A Conversation with Yoshie Horie
By: Henry Hunter
Today, we’re diving into a special feature with our newest Bread Squad member, Yoshie Horie. With a wealth of experience spanning twenty-five years in bakery research and development, Yoshie has honed her craft on a global scale, bringing a wealth of knowledge from her time in Russia, the United States, and her food chemistry studies in Japan. In this exclusive interview, we’ll uncover the science behind the perfect loaf and explore international bread-making techniques that could revolutionize your home baking. So, preheat your ovens and get ready to be inspired as we unravel the art and science of bread with Yoshie Horie.
1. Henry: “Yoshie, with your extensive background in bakery R&D, what are the most significant differences between mass-produced factory bread and bread crafted by home bakers?”
Yoshie: “My research indicates that factory bread often uses additives to extend shelf life, while home baking focuses on the purity of ingredients. Home bakers have the advantage of tailoring recipes to personal taste, using natural leavening agents that can offer a complex flavor profile and better digestibility.”
2. Henry: “Your expertise in food chemistry must give you a unique perspective on dough. What scientific principles can home bakers apply to improve their bread’s texture and taste?”
Yoshie: “Absolutely, Henry. The fermentation process is crucial. My studies show that longer, colder ferments can develop a richer flavor. Additionally, the proper balance of hydration can significantly affect the texture, creating everything from a dense crumb to a light, airy loaf.”
3. Henry: “Freezing dough can be tricky. Based on your research, what are the best practices for home bakers looking to freeze their dough?”
Yoshie: “Indeed, freezing dough is practical for home bakers. The key is to freeze the dough after the first rise, as yeast becomes dormant but not dead in the freezer. Thawing slowly in the fridge before the final proof gives the best results for preserving the bread’s quality.”
4. Henry: “Yoshie, reflecting on the unique blend of influences in Japanese baking, how do you think the melding of American, French, German, and Chinese techniques has contributed to Japan’s distinctive bread-making approaches?”
Yoshie: “The uniqueness of Japanese baking lies in its synthesis of various international methods—embracing the precision of American, French and German techniques, while also incorporating the rich tradition of wheat flour-based foods from China. This fusion has given rise to a distinctive bread culture in Japan, where both artisanal and industrial methods coexist, offering a wide range of textures and flavors that are uniquely Japanese.”
5. Henry: “Considering your extensive experience, Yoshi, could you share your perspective on how our community might integrate different fermentation methods or ingredients to enhance their bread-making, beyond just low-temperature, long-fermentation?”
Yoshie: “While low-temperature, long-fermentation is a popular method, it’s not the only route to excellent bread. Techniques like Yudane and Tangzhong, or using starters such as Sourdough, Pasta Madre, Biga, Poolish, and Respectuspanis, can all yield delicious results. The key is to focus on quality ingredients and mastering the technique that suits your preference. For instance, I find that a straightforward yeast-fermented loaf or a baguette made by the direct method allows the natural wheat flavor to shine. It’s this variety and exploration of methods that can really elevate home baking.”
“In conclusion, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Yoshie for sharing her expertise and insights with us today. Your depth of knowledge and passion for baking truly enriches our Bread Squad. We are incredibly grateful to have you as a group expert and look forward to the continued exchange of wisdom and the wonderful flavors that you help bring to our community. Thank you, Yoshie, for being such an invaluable part of our bread-loving family.”
Yoshie’s Research on American Flour
Introduction to American Flour:
Yoshie shares her insights into American flour and its differences from Japanese flour. She begins by expressing her initial expectation of finding similar flours in the U.S. due to her knowledge of Japan importing and milling wheat from overseas, including the U.S. However, her experience in the U.S. highlighted distinct taste and texture differences in bread and cakes when using American flour.
Research and Findings:
Yoshie has written 15 articles on her blog under the category “American Flour,” where she explores the peculiarities of American flour. She delves into the variances between American and Japanese flour, particularly noting the differences in bread flour and cake flour. Through a comparison study, she underscores the challenge of finding an equivalent to Japanese flour in the U.S., despite the fact that Asian supermarkets in America sell flour imported from Japan and Korea, which originally comes from the U.S./Canada.
Yoshie’s conversations with a college classmate working at a Japanese flour mill company led to a revelation. She learned that the highest-graded classes of wheat produced by the U.S. and Canada are mostly exported, leaving only a small amount for domestic distribution at a high price. This particularly affects cake flour, as the Soft White variety, which is mostly exported, results in American cake flours being bleached for modification.
Impact on Baking:
The characteristics of American flour—strong gluten elasticity and high ash value—make it challenging to bake the “white, fluffy, moist” bread found in Japan. Yoshie proposes that the popularity of sourdough bread in the U.S. might be attributed to these flour qualities. She also discusses the European and Japanese preference for yeast bakes and suggests that flour quality plays a role in this. Additionally, she notes that the use of techniques like Tangzhong by non-Japanese bakers points to the adaptability needed to work with different flour qualities.
Outreach and Assistance:
Through her blog and social media, Yoshie has been providing information and tips to Japanese individuals in the U.S., Canada, and Australia on selecting and using flour to bake Japanese bread. She emphasizes the discerning nature of Japanese consumers and bakers when it comes to ingredients and discusses the varied preferences among Japanese bakeries for different types of flours and milling techniques.
Yoshie concludes by reflecting on her home baking journey in the U.S., which has been as enriching as her 30-year career. She shares her experience of learning from home bakers worldwide and the evolution of baking practices, including the introduction of new flours and techniques.
Yoshie references her blog and other resources throughout her research, providing a comprehensive look at the complexities of flour classification and usage in different countries