Panoringan: Baking 101 from Local Pros; Plus, Burritos, the Underrated Breakfast of Champions

Courtesy of Tarit Tanjasiri

Tarit Tanjasiri of The Crema Cafe and Crema Artisan Bakers

Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly On the Line column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

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While the days are relatively mild, most nights are downright chilly by Orange County standards. Any excuse to crank on the oven is welcome, so why not get to baking? Nobody can see carbs over Zoom. I reached out to a couple of local bakers for their thoughts on this coveted kitchen skill.

Tarit Tanjasiri of The Crema Cafe and Crema Artisan Bakers

Tarit Tanjasiri founded The Crema Cafe and Artisan Bakery in Seal Beach, but also has a wholesale production facility in Irvine. Normally closed to the public, online orders for delivery or pickup are allowed with a couple of days’ notice. Crema’s breads and pastries are also found at OC Baking Company’s weekly pop-up market, plus Orange Home Grown farmers market on Saturdays. Some of my favorite carbs include the pretzel croissants and Kouign-Amanns.

Anne Marie Panoringan: A.P. vs bread flour: What’s the difference?

Courtesy of Tarit Tanjasiri

Tarit Tanjasiri of The Crema Cafe and Crema Artisan Bakers

Tarit Tanjasiri: All-purpose flour from most mills is made with a combination of whatever flour they have the most of and usually has inconsistent specs. Examples are that bread flour’s protein content is usually between 10.5% -13.5% depending on type of bread flour or brand. High gluten flour at 13.5% is used for bagels, versus our bread flour at the bakery which is 10.7% and used for baguettes, sourdough and country-style breads. It is very important for a bakery to know what specs of flour we are working with in order to produce consistency for our product season after season.

Tell me a common baking error, and if it can be fixed.
Tanjasiri: A common baking error often happens during scaling for a recipe. Home bakers rely on recipes based on cups and tablespoons and teaspoons. Each person often sifts or sometimes packs a measuring cup with flour, and each cup will not contain the same amount of flour, for example. Professional bakers scale our ingredients by weight and we use metric systems with numbers in decimals. Calculations and scaling a recipe up and down based on desired total amount is much easier and more accurate in this process. It is best for a home baker to learn the basics of baker’s percentage.

“Not all breads are created equal. The ones that get time to ferment and develop properly always smell better, taste better, last longer.”

– Tarit Tanjasiri

What is the best way to store fresh bread? How well do items freeze?
Tanjasiri: Bread should be stored in a cool place on your counter with a paper bread bag and a plastic bag or cellophane in the freezer. Never in the fridge. (Bread becoming stale) is from bread losing moisture.

For those interested in learning/understanding more about baking, what resources do you recommend?
Tanjasiri: I love bread and pastry books. I buy them whenever I am in a good bookstore. Tartine Bread is a great book that introduces artisan baking to the general public. More technical bread books are from SFBI (San Francisco Baking Institute).

Anyone interested in bread baking should join the BBGA (Bread Bakers Guild of America). It is only a few dollars a month for a year, but the guild provides its members with lots of educational opportunities during pandemic times. Classes are taught by professional bakers from around the country and the world who are themselves guild members. You can find all kinds of bread formulas from the US baking team that competed in the World Cup of Baking every four years. There are also a lot of bread baking groups on Facebook as well like Perfect Sourdough, Croissants, Laminations and More, etc.

There are a lot of helpful bakers out there to learn from. Bakers are the best people. There is a kinship that ties us all together.

What is the question you get asked the most regarding baking?
Tanjasiri: “When are you going to make Brioche Pork buns again?” Just kidding. So many questions get asked about baking. “How hot? How long to bake something? Steam? No steam?” The answer is always the same: “It depends.”

What advice do you have for beginning home bakers?
Tanjasiri: Baking is part art and part science. Accept both. Enjoy creating wonderful and nutritious items for friends and family just from flour, water, salt and some leavening agent such as yeast or natural starter. The most important ingredient is time; don’t rush baking.

Tip: A baker always loves to share his/her love and starter. Don’t be afraid to ask for some to get you going. It will save you time and it always comes with a story behind where it came from.

Would you like to share any final thoughts?
Tanjasiri: Quick breads from the grocery store that have been enriched with all types of vitamins and enzymes are just that. Enjoy baking from scratch, learn to understand the process and name your starter something fun and meaningful.

Derek Bracho of Focaccia Boi

Photo courtesy of Focaccia Boi

Derek Bracho of Focaccia Boi

Derek Bracho always wanted to have his own cafe with a bakery. He launched his online bread business, Focaccia Boi, in 2019 exclusively over Instagram. Now expanded to include pizza pies, Derek is one busy dough guy.

How did you decide to go into business for yourself?
Derek Bracho: I started Focaccia Boi while teaching myself to bake. Then the pandemic hit. I lost my bartending job, so I went full force into this project.

Tell me a common baking error, and if it can be fixed.
Bracho: Let me preface this by the fact that I am not a real baker. I am not trained and I am not a chef, but the most common error I taste is salt. I feel like most bakers, especially those making desserts, forget the importance of salt. Just add more salt, y’all.

What kinds of products do you offer?
Bracho: I make mostly focaccia and my version of Detroit-style pizza. Most of my products are one-offs or limited, so things go fast.

Photo courtesy of Focaccia Boi

Focaccia Boi Pepperoni Pizza

How does ordering work?
Bracho: I do most everything through Instagram. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the most effective way until I get a brick-and-mortar. At the beginning of quarantine, I was doing contactless deliveries three to four times a week throughout Southern California. As I got more and more orders, I decided to move to pick-up only for now.

For those interested in learning/understanding more about baking, what resources do you recommend?
Bracho:Flour Water Salt Yeast” by Ken Forkish is a fantastic book to explore.

What is a question you get asked the most regarding baking?
Bracho: Honestly, I don’t get asked about baking very often. People often ask me about marketing and how to build a brand like I have. All I can tell people is to be unapologetically themselves because people can read when someone is disingenuous.

What advice do you have for beginning home bakers?
Bracho: Make what makes you feel good and don’t worry if your bread doesn’t look like the photos from influencers on the internet. I feel like that advice goes for many facets of life.

Photo courtesy of Burnt Crumbs

Carne asada brekkie burrito from Burnt Crumbs/BurntZilla.

What to Eat During a Pandemic: Breakfast Burrito Edition

The unsung meal of each day, breakfast (brekkie, if you follow along on Instagram) can be coffee and doughnuts basic, or elaborate along the lines of frittatas and Dutch babies. My preferred dish is a utensil-free heavyweight stuffed with an essential blend of eggs, potatoes, cheese and pork products. This quartet of breakfast burritos extends from Los Angeles County to San Clemente. They are all deserving of your business, all hard working, and they all bring the A.M. flavor. Get to know each one below.

Vatos Burritos, Santa Ana

Vatos Burritos is a one guy, delivery-only hustle run by Christian Meza. He accepts direct message orders on the daily via Instagram messaging for next-morning service. Delivery is already built into pricing, but his strongest selling point is driving to ALL of Orange County to quell your hangry stomach. His menu can be found here, and if you order four, the fifth is free. I appreciate the seven meat selections (six when he’s out of spicy chorizo), plus add-ons of spinach and avocado. He recently began hawking a bottled version of the green salcita included with each order.

Meza originally started his hustle in early 2018, when he was let go from his place of employment. Not knowing what to do next, he asked God for direction. Meza came up with the breakfast burritos delivery concept that day, calling a graphic design buddy to help create the logo he visualized. Investing his savings in flyers and ingredients, he advertised via social media. The first iteration lasted four months before Meza reverted back to a 9-to-5 job.

By 2020, he was in a good place. A recent promotion meant better pay and hours. Due to COVID-19, that all changed at the end of March. Meza’s good friend suggested rebooting Vatos Burritos, and in mid-April he did just that. He still handles orders, inventory runs, prep, cooking and deliveries. Eventually he’ll enlist help for everything except burrito prep and cooking, as he’s particular about presentation. “I love being of good service. And more than anything, I love that my two sons see my growth and get a chance to see how you can make something out of nothing. Shoot for the sun and bring a star back down.”

S’wich Bistro, Irvine

Over in an office park off 405 and Sand Canyon, S’wich Bistro cranks out one of my hands-down favorite breakfast burritos. While I generally don’t order more than one meat in a meal, a burrito from here automatically includes house-glazed (a.k.a. candied) bacon along with sausage. It’s a one-two punch — a satisfying, cohesive party of flavor. The spacious, shared outdoor seating area means one can savor a meal somewhere besides the car. And you’re in luck, as S’wich reopens from winter break on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Call ahead to reduce the wait. Bonus: While brekkie is until 11 a.m. most days, it’s served all day on Saturday.

Low Key Burritos, Los Angeles

A pop-up breakfast joint with a rotation in L.A., Low Key Burritos includes stops in county-adjacent Long Beach and its first OC visit that occurred yesterday in Santa Ana. Best known for the griddled layer of cheese every order is securely enveloped in, expect wait times that easily exceed 30 minutes.

Let me tell you now that it is worth the wait, as owner Matt Stevanus depletes inventory every day. In fact, he’s added a modified deep fryer to his setup that runs on propane as backup for when flat top potatoes run low; the strong crunch of tater tots work in a pinch. Note: Low Key does not have a formal website, so look up its Instagram stories and feed for the latest news.

Burnt Crumbs, Irvine

The family of brands that includes Burnt Crumbs and BurntZilla began offering weekend brunch last year, with Burnt Crumbs leading the charge by way of breakfast salads and perfectly jiggly souffle pancakes. For something different, request your burrito with pastrami hash. Cilantro crema and grilled onions level up an already handsome entree. Plus its freeway accessibility makes for a speedy pickup (Note: Burnt Crumbs in Huntington Beach’s Pacific City is currently closed.).

Amuse Bouches

Rye Goods Bakery Now Open: Originally slated for last summer, this female-owned bakery took its business a step forward by soft opening a brick-and-mortar location over the weekend. Housed in Newport Beach’s Lido Marina Village, RGB has specialized in organic sourdough products since its inception in 2016. Initially based in a garage, then The Hood Kitchen Space in Costa Mesa, all future orders will be made to order at 3418 Via Lido. A deli menu is forthcoming. Follow Rye Goods on Instagram for updates on operating hours and its official grand opening.

Photo courtesy of Kailee Walters

Baking is underway at the newly opened Rye Goods Bakery in Newport Beach.

Free Dessert for Essential Employees: Dot & Dough inside Stanton’s Rodeo 39 Public Market is offering frontline healthcare professionals a sweet deal for their hard work. Stop by with your badge or work ID (driver’s licenses don’t count) for a one-time only treat of any two free donuts. Redemptions can only be claimed by individuals using their own badge throughout the month of January. D&D’s flavors of the month are horchata granola and rainbow taro mochi donuts.

Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at [email protected].