making machines used in the Netherlands. I focused on the Netherlands, as to easily find user experiences, complaints and other facts. It would be easy to mix this with experiences from  friends and relatives in the Netherlands. 

It didn't take me a lot of time to find out that one of the top brands in this market segment is Panasonic, so I focused on it and tried to find the model that would best match my preferences. I also found that there are no bread makers for sale in the Philippines. This was confirmed when I visited several appliances shops. They never heard of a bread maker.

As my daughter would visit me in December and she wanted to bring me a birthday gift, I suggested to bring a bread maker.  

Luckily I realized, before she purchased one, that in the Philippines we have 60Hz AC, while in Europe 50Hz, for some electrical equipment this matters, for others not. After some further investigations I decided that a bread machine from Europe would not work here and even would probably be damaged and broken beforer the first bread was baked.

So I focused my investigations on how to solve this technical problem and told my daughter to forget it. Her gift was changed in a visit with herself and my son to Rotterdam, when I visit the Netherlands in March this year. Thanks kids, that is a much better gift, as I should solve my problems here my way.

Technical solution

My first thought was to find a system that could transform a 60 Hz AC current to 50 Hz AC at a power of 550 Watt. I couldn't find it.

It turned out that you need two systems: 1) AC/DC 60 Hz converter and 2) DC/AC 50 Hz converter both capable to do this for a continuous power of 550 Watts and connect the systems at the DC side. This is a rather complicated and expensive solution and not easy to find and physical dimensions will be significant. So I went for another solution.
  
Checking the Internet for countries that have a similar electrical power system based on 60 Hz as we have in the Philippines, resulted in a short list (small countries are neglected as they probably do not have bread-makers for sale) as follows:

  • Brazil (127/220V/60 Hz)
  • Saudi Arabia, Mexico (127/220V/60 Hz)
  • Japan (100V/50Hz/60Hz)
  • S.Korea (220V/60Hz)
  • Taiwan, Panama, USA, Canada (120V/60Hz)

As my wife was in the USA for some months and would return New Years day, I decided that I wanted to have a machine from the US. So I checked the availability of Panasonic bread makers in the USA and it turned out they have two models.
Only one of them was on stock in the shop in San Diego where she checked it, which was SD-YD250.

Not exactly the same model I had selected in the Netherlands, but the code was similar, at least it also included 250, same for the specs, so I decided to go for this model.

As this system requires 120V outlet tension, I needed a transformer from 220-230V to 120V. These are easily found in the Philippines, because they had 120V during the American occupation of the country and still some equipment needs 120V. If you want to do the same trick as I did, make sure the transformer is capable to transform more power than the the bread maker needs. I went for a transformer of 750 W, while the machine needs only 550W.

Experiences

It took me some weeks to study the manual, find the transformer we needed and find the ingredients needed for the bread I wanted to make. Focus was on a normal white bread with a medium crust. 

The transformer was easily found in a hardware shop.

The ingredients were found in our grocery supermarket, except for the bread flour. In the supermarket they only have all-purpose flour. The other ingredients like milk powder and dry yeast I could find in the supermarket.

So I went to several bakeries here in Dagupan, to find out where they buy their bread flour. As usual you have to ask very simple questions to the employees to find out what you want to know. This is what happened at the third visit of a bakery, talking to one of the sales ladies:

Q: do you have bread flour?
A: no we do not have flowers sir

Q: where do you buy the ingredients for making bread?
A: I don't know sir, they deliver it here

Q: who is delivering the ingredients here?
A: I don't know sir

A smart Filipino lady from the US listening in and translating a bit the language differences, suggests that the wholesale bakery grocery in Dagupan down town (Lim Pan) would have the flour I was looking for. Next day I go there and indeed they have bread flour, but no whole wheat flour, so I buy 1 kilo bread flower just to try to make my first bread.

Next day I read the instructions again, I wanted to go for the standard bread, medium size, medium crust and prepared all ingredients, but forgot the butter. I also translated the English/American measures to European measures and put all ingredients in the bread-maker.

When I went through the configuration/instruction menu I was a bit confused as the instruction manual is not very clear on some steps. Finally I figured out how it really works and after 4 hours, we had our first bread.

Since the first one, I made made more breads, changed some configurations parameters like crust type, lowered the sugar level, tried also the raisin bread, and I am feeling confident I can really make a good bread now. I tried different sugar doses and know now what to do to make sure the bread is not sweet.

Machine slicing gives better results than manual cutting
The bread is okay, but I'm still missing the whole wheat bread. So that will be the next step to take. When I go to the Netherlands next month, I will buy a lot of whole wheat flour to bring to the Philippines.

My kitchen slicing/cutting machine showed to be very handy and useful to make nice and unified bread slices., so this machine added to the success.









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