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


My first Thanksgiving was in 1986, the date that also marks my first encounter with a pumpkin pie. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I overindulged in the turkey, the dressing, the mashed potatoes AND the gravy, so that by the time dessert arrived, I was absolutely full. Not to be rude to my hosts, I accepted a small piece, but even that was not easy to negotiate, as the pie was heavy and sweet.  For  years I avoided pumpkin pie, until my husband convinced me to give it another chance.   He makes it from the recipe in the second edition of the Joy of Cooking, but he’s adamant about the use of fresh pumpkin in the filling.

This year was the first time I made it all by myself. If you think “light-as-a-feather pumpkin pie” is an oxymoron, then think again and give this one a try.    Now I can’t conceive of a better way to finish Thanksgiving dinner.

(adapted from Joy of Cooking, second edition)

2 cups cooked pumpkin (see comments)
1 + 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 slightly beaten eggs

Heat the oven to 425F.
Mix all the ingredients very well and pour the mixture into a pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for at least 45 minutes longer, until a toothpick or a knife blade inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream.


to print the recipe, click here

(from Cook’s Illustrated)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
12 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bow. Place the very cold butter and shortening on top and quickly incorporate them into the flour using a pastry cutter, until they have the size of small peas. Add the vodka and water over the mixture and with a rubber spatula fold the mixture pressing it down to form a dough that sticks together. Divide the dough into two balls, flatten them into a 4-inch disk, wrap them separately in plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 days.

Remove one of the disks from the fridge, roll it out in between two plastic sheets, place it inside a pie dish. For the pumpkin pie, only one disk will be used, the remaining can be frozen.

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Believe me, I’ve tried plenty of recipes for pizza made from scratch. But I always return to this particular version from Fine Cooking magazine.   The dough comes together in minutes in a food processor, and even though I’m a huge advocate for making dough by hand, once I tried this method, I was sold.

(from Fine Cooking, issue 49)

1 package (2 + 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 +1/2 cups very warm water (110F)
18 ounces all purpose flour (4 cups)
1 + 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil

Measure the water in a pyrex bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top, and mix gently to dissolve. Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds to mix well.  With the processor running, add all the water/yeast mixture. Process for about 5 seconds, open the lid and add the olive oil.  Close the processor again and mix for about 20 seconds longer.  You want the dough to form a tacky ball, but don’t over process it or it may get too hot.

Remove the dough from the processor, knead it a few times by hand and form a ball. If you want to make a  large pizza, leave it whole. If you want to make individual pizzas, quarter it, place them in a large plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to use (from a few hours to a couple of days).

Remove the dough from the fridge 1 hour before shaping the pizzas.  Roll it out with a floured rolling pin, top with your favorite home-made tomato sauce, and the toppings of your choice.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of my favorite gadgets is a measuring spoon from King Arthur’s Flour, that holds the exact amount of a standard American package of yeast.  I buy my yeast in bulk, so having that spoon saves me a lot of time.


Sometimes I vary the flour composition of the dough, by including some whole wheat flour (regular or white), or some spelt flour in the mix. Usually I add only 1/8 of the total amount (1/4 cup, keeping the remainder as all purpose flour).  The overall process will be the same, add them to the bowl of the food processor with a little salt, and move on…  Once it gets into a shaggy ball, not quite cleaning the side of the bowl, it will be done…


The dough is very smooth, a pleasure to work with… divide it into four balls and place it to rise in the fridge, slowly… for several hours

dough2 4balls

Some people like to get artistic with the toppings….  😉


We make our pizzas on the grill, using it as an oven – an idea from my beloved husband that works very well. We place quarry tiles (6 of them from the Home Depot) on the grill and turn the gas as high as it will go. The pizzas  sit on the tiles, still on some parchment paper.  After a few minutes remove the parchment paper, and cook the pizzas in direct contact with the tiles until ready – about 8 minutes total, depending on the heat of your grill.



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… 😉


A few years ago, a small revolution  took place among American bakers  after the publication of the no-knead bread recipe.  It was hard to surf the internet food world without daily encounters of posts about it.  Like many other people, I boarded that train, which I do not regret.  As a result of the “no-knead” recipe, I baked good bread at home, which was something I’d struggled with for years.  Also thanks to the “no-knead” recipe, I gained the self-confidence to attempt more elaborate breads, until my travels took me to an unforgettable turning point:  the “Handmade Loaf“, by Dan Lepard.

I now have too many bread-baking books,  but  The Handmade Loaf is the one that I cherish, in part because his respect and love for everything about bread shines through in every sentence.  Technically, his instructions are flawless and his photography is superb.  Sure, I can make and enjoy a loaf of bread that was mixed in five minutes, but that’s not the bread that I fell  in love with.  Rather, this is it….

(Dan Lepard’s  Handmade Loaf)

350 g bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
150 g water
150 g sourdough starter
1/2 tsp fresh yeast (I used instant)
25 g olive oil
100 g pitted green olives
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Combine the flours with the salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the water, starter, yeast, olive oil, olives, and thyme.  Add the liquid to the flour, then stir with your hands. Form a loose ball with the ingredients and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Proceed to kneading the dough three times at 1o minute intervals. Each kneading cycle will last only 10-15 seconds.  After the last kneading cycle,  let it rest for 10 minutes and form it into a rectangle.  Fold it by thirds like a letter, let it rest for 1 hour.  Stretch the dough again, fold it by thirds, allow it to rest for another hour.  Shape the dough very gently into a rectangle and pat the surface with your fingers  to flatten it slightly.   Sprinkle cornmeal on the surface, cover with a cloth and allow it to rise for 45 minutes.

Bake in a 425F oven for about 40 minutes.


I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting….

Comments: I’m not sure why this bread wasn’t called “White Thyme Bread with Green Olives,” as they are so obvious in the loaf.  Make sure to use best quality green olives;  Dan suggests piccolini olives from France, even if you have to pit them yourself.

The bread is supposed to be quite flat, but I decided to form a more rounded shape.   I could have slashed the surface,  but I didn’t expect as much oven bounce as it achieved during baking.

This bread is a departure from his white levain, because it calls for a small amount of commercial yeast in the dough.  That adjustment reduces the fermentation time, and creates a slightly less “creamy” crumb.  The addition of olive oil allows the flavor of thyme to permeate  the crumb, imparting an assertive, but not overpowering taste.

It’s bread as bread should be.  Thank you, Dan!

Here are some photos of the process…  Keep in mind that I gave only a short, summarized version of the recipe.  In the book, Lepard goes through all the steps in detail.  So, if you want to make  a loaf of bread in your own home that you can write a poem about later, then consider buying The Handmade Loaf.   It’s worth every penny.

Easy to fall in love…