Recently I have been trying to make Tijgerbrood or Tigerbread, a type of bread very popular in Belgium and Netherlands, characterised by a layer of crunchy crust that looks like tiger strips. The secret behind the popularity of the tijgerbrood is in the crust. The crust is achieved by smearing a layer of rice-paste (we call it rijstpap in dutch) on top of the bread dough during the 2nd stage of rising. First, you knead the dough and let it rest (1st stage of rising), after which you punch down the dough and release some air, and reshape it and let it rest again (2nd stage of rising). It is during the 2nd stage of rising that you should apply the rijstpap or rice-paste. While the bread continues to rise, the rijstpap would stretch itself into a thin membrane on the bread dough, and when you pop it into the oven, it will result in a beautiful crust. Simple, isn't it? Well, not that simple to find an authentic recipe though. And when you actually do find one, it is really quite difficult to perfect the crust.
This is how tijgerbrood or tigerbread should look like. Actually this is the smaller version called tijgerbroodje, meaning small tigerbreads. I would love to claim that I made those breads, but unfortunately these were all from the bakery. It's our tradition to have a few pieces of tijgerbroodjes plus some pistolets (I will talk about pistolets later in another post) for breakfast every Sunday. We used to have koffiekoeken (sweet belgian pastries), but we stopped buying them cos they are too sweet, and having plain breads like tijgerbroodjes and pistolets are better for our waistlines.
I have been searching high and low on the internet for an authentic recipe for tijgerbrood. Finally I shortlisted a few recipes for experiment, tried one recipe and it completely flopped. It was a disaster, the crust didn't turn out the way I expect it to turn out. I think the problem was in the rijstpap recipe, it was just too watery. My 2nd attempt was another flop, the rijstpap turned out to be too thick and sticky, so sticky that I couldn't coat it properly with my baking brush. My 3rd attempt was only slightly better. The bread tasted good but the crust still didn't look the way it should. The crust was a tad too thick, I should have made the rijstpap thinner in texture so that the tiger strips would form better.
Anyway, here is my 3rd attempt. I am a bit disappointed with the crust. I think I still have a long way to go before I can achieve the standard of tijgerbroodjes sold in a belgian bakery. I made a bunch of 10 tijgerbroodjes to go with a traditional belgian tomato soup with meatballs. It took me at least 3 hours (with all the rising and waiting) just for the bread and another 1 hour or so for making the soup. But it was all worth it. The bread crust was very crunchy on the outside, and the inside was very soft. I think I am on the right track, just need some practice and fine-tuning for the rijstpap. Practice makes perfect!