The BBA Challenge has had its ups and downs.  Unfortunately with this bread I hit the lowest point in the whole challenge.  I had problems from the very beginning, my dough refused to get smooth, it felt like a mixture of sand and water, “breaking” as I tried to knead it.     I moved on, shaped the bread, allowed it to rise – which, it did not, I barely detect any changes – and baked it.

It was dense, and too chewy for my taste.   I definitely need more practice with this kind of a dough.  Rye won big time,  I got a lesson in humility….

Next day I cut the bread into thin slices and turned them into rye crisps, which were ok, but not great.

I look forward to the reports of my fellow bakers following the BBA Challenge, maybe they can give me some tips to deal with such a tricky dough.


Following the BBA Challenge, we go forward with the sourdoughs, the next couple of which are made with rye flour.  Rye is low in gluten,  which increases the difficulty of handling it.  In this recipe Peter Reinhart uses a rye sponge, that’s made with a sourdough starter, rye flour, and lightly sauteed onions.  The sponge ferments for a few hours, gets refrigerated overnight, and the next day it’s mixed into a final dough with brown sugar, buttermilk, white and rye flours, and a small amount of commercial yeast.

I was a bit insecure preparing this dough – it’s easy to turn a rye dough into a gummy mess, so I paid extra attention to Peter’s advice to avoid over-kneading it.   And the onion smell was too strong, which only added to my worries and bothered my husband!

But, sometimes a bright light shines at the end of the tunnel!  This bread turned out awesome!  It delivered exactly what Peter promised: a flavorful New York deli rye bread…    My pictures don’t do it justice: it tasted much better than it looks.   ;-)

The crumb was tight but delicate, and the hint of onion in the background perfectly paired with the caraway spice.

My beloved, as usual, used it in a delicious sandwich creation:  grilled rib eye steak slices, sauteed mushrooms (both leftovers from last night’s dinner), and a few slices of Jarslberg cheese.   His remark afterwards:

Even Tom Colicchio would love this one!  ;-)

I’m pleasantly surprised by how much we both enjoyed this bread, especially because it’s my first time making this type of loaf.

Flash! Here’s something even more exciting… I enrolled in a class with Peter Reinhart himself in January!  I can hardly wait!   My Bread Baker’s Apprentice book is a little beaten up now, but  it’ll look like a million bucks once I get his autograph on it!   ;-)

Check the  New York deli rye made by Oggi, from “I Can do That”, by clicking here

Next on the challenge: 100% sourdough rye. That one’s REALLY intimidating.  Stay tuned…


Here we are, at the beginning of my favorite, sourdough breads, which are all made from a “starter”, or, as Peter calls it, a  “seed culture”.    For  those unfamiliar with the BBA Challenge, it’s a net-event that was launched by Nicole, in which home bakers make every recipe from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice“, in the order that they appear in the book;  forty-three breads in all.    People participating in this challenge agreed not to publish the recipes, so if you are interested, help the economy and buy the book.  ;-)

I’ve been regularly baking sourdough bread for the past two years, so I took some liberties and made a few changes in the overall method.  First, I didn’t put the “barm”  in the fridge overnight.  Instead,  I prepared it at 11pm the night before and used it next morning,  at 6am, without refrigeration.   I see no need to retard the barm in the fridge:  it adds an extra hour to the overall process (you do need to warm it to room temperature before using it), and from my experience it doesn’t  improve the bread’s flavor.  Retarding the dough after the final shaping is a better option, that is also discussed in the recipe.

My second change was the kneading method.  I am partial to folding the dough, as you can see by browsing my bread recipes in this site.   Why? Because it always works.   Kneading the dough in a machine or extensively by hand  may or may not produce the crumb texture I love: airy and full of uneven holes.  I don’t like to gamble with my breads, so I fold it.

The dough was easy to work with,  I am always  fascinated by the way it changes with minimal kneading over time.   These two photos show the dough 15 minutes after mixing all the ingredients, and after rising for 45 minutes.   I folded it at 45, 60, and 120 minutes, then allowed it to rise for 2 more hours (for a total of 4 hours) before shaping.

I’ve been flirting with the idea of stenciling my breads, and this time I decided to go for it.   It didn’t work perfectly.   I think I made my Chinese character too big, and I added too much flour in making it, but I’m hoping to improve my skills.

This is an ideogram that I like very much – guang – it means light, as in sunlight.  I guess my tropical nature attracts me to it.  ;-)

Excellent flavor, not too sour, the crust just the way we like it…

Click here is for a link to the sourdough post by Oggi, from “I Can Do That” – she did some nice different shapes  with her dough, very nice job!


Pugliese, as the name indicates, is a bread typical from Puglia, a region in the south of Italy. The bread is supposed to be quite crusty, perfect for olive oil tasting. Peter Reinhart’s recipe, like many others in the book, calls for a biga, prepared the previous day, and placed in the fridge overnight. For reasons absolutely out of my control, my biga stayed the whole night at room temperature instead of going to sleep in the fridge. I debated whether to go ahead with the recipe or start all over, but decided to go for it.

Other than forgetting to put the biga in the fridge… ;-)  I had no issues with the recipe.  But, maybe my mistake contributed to a crumb texture a lot tighter than that shown on the book.  Still, it tasted very good, a little chewier than a regular Italian bread.   Once the BBA Challenge is over, I will revisit this recipe for sure!

Check out my fellow bakers’ take on Pugliese, by visiting:

Txfarmer’s blog here,

Oggi’s blog here


One more bread following along with the “Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, the group project in which bakers make every single recipe from Peter Reinhart’s book, in the order they are published.

Potato Rosemary bread: I was looking forward to this one. Homemade bread has plenty of wonderful qualities, but often tastes best on the day it is baked, because contrary to its commercial counterparts, it has no preservatives.   However, something quite interesting happens once you add potato, or even potato cooking water to bread dough: the potato starch molecules “trap” water, and as a result, the bread stays fresh longer.   It will not lose moisture as fast as a regular bread.

Peter Reinhart’s recipe calls for a biga - a stiff mixture of flour, water, and yeast that ferments overnight – as part of the dough, that also contains a small amount of commercial yeast, flour, mashed potatoes, chopped rosemary, black pepper, and salt. Instead of kneading I folded the dough at 20, 60, and 90 minutes.  After two hours I formed a “boule”, and allowed it to rise 2 more hours.  My other modification was to bake it with steam, that is, I baked it for 30 minutes covered with a roasting pan, then removed the cover,  and allowed it to bake for ten more minutes. The internal temperature of the bread was a little higher than 200F at that point.

Here are some photos of the process…

Slashing for this kind of bread is optional, but I like to practice my skills with the baker’s blade…   ;-)

Large, uneven holes, a vision that makes me very happy…

Time for lunch!   Everyone is invited…

Some of my fellow bakers already made this bread, please visit their sites following the links:

Paul loved this bread, particularly how wonderful it made his home smell during baking (the same happened in our home)

TxFarmer, as usual, does a great job shaping her bread in unique ways, I love to visit her blog, even if my Chinese skills are not up to par to read the text. Maybe one day… ;-)


This type of bread was a favorite of mine as I grew up,  but  back in Brazil it goes only by “sweet bread”  (pao doce) and is sold as a very small roll.  When I came to the US for the first time, I saw bags of “Hawaiian bread” that looked similar to the “pao doce” from my childhood.   Only a few years later I learned that indeed those are all the same, brought both to Hawaii and New England by Portuguese immigrants.  So, here we have  a bread that ties Portugal (the birth country of my grandparents), Brazil, and the United States (and for sure other countries influenced by the Portuguese culture).  Of course, I was more than excited to make this bread!

I remind my  readers that all recipes for the breads from “The Challenge”, cannot be published, so if you want to make any of these breads, buy Peter’s book.

His version of Portuguese sweet bread calls for a sponge made with a large amount of yeast, that ferments for two hours and is then incorporated in the dough.

Even though I work with microorganisms on a daily basis, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they go to work once food is around…  Water, flour, sugar, and yeast, 90 minutes together…



The dough does not rise that much, after 3 hours it had barely doubled in size, but it seemed light and almost airy.  Into the oven it went…



The bread did not have much oven spring, but tasted very good, had a moist, soft crumb, a gentle hint of citrus, not too sweet, just right.


Verdict: a nice, simple bread, not exactly like that of my childhood, but it’s ok, some memories are impossible to match… ;-)

Check the Portuguese breads from my fellow bakers:

Txfarmer made a very cute version, shaping them as doves…. click here

Emily from Ready to Wait…. click here

Next on the list: Potato Rosemary Bread……   Stay tuned….