Mr Tall's quest for manly bread

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The other day I found myself staring forlornly into the rapidly enmist-ifying depths of my freezer. I was looking for a pack of bread to set out to thaw for my lunch the next day. And all I could see through the swirling fog was a clinical white plain of barren nothingness . . . there was none.

I recovered from my horror with a little trip down to Park N Shop to buy some of its floppy, over-risen, vaguely sweet bread. And although eating my sandwiches the next day was like unto a banquet of wormwood and gall, I persevered, and stand before you today to cry forth, in all seriousness: where do you buy good bread in Hong Kong?

First, let’s get straight what I mean by ‘good bread’. I’m no advocate of the currently-chic Atkins/all-protein/eat-whole-freshly-dead-creatures-like-the-Neanderthals diet. I like my carbs, and I like them in the forms that hew most closely to the ways le Bon Dieu has made them.

When it comes to bread, therefore, I like the grainiest of the grainy breads, those with body and heft and texture. I can go for a nice crusty baguette on occasion, but they don’t hold up well after baking, especially as I’ve got to think about stockpiling decent bread in the freezer, since we’re right back to that same problem: I can’t find enough regular sources of the bread I like, especially in stores near me.

At the moment, even with the proliferation of western restaurants and supermarket stock we’ve seen in Hong Kong in recent years, I’ve still got just two reliable sources:

Ali-Oli Bakery

Pluses: Both their ‘country grain’ and their ‘multigrain’ loaves are very, very good. The country grain is especially dense and grainy, and toasts magnificently. Ali-Oli also make a chocolate truffle cake that is transporting in its richness; it’s possibly the best cake I’ve ever had. And if you do go to Sai Kung to visit them, they’ve got an al fresco café set up outside the bakery where you can eat fresh baked goods and drink decent coffee. Their prices are reasonable, if not cheap.

Minuses: Ali-Oli’s in Sai Kung, and although it delivers, you’ve got to come up with an order of HKD300 or more, which means putting a whole lot of bread into the freezer. On the bright side, they do carry other products like jams, olive oils and deli stuff, so it’s not exactly a hardship putting together a substantial order.

Great

Pluses: there’s not much doubt Great runs the most varied and generally high-quality bakery in Hong Kong. Their multiseed sourdough bread (sliced off those huge pillow-style loaves) is fantastic, and I like their individual multigrain loaves as well. Great’s also in a convenient location for people who live on the island, and even for those like me who don’t, but who are on an MTR line.

Minuses: High prices and mildly snooty ambiance, plus the fact that you’re in Pacific Place, a shopping mall that’s never been my favorite.

And that’s it – that’s my list of places in Hong Kong that make bread I like enough to buy in bulk and keep on hand. None of the other sources I’ve bought bread from quite measure up:

  • Oliver’s (not always very fresh, and not cheap)
  • Taste (doesn’t carry the really good bread varieties that Great does)
  • 360 (good, but not as good as Great, and just as expensive)
  • Park N Shop (see above)
  • CitySuper (a weird selection, and overpriced)
  • Maxim’s, BreadBox and other local bakeries (cheap, okay in a pinch, but invariably fluffy and sweet)

So, readers, what am I missing? Are there some great bakeries out there I’ve overlooked? Do the local bakery chains have any types of bread I’ve not deigned to try, but that are in fact good eatin’?

Comments

Re: Mr Tall's quest for manly bread

Hi there,

Would you consider investing on one of those semi-automatic machines and bake your own?  All you have to do is a little bit of time throwing in the raw materials within the acceptable approximate mix and let it cook for itself overnight.

Hong Kong's humid climate is just not suitable for storing bread except in the freezer.

Some other points to ponder:

1.  The bakery in Oliver's/Three-Sixty should be the Rose Noir, which is also availble in some bigger Welcome stores like the one in Causeway Bay.  The price tag there is a bit lower than the one in Oliver's and/or Three-Sixty.

2.  Gardens also have some whole grained bread and they are available in bigger super markets around.

3.  You might like to find out if there is a Das Gute around the place you work or your home.   Their bread and cake are also a bit pricy but they are good.  Did the German name ring a bell?  And they have Sour Dough too.

4.   One thing I'd like to rant about is that close to nobody has decent Bagels in town.

Oh, BTW, by favourite is Rye bread.

Best Regards,

T

Donq

Donq, in the basement of Sogo in Causeway Bay does great baquettes, but not their sliced bread is not the greatest.

Just about all the local bakeries I've tried put too much sugar in.

Making it yourself is probably the best.  Try the NY Times No Knead Bread recipe:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html

 You need a good oven, though.  Another hard thing to find in HK.

A good baguette is hard to find

I have tried bread machines but the result is mediocre at best. For a good baguette (not manly, I am afraid!) - I like l'Atelier de Robuchon and DONQ. The latter is in the basement of SOGO and there is a branch in Tin Hau or Fortress Hill, I can't remember. Both l'Atelier and DONQ are on the pricey side, unfortunately. 

 

Manly buns

For supermarket bread, I like the 'Roman Meal' brand 12-grain bread. If that's sold out, Garden's 'Selected Grain' is very similar. Not too sweet, and lots of bits to chew on.

I asked a friend that works in the bakery business, and she suggests:

A1 Bakery which used to supply City Super and has its own little stores does some good germanic style breads which you can chew as opposed to marshmallowy puffs of air. If I see an A1 I'll usually go in and buy,. They have a good rye and walnut bread.

Another fave of mine is Holiday Inn Golden Mile /Nathan Road. They have a little shop in the basement tagged onto the cafe.

A-1 Bakery

Hi there,

There is an A-1 Bakery inside the Jusco Super Market in APM, Kwun Tong.  They also used to have a Das Gute on the MTR level, but  it is no longer there now.

As for the store in the Holiday Inn Golden Mile, it would be the Delicateseen Corner.  They also have decent German Mustads, sausages, ham..... 

Best Regards,

T

Bread tips

This outpouring of well-leavened (ahem) responses is heart-warming.

Tngan, I've considered a bread maker, and we do have an oven, but I'm afraid I'm just too lazy to bother. I agree about the bagels. I like them very much, but I have never come across a good one here. I've tried Das Gute bread, but I didn't think it was worth it; I found it more form than substance, if you know what I mean--it looks good on the tray, but it's not that special when you actually eat it.

 Odaiwai and Sophia, I didn't know about Donq -- I will have a look.

MrB, I've not tried either of the types you mention. Are they in the 'on the shelf' supermarket section as opposed to the fresh-baked section, I presume?

Oh, and about the la Rose Noir stuff: some of it is pretty good, but it seems to end up on shelves longer than you'd like at Oliver's and some of the Wellcomes. 360's bread is baked on site (I think?) and it's good quality, but they're just not as good at it as Great. I once bought a kilo or so of one of those pillow breads, and asked the staff there to slice it. Looks of consternation abounded, but one lady finally took my bread back into the bakery area, conferred with a colleague, and then (I was looking over the counter) they proceeded to hack it into randomly-configured pieces that could only be considered the vaguest imitations of 'slices'. It looked like the Texas Breadknife Massacre back there, with crumbs flying everywhere, oh the humanity, etc, etc. I cut my own bread from 360 after that . . . . 

 

Bread crumbs

Yep, they sit in their poly-bagged glory, rubbing shoulders with Life Bread, Crustless Sandwich Bread, and the other wonders of the Hong Kong baking world.

manly bread

South Stream brings in the most delicious grainy Vogel bread from NZ: it is excellent. Try the Soy & Linseed one. They also have loads of great fish, meat & cheese, & they have a fresh delivery twice a week. Deliver anywhere in HK I think. http://www.south-stream-seafoods.com/ or email is bradley@south-stream-seafoods.com

In search of Bread

Hi Mr Tall,

I have to admit I have not tried all the bread available in Das Gute.  However I found their Rye Bread & Walnut/Rasin bread alright.  Just a bit pricy.  As the family only occasionally take on bread at home so that isn't an issue.

As for la Rose Noir, the one in Paterson Street, Causeway Bay, appeared to be baking on-site as well.  I'll confirm after checking them out again.

Best Regards,

T

Bread

The best bread in town (now that the bagel factory shut down in soho a good few years ago), is to be found at The Stoep in Lantau.  You can buy extra loaves of their whole wheat bread when you eat there ... It's worth it.

There is a new bread shop on the escalators.  I've not used it yet, we bake our own. or we did until the bread machine broke down. Where does one get bread machines in HK these days?

 And even more to the point where do you get real WHOLEWHEAT as opposed to brown (i.e. coloured white) flour?

 

Bread machine

I bought my first bread machine either at Jusco or Fortress.  After 4 years of basically daily use, it died.  Bought my second one at Patsy House Electronics (or Electric, not sure) in Sai Kung.  Like I said, we make probably 5-6 loaves a week.  Because our oven is a tiny, microwave-sized one, I don't try it in the oven.  And sometimes the humidity does affect the bread machine's operation.  But that's my solution to bread.  After about 3-4 weeks here, I had had it with the bread selection and bought the machine.  You can make it as "manly" as you wish.

 M

Wholewheat flour

Gweipo--I have no problem getting wholewheat flour at my little Silverstrand Park n Shop.  Not sure other places, as I don't generally shop elsewhere.  I can also get gluten flour (somewhat necessary if you use wholewheat flour in a bread machine) at Wellcome in Sai Kung.

Bread 1950s

When I lived in Kowloon City Police Flats in Argle St we used to buy our bread from the Army bakery in the camp opposite.  The gate was immediately opposite the Station and you walked up a slope into the camp and the bakery was on the RHS.  The camp was wooden huts.  They sold bread by the pound and the full size tin loaf  had 5 portions, each of 1 lb.

I had forgotten this until I saw your quest for bread.  Not much help.

Le Velo Bakery and Cafe

I recommend Le Velo Bakery and Cafe on Connaught Rd in Sheung Wan, next to China Travel Service. They do very good (and filling) sandwiches if you eat in, and you can also buy loaves of different kinds to take away.

Bread Machine

You should give the bread machine a try. I'm in UK but a frequent visitor to HK. I've used one for years at home and bake 5-6 loaves a week. It takes less than 5 mins to throw all of the ingredients in and the machine does the rest.

Bread Machine

 

I also recommend using a bread machine. After being frustrated w/ the on-and-off supply of our store-bought bread, we started using a breda machine about 8 years ago. We make rye & whole wheat (buy the flour at Ali-Oli's). We can sendyou a bagel recipe too - but that's quite a bit of work because there's a boiling step between 1st rise & baking.

****BEWARE****BEWARE******* BEWARE*********BEWARE******

Possessing and using a bread machine may cause significant weight gain, especially if you use a time mechanism to have the bread ready about 10 minutes before you usually wake up.

Bread machines must be used with caution. :)

 

 

Bread machine?

Hmmm. You all have just about convinced me, but inertia is a terrible force . . . .

My own kitchen appliances notwithstanding, SKMama is certainly on to something in that Ali-Oli's the place to stock up on good flours. I think you can more or less try your hand at replicating their breads, since I believe they sell the same ingredients that they use. 

mom2twoboys and SKMama, do you find that the variation in how your bread turns out depending on the humidity, temperature, etc is a significant problem, i.e. does it actually ruin the bread, or does it just make it look funny? 

Ruined bread?

Hi Mr. T,

Short of molding or burning or complete failure to rise, I do not regard *any* bread as "ruined".  There are some variations from time to time - but nothing that me or my family is unwilling to consume. So, I guess it may just "look funny". But I was also raised by semi-hippies and grew up thinkingWonderBread's other name was  "poison white bread" , so my opinion may be biased. I have a lot of tolerance for variation in looks and cosnsitency. Buy a cheap machine first and experiment.

One thing that I like about the machine is that it removes a lot of the variation from bread making. If you don't use one, in the winter it's hard to keep thearea warm enough for your bread to rise, and in summer, it may rise very quickly.

Zojirushi home bakery

Hi there,

There are Japanese brands around.  This Zojirushi one could make 2 pounders.   I am uncertain about it's programming, however.  These semi-automatic machines tends to have some limitations one way or the other and are usually not as flexible as traditional ovens.  The advantage of these machines is there won't be powders everywhere..........

Best Regards,

T

 

 

Calling for savory whole wheat bread recipes

Skmama and Mom2twoboys,

The results on my simple bread machine are adequate but no more. Can you share your best recipes for savory whole wheat bread?

Mine - 120ml water, 180ml milk, 4 tbsp melted shortening, 300g bread flour, 150g whole wheat flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tsp yeast. Result lacks panache unless I toast it. Any suggestions?

thanks, sophia

Bread

The Bread Machine Digest website looks worth a visit:

  • Mr T, their 'your first loaf' page answers your question about the effects of humidity. They recommend a quick check and adjustment after about 10 minute: "These types of adjustments aren’t unusual and don’t mean there is something wrong with the recipe. What is happening is that depending on the weather the flour has more or less moisture in it."
  • Sophia, their recipes page lists over 100 different breads to try, so maybe there'll be a good one for you there.

Also an update from our baker friend: Das Gute & A-1 are part of the same group. They also run shops under other names, so you might want to try some of them and see if they have any breads that are grainy enough.

Recipe

Sophia--since I use US measurements, it will be a little bit different, but basically, I do one of two things:

 1 part oats; 2 parts strong wholemeal flour; 1 part strong white (bread) flour

or

1 part oats; 1 1/2 parts strong wholemeal and 1 1/2 parts strong white

 I also add flaxseeds (either whole or ground), sunflower seeds, use oil rather than shortening, honey as a sweetener--or whatever else I think of at the moment.  But my basic bread is one of the two listed.  

HTH.

M

ruined bread

Basically, the variation ends up being raising too high or falling or not raising high enough.  Affects the texture somewhat, the taste not at all.

 I'm like SKMama--raised watching and helping my mom make huge batches of delicious whole wheat bread.

The bread machine is so convenient to have things timed for when you need the bread.  They do each take some figuring out, and each brand makes the bread just a little differently.  The new machine I just got is the one I have to use the 1/2 and 1/2 whole/white flour--it just doesn't turn out very nicely otherwise (with too much wholemeal flour).  

And I have a book of bread machine whole grain recipes--has some really hearty breads in it (some of which work better than others, depending on the size of the machine and how it works).

I know that there are many people who say you really don't need a bread machine to make your own great bread, but I've used one for about 17 years (well, not the same one, LOL--have worn out more than a few) and swear by it.

m

Thanks for the inspiration

Thanks MrB and Mom2twoboys. I will have to keep experimenting. My machine recipes (purchased here) call for metric measuments so I dutifully bought a scale to avoid mishaps.

sophia

 

No Knead Bread

Hi there,

I saved this one back in 2007 but still have not made up my mind to give it a try.  Maybe those of you who have an oven would like to try it out.

Best Regards,

T

hello Mr T, you may want to

hello Mr T, you may want to try Simplylife Bakery Cafe. I tried their egg benedict and I was suprise to find myself enjoying their bread more than the hallandaise sause.

Good luck with your quest

simplylife

Coincidentally (or maybe not!) la Familia Tall had afternoon tea this past Saturday in the simplylife in Tai Koo Shing. We've also eaten a couple times in the one in Festival Walk. It's a fine recommendation: nice food, very reasonable prices, and yes, pretty good bread (and cakes!).

In fact I bought some of their bread to take home on Saturday, i.e. a loaf of the 'Dark grain and seed' bread on sale up at the bakery counter. I froze it, so I don't have the verdict on it yet. I was a bit taken aback to realize that its name is meant very literally: the bread looks like ordinary multigrain bread on the outside, but when you cut into it, it's almost purple inside. 

Oh, and the price: HKD22 for a medium-to-small-sized loaf, so not terribly cheap.

Bakery Options in Hong Kong

Bakery Options in Hong Kong

Hope this help. 

http://ramsss.com/hong-kong/food/bakery/index.htm

 

No Knead Bread or European Boule

T and Odaiwai, I read this in the NYT 2 years ago but never bothered to try. Urged by your posts, I started the dough last night and what a gorgeous loaf it turned out to be - very much the Artisan bread that you find in Europe. I am eating it now while enjoying a most beautiful clear night with a magnificent sunset. La dolce vita! 

Re: Simplylife

Me mum’s way of getting more on their not so cheap bread is to make sure someone with her order their set menu and have soup, which come with the bread hamper (they always give you more than you want). When her friends are done with the soup she always asked for a take out paper bag to pack the rest home. Hence tasty toast bread for breakfast at home for free (in a way!).

By the way have you try their lamb chop? They are so yummy and the portion is just right which leave just enough room for cake.