Another example of a recipe that blew the doors of the competition once I spotted it at The Fresh Loaf forum. They highlighted this bread on their front page, since it is so unique and gorgeous. My starter was eagerly waiting for a chance to shine, I had wheat germ in the freezer, the only departure from the original recipe was the use of sage instead of rosemary.   Not for gastronomic preference, but because a “certain dog” – who used to wander the streets of Hollywood – destroyed our rosemary plant. The dog has a good lawyer, and is presently free on bail.

(adapted from Ross’ recipe at The Fresh Loaf Forum)

150 g starter (white, 80% hydration)
335 g  water
490 g bread flour
20 g toasted wheatgerm
2 Tbs  fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
9 g  salt
Mix all ingredients, except the salt, until they form a shaggy mass, no need to worry with kneading yet.   Let it rest undisturbed for 40 minutes at room temperature.

Place the dough on a lightly oiled surface,  open flatten it out slightly, sprinkle the salt all over, and knead a few times to distribute the salt.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, let it sit for 1 hour.    Knead by stretching and folding a few times –  it will feel very smooth and easy to fold – put back in the bowl and let it rise 1 hour.   Repeat the stretch and fold one more time, cover the dough and let it rise for 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a floured banetton type container, cover it and place in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge 1 hour and 30 minutes before baking.  Bake in a 450F oven, using your favorite method to generate steam.  After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 425F, and bake for a total of 40-45 minutes. If you baked the bread covering with a roasting pan, remove the cover after 30 minutes.

Let it cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

What a delicious loaf of bread this one turned out to be!  I used very little sage because it is such a strong-tasting herb, so its flavor was barely noticeable.  This bread would be great at a Thanksgiving dinner.  The wheat germ lends a bit of moisture to the crumb, allowing it to last longer than your regular sourdough.

The crust, hearty and crunchy, was covered with those tiny blisters that make the baker very happy.  Inside, the crumb was open, airy, and light. Cannot ask for much more than that…  😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting, please make sure to stop by and marvel at her weekly display of breads. I know my Friday is not complete without it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Polenta-Crust Tomato Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Watermelon Granita

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I don’t regret that many things in my life, but if I could go back to the period  that I lived in Paris, I’d take some time to travel to Belgium.   I was so close to that beautiful country, but never saw it in person… it’s a shame and it’s sad. Plus, I’ve never met a person from Belgium who wasn’t super-nice!  All my Belgium friends have a great sense of humor, a great appreciation for the fun side of life, and many positive things to say about their home country, that excels in so many things.  Two of their special delicacies are chocolates and beer!  The very best of both are produced in small quantities and not exported,  but some excellent Belgium beer makes it all the way to the US, examples being Chimay, Leffe,  and Hoegaarden, the latter of which is a beer that brings fond memories of my days as a single woman in Paris…   😉

I don’t drink beer anymore, but I still like to cook with it, or include it in  breads- for a quick flash back, click here.  So, when I saw this post not too long ago, I changed all my baking plans for the weekend, to accommodate a little Hoegaarden sourdough, and take the Bewitching Kitchen on a virtual trip to Belgique!

(adapted from Fab Food Blog)

For the sponge:
120 g 100% hydration sourdough starter
60 g bread flour
45 ml Hoegaarden white beer

For the final dough:
235 g bread flour
65 ml Hoegaarden white beer
40 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the sponge in a small bowl, mix well and leave it overnight at room temperature.  It should be very bubbly and more than double in size.  If it rises too much and collapses, it’s fine.

Next morning, place the sponge, flour, beer and water in a large bowl. Mix for a few minutes until barely combined, then let it sit for 20 minutes undisturbed. Add the salt, fennel seeds, and rosemary, and mix by gentle kneading.  Let the dough rise for 30 minutes,  knead again (20 seconds cycle),  let the dough rise for about 40 minutes.  Do one more cycle of quick kneading  and let the dough rise for another 40 minutes.  Knead one final time and let the dough rise undisturbed for 1.5 to 2 hours, until almost doubled in size.  Shape as a ball, and place with the seam side  up inside a well floured banetton type container.

Let it rise undisturbed for 2 hours.  Heat the oven to 450 F with baking stones or tiles inside. Invert the dough on the tiles, quickly score the surface, and bake with initial steam. If covering the dough, remove the cover after 30  minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 425 F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden brown.    Cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

This recipe makes a  small boule, so if you want to serve it in a dinner party for several people, consider doubling the recipe and baking two loaves.  The bread smells wonderful during baking, and fennel is the dominant flavor.   As to the beer, it would be interesting to bake two loaves side by side, substituting water for beer in one of them – I imagine that there will be a slight difference in sourness and complexity of flavor, but it’s hard to know for sure with the competing taste of fennel and rosemary (which, by the way, I increased a bit from the original posted recipe).   In my experience, fresh rosemary has a tendency to lose its punch once it’s incorporated in bread dough, so I now use it with more abandon.

Fennel lovers:  pair this delicious bread with some hearty Italian type sausage, for a double-fennel kick…   Don’t like fennel?  Simply omit it, the bread will still be delicious with a nice crust and moderately open crumb.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event… stop by and visit her weekly showcase of breads.

ONE YEAR AGO: Ancho-Chile Marinade: Pleased to meat you!

TWO YEARS AGO:  The Handmade Loaf (the book that got me into sourdough baking!)

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One more small step in the very long journey of the Mellow Bakers, working their way through Hamelman’s book Bread. I was looking forward to this one, a classic European-type bread, leavened exclusively by a whole-wheat sourdough starter.   The term “miche” means a very large, round loaf, and Point-a-Calliere  is its place of origin, the initial settlement that later would turn into Montreal.   To preserve the dimension of my waistline, I made mental apologies to Hamelman, and cut the recipe in half, turning it into a “demi-miche“…

Once a very stiff sourdough starter is prepared, the recipe is quite straightforward: mix high extraction whole-wheat flour with water, starter and salt, fold it two or three times over a 2.5 hour period, shape as a round loaf, let it rise for another 2.5 hours. It is a tricky dough to handle, very moist, it did not gain body until the last folding cycle.  The bread is then baked in a very hot oven, with steam during the initial stage of baking.

The recipe doesn’t mention anything about slashing the surface before baking, but I followed the footsteps of  my fellow bakers, and cut a few slashes on mine. However, they were barely noticeable when the loaf came out of the oven. This is a flattish bread, with reasonably open crumb – in fact, the crumb was a lot more airy than I expected from a bread with such a high proportion of whole wheat flour.

Great flavor, that should get better and better as the days go by. We shall put this statement to test in the next few days…. if my demi-miche can make it, that is… 😉

Check other Mellow Bakers’ take on this bread by following these links to Lien’s blog, Joanna’s, and our host Paul.

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Just for a change, here’s a bread that’s not part of the BBA Challenge…  😉

Who doesn’t love a good bread? But, while some people prefer a hearty crust, uneven holes and an assertive taste, others like a tight, smooth crumb enveloped in a soft crust.  This  “pain de mie” joins the best of both worlds: it’s leavened with sourdough starter, but it’s moderate hydration produces a surprisingly closed crumb, especially if you bake it contained in a loaf pan. It’s a perfect sandwich bread, with more “pizzazz” than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.

I discovered this recipe in a wonderful French blog called Makanai: Bio, Bon, Simple. When a French woman (who has superb boulangeries on every corner) bakes bread at home, then I pay attention: she must be an outstanding baker! You can read Flo’s detailed description here.

(adapted from Makanai’s blog)

210 g  sourdough starter (mine was at 80% hydration)
420 g water
500 g bread flour
130 g rye flour
11.5 g fine sea salt (13 g if using unsalted seeds)
30-35 g seeds of your choice
(I used flax seeds and roasted, salted sunflower seeds)

Mix the flours, water, and sourdough starter until they form a shaggy mass.  Let it stand at room temperature, covered, for 30-45 minutes (autolyse).  Add the salt and mix it with either using a Kitchen Aid-type mixer for a few minutes, or by hand.  Add the seeds and knead with the machine for about 7 minutes at low speed.  Alternatively, mix gently by hand to incorporate the seeds and knead the dough by folding 4 times during the first hour, at 15 minute intervals.  Let the dough rise undisturbed for another full hour, in a warm place, covered.

Refrigerate the dough for 12 to 24 hours (very important step!), misting the surface lightly with olive oil, and covering with a plastic wrap.

The next morning remove the dough from the fridge, remove the plastic and cover it with a towel, to rest at room temperature for 2 hours before shaping.  Meanwhile, prepare a loaf pan by lightly coating it with olive oil and sprinkling flour, especially in the corners. You can make a single large loaf or divide it half depending on the size of your pan.  Mine was a 9×5 loaf pan, so I divided the dough in uneven pieces, placed the larger one in the loaf pan, and shaped the smaller one as a “batard“.   Ideally, the dough should fill 2/3 of the height of your pan.

Allow the shaped bread to rise 2 hours at room temperature, slash it with a blade, sprinkle some flour on top and bake it in a 435F oven for about 45 minutes, with an initial burst of steam.  Check the internal temperature: the bread will be done when it reaches at least 200F.

If you are patient enough, let the bread cool for a couple of hours before slicing it. Good luck with that… 😉


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was a fun bread recipe. If you’re a novice baker, then incorporating the seeds and folding by hand might be a little intimidating, so use a mixer instead. If you are experienced with minimal kneading and folding, then by all means use the technique here.

For the sandwich bread, I slashed the dough slightly off-center, as Flo did in her blog.

The same dough, baked in the loaf or free form, produced breads with different characteristics. The “batard” browned more, and the crumb was more open, reminiscent of a levain bread with a heartier crust.

My favorite method to create steam is to fill a large roasting pan (like this one) with hot water, and empty it before inverting it on top of the bread.  These affordable roasting pans, sold for cooking outdoors, effectively mimic a “steam oven.” Bake the bread covered in this way for the first 30 minutes, then remove the cover to promote full browning of the crust.  I used this method for both the breads in this post.

The textures and flavors of this bread were outstanding! Its slices stood out in ham and cheese sandwiches, and were hearty with a thin spread of fig jam. I normally don’t even care for bread with jam, but my husband twisted my arm and I’m glad that he did!

I am submitting this post to this week’s Yeastspotting, to join Susan’s fun on Friday….



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!

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting, my favorite weekly net-event…

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?    😉


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!


Two food items that I can’t survive without are bread and cheese.  When I lived in Paris I had a permanent smile on my face because it seemed like every street corner had a fantastic boulangerie, with wonderful fresh bread.  Often, not far away was a strategically placed  fromagerie wafting the intoxicating smells of cheese through the neighborhood, the best possible form of advertisement.

My favorite bread is a sourdough loaf with delicate flavor, a hardy crust, and a creamy crumb with open, uneven holes. Simple to say, but a little harder to accomplish.   After more than a year of experimenting with different recipes I’m ready to share one of my favorites, not only because it delivers on all these counts, but because it’s excellent when prepared in the evening and baked the next morning.  To me, it’s the perfect way to make bread during the hot Summer months.

The recipe comes from a book that should be part of any bread baker’s library, called quite simply: “BREAD: A baker’s book of techniques and recipes,”  by Jeffrey Hamelman. You can find it here. This post will be my first submission to Yeastspotting.

(adapted from Hamelman’s “Bread”)

Liquid Levain
2.4 oz bread flour
3 oz water
1 oz mature liquid levain (see comments at the end of the post)

Final dough
12 oz bread flour
1.6 oz whole-wheat flour
7.4 oz water
5.4 oz Liquid levain
0.6 oz salt (1/2 T)

Make the liquid starter (levain) 12 to 16 hours before preparing the dough, and let stand uncovered at room temperature. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, follow this link for a great lesson on how to make it.

Add all the ingredients for the dough (except the salt) in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on first speed (or by hand) just until they are combined into a shaggy mass. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to 1 hour (this is called autolyse). At the end of autolyse, sprinkle salt all over and mix with the dough hook on second speed for 1 to 2 minutes (or knead by hand about 4 minutes).

Let it rise (ferment) at room temperature for 2.5 hours, folding the dough at 50 and 100 minutes (see my photos after the jump).

Shape the dough into a ball ( “boule”; great youtube video for shaping all kinds of bread can be found here), place it with the seam up  in a round container (banettons are your best option) lined with a fine cloth and transfer to the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours. Remove from the fridge a couple of hours before baking (Hamelman says it is not necessary, that you can bake it straight from the fridge).

If using a clay baker (my favorite way), place the baker in the cold oven and turn it on to 440F. Allow the oven to warm to that temperature for at least 10 minutes. Using mittens, open the lid and quickly transfer the dough to the baker, so that the seam is now down, then slash the surface according to your liking, and close the lid.

Bake covered for 30 minutes, open the lid (don’t forget the mittens), and allow it to bake for at least 15 more minutes. You want a dark crust and internal temperature of at least 200F. Allow it to completely cool on a rack before cutting the bread (2 hours should be enough).


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