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….


These days the the wonderful aroma of bread is wafting through the Bewitching Kitchen  …   For those who don’t know about “The BBA Challenge“, a few months ago Nicole, of  “Pinch My Salt“, decided to bake every  bread from Peter Reinhart’s   book  “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice“, and sent out a virtual invitation to anyone interested in joining her.    It involves forty-three breads in all,  made in the order that they appear in the book.  Over two hundred people accepted the challenge, including me.  It’s been a ton of fun so far, with ups and downs, successes and failures.

Here we are, at recipe number 26: Poolish Baguettes


Poolish is a soft mixture of flour, water and yeast that ferments overnight (or longer) and then gets incorporated into a bread dough.  In this recipe, the dough contains both white and whole wheat flour, but the whole wheat is first sifted to remove some of the bran.  It’s an interesting method, and here’s all the bran left behind after sifting a few ounces of flour:


Reinhart’s recipe calls for kneading the dough.  I prefer folding instead of kneading, so that’s what I did: 3 folding cycles during the initial 2 hours of fermentation.  After cutting the dough into three pieces, I shaped each one as a baguette.  After two more hours rising, the baguettes were slashed with sharp razor blade, and placed in the oven.

Notice how bubbly the dough was…

compositeEven though  my slashing skills still need improvement, this time my shaping wasn’t too bad.   There are many online videos showing how to shape a baguette;  maybe one day if I get really good at it… I’ll post my own  😉

In the meantime, you can watch a particularly instructive video here….

These baguettes were delicious!   I’d probably reduce the proportion of whole wheat in the dough, but this recipe is already a winner for me and my husband.




I was looking forward to this recipe, because for years I’ve been making pizza dough from a recipe published in Fine Cooking;  the BBA Challenge gave me the impetus to try something different.   Interestingly enough, my usual method is similar to Peter Reinhart’s, but it takes a little less olive oil, and is made in seconds (literally) in the food processor.

Reinhart’s recipe uses a regular mixer (or hand kneading) to make the dough, that then goes into the refrigerator for 1 day.  Two hours before making the pizza, he brings the balls of dough to room temperature.  In the book you’ll see a photo of Peter himself throwing the dough up in the air like a pro. I was looking forward to giving it a try, but my dough was just too uncooperative.   As I prefer to avoid  wearing the food that I’m cooking, I stretched it with my hands instead. 😉

Without further ado, some pictures of my pizza adventure!

The dough is supposed to stick to the bottom of the mixer, never clearing it completely…


I made four balls of dough with the full recipe….


And after spending the night in the fridge, they came back for a final rise at room temperature…  very soft and bubbly-looking…


Some of the ingredients we chose: mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, sliced ham, fresh basil…  plus the usual suspects (homemade tomato sauce & mozzarella cheese)


Ready for the oven, a mushroom and black olive concoction….


The pizza was good, but both me and my resident food critic prefer the Fine Cooking recipe, which I’ll describe on my blog in the near future.


I should point out that most of the bakers loved this recipe, and you can check two of them at these links:

for “The Other Side of Fifty”, click here….

For TxFarmer and her take on a pine nuts pizza, click here….

Twenty-five recipes down, only eighteen to go!


Here we are, at bread number 24 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, started by Nicole from “Pinch My Salt“. Read all about it here.

Panettone, the traditional Italian fruit bread, is very popular in two of my former homes, Sao Paulo and Paris, during Christmas.  I wish I could say it brings back fond memories of childhood, but the truth is that I never cared for it. In my memory, panettone was a dry, chalky bread with hardened pieces of fruit in the crumb.  What can I say?  I was a difficult child. 😉

Nevertheless, Peter Reinhart says that this recipe, which is more involved than most, produces the best panettone in the world.  I was a bit skeptical, but gathered up all the ingredients and hoped for the best.

Was it good?  Oh, YESSS!  The best in the world?  Well, I haven’t sampled that many, but my husband considers himself a panettone connoisseur, and he and I agreed that this was the best we’ve ever had, by far. The crumb was moist and velvety, with the right amount of fruit and sweetness, plus that unmistakable hint of “fiori di Sicilia“, the extract that gives panettone its characteristic holiday flavor. It was impossible to eat just a single slice of this bread…and we shouldn’t have brought out the butter…in a few minutes nearly half the loaf was gone!  The other half will make some graduate students very happy tomorrow!

This is it!  The panettone for this year’s holidays!


The recipe needs advance planning, as it uses a wild yeast sponge (mixture of water, flour, and a sourdough starter) as part of the final dough.  The fruits soak in rum, orange and fiore di sicilia extracts overnight.  The process went smoothly, my loaf is a little shallow because since I didnn’t have a 6-inch pan, mine was 7.5 inches in diameter.

This is the wild yeast sponge ready to go into the dough…. sponge2

Dried fruits soaking in rum, orange and fiore de sicilia extracts


The dough smells wonderful from the very beginning….




Ready to go into the oven…


Just out of the oven…


Check out the panettone posts by other bakers following along the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge:

Oggi, from I Can Do That

Mags, from “The Other Side of Fifty”

TxFarmer, from