Haw Berries & Kumquats

Baking Bread in China: A Guide

Five-grain multigrain sourdough from Hamelman

Jeffrey Hamelman's five-grain multigrain sourdough

Baking bread in China may not seem to be the most intuitive: the kitchens have minimal space, the ovens – usually toaster ovens – are tiny, and everyone here eats rice, right?

But upon closer examination, China is not so antithetical to bread-baking as one might guess. Bread-like foods are highly popular in northern China, with steamed breads and flatbreads eaten almost daily. Yeast is widely available, as are flours: Though you won’t find semolina or spelt, you’ll find flours unique to China such as naked oat, buckwheat and sweet potato.

Why do I bake my own bread? Because I miss rustic hearth-style loaves, and it’s too expensive to buy them all the time. I also like knowing exactly what goes into bread: no chemical additives or dubious milk products please! But most importantly, my own freshly baked bread is much tastier than anything from a bakery. And it’s way more fun – I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.

This guide will help you find all the ingredients and supplies you’ll need to bake bread (and other goods) in China. It’s by no means intended as a guide to how to make bread; for that I recommend The Fresh Loaf. But these pages will, hopefully, help you find rye flour, cake flour, pastry supplies, and all that other fun stuff.