Monday, June 20, 2005

Bread from the Avoca Cafe Cook Book

photograph picture of homemade bread and the Avoca Cafe Recipe book. Home cooking
(click on the picture to enlarge)
Not too long ago, I wrote about my most recent visit to Avoca, my favourite retail/cafe experience in Ireland. My sister, Beccy, usually does her Christmas shopping there which is behaviour I wholeheartedly encourage. After a conversation we had recently had on the phone I think she, her husband Jools and my nephews and niece, Dillon, Ben and Mollie were inspired to send me the Avoca Café Cookbook as a birthday present. Thank you guys and gals!

photograph picture of homemade bread and the Avoca Cafe Recipe book. Home cooking
(click on the picture to enlarge)
The recipe that most grabbed my attention was the White Yeast Bread. It just looked so delicious and light and crumbly and crusty. My mouth watering because of the vision in front of me, I felt utterly compelled to make a couple of loaves as soon as I had a few hours to spare. Years and years had passed since I last made bread by hand. The result, unfortunately, attested to my lack of experience. I have to practice a little more, methinks, before I entertain any ideas of opening Boulangerie de Breach.
photograph picture of homemade bread and the Avoca Cafe Recipe book. Home cooking
(click on the picture to enlarge)
I was already at the kneeding stage (with a little assistance from the Kitchen Aid) when I realised what I kneeded most was a loaf tin. Luckily my recipe informed me I could make a plaited loaf instead. So I did that, as well as forming the other half into a crusty Bloomer. On the outside, my bread looked good. It was not lacking any salt, and the crust was superb. (How can a crust that requires the glaze to be made from a mixture of egg yolk and cream possibly fail?) The only thing wrong with my bread was its density. I dreamt of light and fluffy but what I created was almost as dense as a brick.

Dearest breadmakers amongst my readers, if you have any tips on how to make my next loaf of bread have more feather-like qualities, please do let me know. And if you are going to scold me for having used a packet of dry yeast 8 months past the sell-by-date, instead of the recommended fresh yeast, then so be it...

PS Anyone know of a good source for fresh yeast in the Bay Area?

posted in and and and
Bread from the Avoca Cafe Cook Book


  • At 21/6/05 07:49, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    Ack! Eight months past the sell-by date? Um, that might be your problem right there. I've never had much luck with those little packets. I buy yeast (both regular and instant) in one pound bags and keep it in the freezer. I've found it stays good for months and months, despite what many cookbooks will tell you. And even if you end up throwing most of it out, the whole bag is only about $3.00--not much more than a 3-pack of packets.

    I would love to know the recipe you used. The photo in the cookbook looks like no loaf I've ever seen (in a really good way).

    Always love your photos. That close-up of the crust! Oh! Can't wait to see the next effort.

  • At 21/6/05 08:27, Blogger Nic said…

    I second the recipe request, Sam! I love the look of your Bloomer.
    My guess is that, aside from possibly less-than-healthy yeast, you may have kneaded in too much flour. You only want to knead in flour until the dough will stretch a bit when you pinch it. In a mixer, slow down as you get towards the recommended amount of flour. The dough will pull away from the sides of the mixer when has enough. Good luck with it. It looks like it will be amazing once you get the texture to live up to its appearance.

  • At 21/6/05 08:44, Blogger Ziz said…

    Happy Belated Birthday pretty girl! Sorry I missed it! :)

  • At 21/6/05 09:29, Blogger Guy said…

    Aw man, I would like to have your kitchen countertops. Mine are easily the most pathetic things ever made, faux 1980's butcher block laminate. They're making me mad just thinking about them, grrrr.

  • At 21/6/05 09:33, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    Here's another thought--you might try kneading by hand, as it'll give you a better feel for the dough. And if you do it when you're feeling a bit cranky (not that I'm saying you're cranky), it's a great stress reliever (just don't knock it around too badly!)

  • At 21/6/05 09:41, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Then there's the trick of letting the dough rise slowly -- retarding it -- by letting it proof overnight in the fridge. It might even develop nice, proto-sourdough flavors.

  • At 21/6/05 10:12, Blogger Stephanie said…

    I agree with farmgirl, about kneading by hand. You get a good feel for the dough that way.

    Is that cookbook available in the states? It sounds like something I'd like, and as it's been a whole three weeks since my last cookbook purchase, I think I'm due!

  • At 21/6/05 10:38, Blogger Owen said…

    Agree with the yeast suggestions. I buy large bags (one pound) at costco and transfer them to airtight locking lid jars and keep it in the freezer. A pound can last over a year that way and it really still is fresh.

    You can ALWAYS refreshen yeast by starting it for a couple of hours with water, a little four and a little sugar.

    I admit that part of the reason I don't go through yeast much anymore is the sourdough starter in the back of the fridge. It is several years old and can regenerate even after sitting there for two months without use - you just have to think of it a couple of days in advance!

    I also have to say that bread is a tough skill to master. It isn't too hard to get OK at it - I can bang out a decent plain loaf pretty easily. But an artisanal loaf is still beyond me - I try and try but there is some vital spark missing.

  • At 21/6/05 10:48, Blogger Stephanie said…

    You'll never believe this: I was talking to Matt about the cookbook, and he remembered we ate lunch at a little cafe in Enniskerry! He's pretty sure it was, in fact, that very same cafe.
    How weird is that?

    The place was crowded, and we sat with a nice Irish guy who, according to Matt, didn't speak loud enough to be heard over the crowd.
    I, frankly, was still recovering from the flight and much too tired to remember much about that day!

  • At 21/6/05 11:00, Blogger Stephanie said…

    Now he says it couldn't have been the same place!

    I wish he'd make up his mind or I could remember...

  • At 21/6/05 11:17, Blogger Sam said…

    there is a branch of Avoca in Eniskerry so of course it could be. my sister might know if there are any other cafe's in Eniskerry it could have been instead.

  • At 21/6/05 16:50, Blogger eat stuff said…

    I have been on a bread maing kick lately too... The bread looks great, they also do Autolysis(google it) which is when you mix the water with the flour first.. I am no expert, but I tried it for my last loaf and I could definately notice the difference in the texture...

  • At 21/6/05 16:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You might try getting fresh yeat from a beer brewing supply store. Now, I have no idea if that would alter the taste or not...

  • At 21/6/05 16:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At 21/6/05 17:23, Blogger Kevin said…


    Without seeing the recipe it's hard to guess what may have gone wrong. (There's obviously nothing wrong with the appearance -- the loaves are gorgeous.)

    I do rely on my KA for most of the kneading, but find I have to finish the job by hand to know when it's genuinely ready to rise.

    Did you use a bread flour?

    Also, are you sure you let it rise long enough during the first fermentation? The test I use is to press a finger tip into the dough. If the dent remains the dough is ready. If the dent fills out the dough needs to rise longer.

  • At 21/6/05 17:25, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    Methinks that you are quite good at this from the start! This bread's crumb looks even, color is excellent and homemade bread almost always tastes good, no matter how it looks! (I baked bread in an oven in Ireland that had raw shooting flames in the back of it!!!)

    My aunt used to say that because bread is a raw and living thing it is best to knead with good thoughts and strong hands. I like kneading by hand because I can feel the gluten activate and I can decide where I want it.

    White breads with added fats, (butter, milk etc.) usually do not need big gluten strands though. Just enough to get it underway.

    Maybe you'll be designated bread carrier in August...

  • At 21/6/05 22:48, Blogger Sam said…

    thanks everyone for all the helpful comments. The bread flavour was actually good so I have high hope for practising it a bit more and sharing the results from all your suggestions.

    Deep down I knew I should be kneeding it myself but - hey it was a SUnday and sundays are all about being lazy.

    Fred is into the idea of leaving it longer - he says they do that with baguettes in France - but I don't like the sourdough and starter idea - I grew up on bread without the slightest hint of sour which is what I long to reachieve here so yeast it is for me.

    Plus it is calle YEAST bread!

    I think i will have to practise the feeling of gluten activating, so I definitely knead to get my hands stick in.

    I'll let you know how I get on though it'll be a few weeks before I can give it another try



  • At 24/6/05 09:24, Blogger Stephanie said…

    Thank you Beccy!

    I was still a bit out of it at that point, but the husband may remember (he took copious notes); I'll run the name by him.

    And you're right. I would have rememberd a place like that!

    Next time we're there (sigh...)!

  • At 24/6/05 09:40, Blogger Sam said…

    Beccy - is poppies also in that village at the end of the Dart line?

  • At 25/6/05 07:59, Blogger Sam said…

    Yes - that is exactly what I was recalling, the walk, the lunch and the bus.

  • At 2/2/07 12:49, Blogger Yvonne Randall said…

    Your bread looks absolutely lovely, but cooking with yeast is not easy to learn from a book.
    A things to be careful with:

    1 Do not spray the work surface with anti-bacterial spray as it kills the yeast and will stop the bread from rising.
    2 Do not put salt anywhere near the yeast as it will kill it. I tend to add it once the yeast and flour have been mixed together. Some how this is OK.
    3 Do not have the water any hotter than body heat as this will also kill the yeast.
    4 Make sure that your dough is soft. A hard or tight dough will not rise well.
    5 Do not punch the living daylights out of the bread after it has risen in the bowl. You shoul knock back gently and handle as little as possible.

    If you can do all that then you should do well.

    If you like to craft then have a look at my crafting blog.


  • At 20/8/09 15:10, Blogger Flynn said…

    I love Avoca and that is an awesome cookbook!


Post a Comment

<< Home