This  loaf of bread was made on a whim on a busy weekend mainly devoted to the lab. Tired of refreshing my starter and putting it back in the fridge, I decided that – no matter what – we would be having home-made bread on Super Bowl Sunday.  I had to cheat, though. The dough got spiked with some commercial yeast to speed up fermentation. Let’s hope the Wild Yeast Gods will have mercy on me…  😉

(inspired by Hamelman’s Bread)

Starter mix:
2.4 oz bread flour
3 oz water at room temperature
1 Tablespoon mature sourdough culture

1.5 oz flax seeds (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup water at room temperature

final dough:
12 oz bread flour
1.6 oz rye flour
2 oz sesame seeds, toasted
5.7 oz water
10 g salt
all the soaker
4.8 oz starter mix (you will have a small amount left)
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

Prepare the levain build 12-18 hours before making the final dough. Mix all ingredients and leave in a covered container at room temperature.  At the same time, make the soaker placing the flax seeds with water in a small bowl.  The seeds will expand quite a bit, so use a bowl that will allow that to happen without overflowing.

Next morning, make the final dough by mixing all the ingredients together in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer.  Mix on lowest speed for a couple of minutes.  Check the hydration level, adjust if necessary.  Increase speed to medium-low (level 3 of a KitchenAid), and mix for 3 to 4 minutes.

Let the dough ferment in a lightly oiled bowl for 2 and half hours, folding the dough twice at 50 minutes interval. After 2.5 hours, shape the dough as a ball and place in a suitable container for the final proofing.   My bread was ready to bake in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Bake in a 450 F oven for 45 minutes. If baking covered to generate steam, remove the cover after 30 minutes.  Cool completely before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here


Whenever I bake a loaf of bread, I go into full scrutiny mode. I stare at the crust,  inspect the edge of the slashing,  and look for small blisters on the surface.  Then, after patiently waiting for the bread to cool,  I cut a slice and start the convoluted process of analyzing the crumb.  Phil knows better and allows me this important “bread-introspection” time before reaching to grab a piece. But, once he senses the green light, it never fails:  “This is good bread”.  Really, this bread is awesome!”   It gives me a thrill… I know he means it, and it puts all my bread scrutiny into perspective.   For instance, I had to stop beating myself up because the holes in the crumb did not organize into the pyramidal shape I love so much.  Oh, well… This is good bread.

The flax seeds are visible, of course, but the sesame more or less disappears in the crumb. However, the flavor is there beyond any shadow of a doubt, and complements very well the small amount of rye and the hint of sourness.  Everyone watching the Super Bowl loved this loaf, some even preferred to turn the back to the TV and concentrate on it.  😉


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ONE YEAR AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

TWO YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones



Auvergne rye, also known as “baguette aux lardons” is, simply put, bread with bacon bits all through the crumb. Bread… and…. bacon. I know, I know… unless you are a very committed vegetarian you are salivating already.

The recipe comes from Daniel Leader’s Local Breads, and requires the preparation of a very stiff sourdough starter made with both whole wheat and regular flour, and a final dough with a small amount of rye, which, in my opinion, always gives a sourdough bread a touch of depth hard to achieve with any other flour.

Yes, those brown spots are pieces of bacon….  😉


(Local Breads)

Sourdough starter build

45 g stiff sourdough starter
50 g water
95 g bread flour
5 g whole wheat flour

Mix everything together, forming a stiff dough.  Allow it to ferment at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, until doubled in volume.

Final dough

280 g thick cut bacon
350 g water
450 g bread flour
50 g white rye flour
125 g starter (you will not use the full amount made)
10 g salt

Cut the bacon in 1/2 inch pieces and cook over medium heat.  Do not let it brown, just cook until most of the fat is released.  Drain over paper towels and dice finely.

Mix the water, bread flour, and rye flour in a large bowl, let it stand for 20 minutes.  Add the sourdough mix (remember: only 125 g of it!), bacon, and salt.  Knead with a Kitchen Aid type mixer on speed 4 for about 8 minutes.  Ferment the dough for 1 hour, fold it a couple of times, place it to rise for another 2 to 3 hours.

Cut the dough in 4 equal pieces, shape as baguettes, and retard them in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.

Remove the baguettes from the fridge 3 hours before baking.  Heat the oven to 450F, slash the baguettes and bake them with initial steam, for 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool over a rack for a couple of hours before slicing them.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The recipe makes 4 baguettes, but I chose to make two baguettes and a larger, batard-type loaf. I haven’t yet perfected the shaping of my baguettes, in part because I end up baking round loaves a lot more often, and rarely practice this elusive shape. But, what really matters – the taste – was superb! You would think that so much bacon in the dough could be overpowering, but quite the contrary, they had a very mellow taste.   I was pleasantly surprised by how copper-colored the crust turned out, probably due to the bacon fat playing its magic.   The smell was intoxicating, even our dogs were restless…    😉

Note to self:  This bread would be a very good match for a bowl of chili…

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GOLSPIE LOAF, from the Scottish Highlands

Different breads evolve around the world in harmony with the native cultures and environments:   flat breads like Indian naan and Ethiopian injera, French baguettes, English crumpets, and the salt-less Tuscan bread.   People everywhere bake bread with their local grains and flours, and according to their preferred diets.   If I had money and time I’d travel the world and experience each one in person.  Instead,  I take virtual trips by baking the world of bread in my own kitchen.  This past weekend I made a Golspie loaf from the Scottish highlands, based on an old grain called “bere“.    Of course, this grain isn’t easy to find, but in his masterpiece “The Handmade Loaf” Dan Lepard created a recipe that mimics the original, using rye sourdough starter and whole wheat flour. Don’t be put off by its looks:  Golspie is not the Jonny Depp of the Bread World, but it has the personality and charm of Sean Connery in his prime.

The Handmade Loaf is a must have book for bread bakers, and I highly recommend that that you get your own copy of Dan’s book.   Because I bake so many of its breads, it’s unfair to the author to post all the recipes, and for Golspie I’m just providing the the basic formula, which I slightly changed from the original to introduce a small amount of white flour.

(adapted from Dan Lepard)

75% rye levain
62% water
100% flour (3/4 whole wheat + 1/4 white)
25% bread flour
2% salt
0.5% instant yeast
coarse oatmeal (enough for dusting the loaf)

Comments:  The dough is made with minimal kneading (a couple of 10 second-kneading cycles), allowed to rise for an hour, shaped into a circle, and placed in a springform pan (around 8 inches in diameter), coated with coarse oatmeal.   Just before baking,  score the dough  all the way to the bottom in a cross-pattern that  later allows cutting it into its characteristic quartered shape.

Some photos of the process of making Golspie….

The dough is rolled out in a circle..

Placed in the springform pan, and gently patted to fill it….

Once in the pan,  coarse oatmeal is sprinkled on top….

Do not be afraid to do the crosscut…


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Following the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, we arrive at yet another sourdough rye, Swedish Limpa.   The recipe required a special kind of “sponge” : a sourdough starter with molasses, spices (caraway and fennel seeds) and orange peel, that smelled terrific!

Apart from the fact that I dislike the “feel” of rye dough, I had no problems with the recipe.  Here’s what the sponge looked like 60 minutes after mixing it….

The dough seemed dense and heavy; after forming the loaf it must rise for 90 minutes. Mine didn’t rise that much, but by now I’m used to the finicky personality of rye…

This bread smelled wonderful during baking, and the resulting crumb was tight and dense, but not too heavy.

Verdict: it was a delicious bread, and impossible to eat only a single slice.  Maybe it was the spices in the background, or the mix of molasses and rye that produced kind of a hippie-aura, but both me and my husband felt closer to Nirvana with each bite.

Please visit Phyl’s site to check her Swedish Limpa, and then make sure to read about her adventures with Stollen… and I thought our dogs were naughty….    😉



On the first day of the year… I’d like to say that bread baking is a great way to welcome 2010!   I  debated whether to make a simple sourdough, or to mark another notch in my BBA Challenge-belt.   Once I realized that the BBA bread was a sunflower seed rye, I immediately went to work on it.   From its whole flours and sunflower seeds, the bread casts a healthy aura that’s perfect for this time of the year,  in which we all feel the impact of holiday excesses.

Welcome 2010 with Peter Reinhart’s couronne of
sunflower seed rye…

The recipe calls for a soaker and a firm sourdough starter.  Once again, I couldn’t find pumpernickel flour, and settled for a regular dark rye instead.  I still prepared the soaker exactly as described – mixing rye flour with water and allowing it to sit overnight.

The dough rose slowly and less than I expected, but it was fun to shape the ring.   First, form a ball, then poke a hole in the center, stretch it out, and finally make a deep indentation to define quadrants.  I added some flour to try to prevent the square from closing during the rising, but it didn’t end with dramatic look of the picture in the book.

The bread didn’t have the oven-bounce of a typical, white flour sourdough,  but it felt light as I grabbed it from the oven.  The taste was wonderful, hearty, and the toasted sunflower seeds made it just like Reinhart described:  a “loyal” bread, that stays with you long after you enjoy it.

Another winning recipe, and with it completed, only EIGHT breads remain to finish the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge!

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Enjoy rye breads? Go to Foodista for more…
Rye Bread on Foodista

On a side note,  my New Year’s Resolution in 2008 was to regularly bake bread.   It’s been two years of ups and downs, many failures but so much fun!  If you’re a believer in New Year’s resolutions, have you considered baking bread?    😉