Category Archives: baking

Allison’s Delicious Fluffy Bread

This is a classic home-made bread recipe that produces a delightfully fluffy crumb! I will always be fond of it because it is the first bread that I managed to decently recreate on my own. I learned to make it from Allison, who was the cook for a small community in the Wrangles St Elias National Park in Alaska. It was so nice to have an actual human being who I could ask questions, instead of following an online recipe by myself. One thing I specifically asked about was how warm the water should be when dissolving yeast. This may sound like a stupid thing to be confused about, but I had previously made the mistake (more than once, I’m afraid) of seeing a recipe call for ‘100f’ water and thinking ‘100c’ and using boiling water. (I was studying a lot of chemistry at the time…) Needless to say, the bread didn’t rise. At all. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the water should just be luke-warm :)

Another thing I remember is Allison saying, “People always say to me ‘Wow, how do you get your bread to be so sweet?’ And I say ‘I put a lot of sugar in it…'” And be careful, the slight sweetness can make it addicting; after Allison’s lesson, when the loaves were still warm from the oven, I ate half a loaf by myself. You can decide how much sugar you want to add, but keep in mind that it helps the dough rise faster because it makes the yeast happy :)

2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tbs yeast
2/3 cup sugar (I only use 1/4)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
4-5 cups flour- at least half should be white to keep it fluffy, but the other half can be whole wheat. You can also add oats or other grains.

-Dissolve the water, yeast, and sugar together, and let sit until it foams, ~5 min. (This checks if the yeast is alive. If you use your yeast a lot and know its alive, you can just wait until it dissolves.)
-Stir in the vegetable oil, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Add 1 cup oats if you want to. Slowly add the last 1-2 cups flour to make sure the dough doesn’t get too dry- you want a dough that slumps on its own before kneading, not one that holds its shape.
-Knead on a floured surface for ~10 min. You should see and feel the dough change and become more elastic and less sticky.
-Put the dough in an oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for ~1 hour, or until it has doubled and keeps fingerprints.
-Punch down and knead for 1 minute.
-Preheat oven to 350f. If you have a bread stone and/or a cast iron pan, put them in the oven. (Putting large rocks in your oven can also help your bread if you don’t have a bread stone.) Be sure to preheat your oven at least 30 min in advance it heating stones or a pan.
-Divide dough in half and shape loaves. Put them on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise ~30 min. They don’t have to double.
-Put loaves in oven on the baking sheet, or slide loaves onto bread stone and put 1 cup water in cast-iron pan. Test if the loaves are done by thumping on bottom and listening for a hollow sound.

20130316-231328.jpg the dough before kneading…

20130316-231352.jpg after kneading…

20130316-231425.jpg let the dough rise until it has doubled in size and keeps fingerprints

20130316-231459.jpg bake until golden

Try not to eat it all at once :)


Amazingly Fast, No-knead Brown Bread

My bread baking world keeps getting seriously shaken up. I am baffled by this recipe. Not only is there no kneading, but it only rises once, and only for 30 min. And it’s delicious too! Crazy. I still like the art of making and kneading sourdough, but this is a nice trick to have for lazy days. I got this recipe from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking. According to her, the wetness of the dough lets it rise faster. And of course the large amount of yeast helps :)
It has a delicious flavor of whole wheat with sesame and molasses. Tasty tasty.

3 cups whole wheat flour (we used a mix of spelt and bread flour, with a little wheat germ)
1 1/2 tsp salt
I tsp molasses
1 tbs yeast
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
Oil to grease pan
Sesame and sunflower seeds (optional)

Makes one loaf

-Preheat oven to 450f.
-In a small bowl, mix the molasses and yeast with 1/2c of the water and let sit until frothy.
-Mix flour with salt and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.
-Add the yeast mixture and the rest of the water to the flour and mix.
-Grease a loaf pan and put the dough in it. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and cover with a towel.
-Let rise 20-30 min or until the dough is a little bellow the rim of the loaf pan.
-Put the loaf in the oven, bake for 20 min, then turn down the heat to 400f and bake another ~30 min. When it is done, it will sound hollow when you take it out and thump it on the bottom.

20130311-194928.jpg the yeast happily frothing away

20130311-195012.jpg the dough in the pan, ready to rise

20130311-195042.jpg after 30 min, read to bake

20130311-195145.jpg and here we are!

20130311-195235.jpg this turned out very crusty. Mmmm, delicious :)

Who knew bread could be so easy?

No-knead Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Up until recently, I believed that the key to great, fluffy bread is to make sure to knead the hell out of it. I mean, don’t overdo it, but if your not sure if you have kneaded it enough, keep going just to be safe. Under kneaded bread will not rise and will end up dense. But my bread world was thrown on its head by seeing a young woman make some delicious, puffy, crusty, golden brown sourdough bread that she said she didn’t knead at all. And now I have come across a recipe in the book Artisan Breads in Five Minutes A Day that makes sandwich bread, a very soft, fluffy bread, with also no kneading at all. So we tried it out, and, shockingly, it works!

As we were mixing the dough, we noticed that it was very loose and wet. When you have to knead dough by hand, overly wet dough is a pain in glutius maximus. Kneading is one of my favorite things about bread making, so this dough texture was new to me. Logically, the more water in the dough, the moister the bread, which evidently is why typical store-bought sandwich breads are nice and moist. We were curious how adding a bit of flour and kneading the dough would change the bread texture, so we experimented a bit.

We divided the dough into three parts, and, according to the recipe, didn’t knead loaf one at all. For loaf two, we added a bit of flour and attempted to knead it a bit. That just ended up with Rosie getting it all over her hands. We would have had to add a lot of flour to make it kneadable, or be very patient (or have a machine do it, but we dont have one)…

Side note on slack (wet) doughs: I have kneaded slack dough by hand before by smearing/ rubbing it around on a table, and periodically scraping it all together again, but that takes some serious patience. But if you can withstand the temptation to throw it all on the floor for 10 minutes or so, it does become manageable, and the resulting bread is fantastic!

…Loaf 3 we stirred for a bit with a spoon, without adding any flour.
Loaf one turned out nice and fluffy and moist. Loaf two had a nice, rounded shape, but was drier. Loaf 3 had bigger air pockets in it, so it fell apart quite easy, but it was also quite moist.
All the loaves were a little small, but making 2 loaves out of the dough instead of the recommended 3 would fix that problem.


20130309-232441.jpg We devoured most of the bread before we thought of taking a picture…

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Slightly altered from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day

3 cups like warm water
1 1/2 tbs yeast
1 tbs + 1 tsp salt
1/4 sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (used spelt)
2 2/3 cup bread flour

-Dissolve yeast and sugar in water and let sit a few minutes. Add the oil.
-Add all but 2 cups of the flour, mix until incorporated, and let sit for 20 minutes or more. This helps develop the gluten, which is what makes bread rise nicely and become fluffy.
-Add the rest of the flour and let rise, covered with a plastic bag, for 2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
-Grease three loaf pans ( or two if you want two bigger loaves)
-Punch down dough and divide into three equal parts. Shape into loaves by pulling edges and tucking them under, making a taught skin and a ball shape. Then pull until longer and oval and plop into pan. This sounds easier than it is; the dough is loose and tricky to work with. Try not to overwork it though.
-Preheat oven to 400f 20-30 min before baking. Let loaves rise for 1 1/2 hours. They should be nice and puffy and loaf-like!
-Bake for 40-50 min. To test if they are done, thump the loaves on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound. If it doesn’t sound hollow, continue baking.
-Take loaves out of pan and let cool a bit before gobbling up ;)

Till next time
– Celia

Sourdough Bread

This is a new bread recipe I am trying out from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking (a fantastic cook book by the way, my absolute favorite!). The process takes two days, and you need to already have a sourdough starter made. This is the first time we are using our new starter :)

Making the sponge
2 cups sourdough starter
2 cups Luke warm spring water
4 cups flour ( recipe says bread flour, but we are using spelt)

-Put sourdough in a large bowl (Don’t worry if this uses all the starter you have, this recipe will replace it later on). Add 1cup water and 2 cups flour. Mix until incorporated, but don’t over do it.

20130308-095612.jpg It should bubble nicely :)

-Cover tightly and let sit in a warmish place for 10-12 hrs (overnight is good).

20130308-095715.jpg I’m a nut about saving plastic, so use saved bags instead of plastic wrap.

20130308-224205.jpg Should be even more nice and bubbly when done!

-Add another cup of warmish water and 2 cups flour. I used white bread flour because we’re low on spelt. Make sure the container is big enough for it to rise. Cover and let sit 5-6 hours. ***after it has risen, make sure to take out two cups of dough and keep in a jar as your starter for the next bread you make***

Side note on rising time for sourdough: rising time is more of a suggestion of minimum time. My house is colder than the average persons, so my dough always takes longer to rise. Also, the suggested rising time may not work with your schedule, so don’t be afraid to let it sit longer. I often let dough sit much longer than it needs to and do the next step when I have time. For example, for this bread, I let it sit overnight again instead of 5-6 hours because I mixed it before going to bed. Also, later in this recipe you are supposed to let it sit 20 min, well I let it sit two hours because I left the house to go get some groceries, and was hungry when I got back so I made some food (delicious spelt pancakes by the way, I’ll put the recipe up:) ). With sourdough, the longer you let it sit, the more sour and flavorful it becomes. However, it can become too sour. One time I kept not having time to bake, so I let it sit two days longer than it should… now that was some sour bread. But some people may like it like that :)

Mixing The Bread Dough
3/4 cup warm water
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbs wheat germ
1 tbs rye flour
2 1/2 tsp salt

-After saving 2 cups for your sourdough, mix in all these ingredients but the salt and let sit for 20 min.

Side note on how much flour to use: When following a recipe, always use your own judgement on how much flour to add. A friend of mine who is a great chef once explained to me that, depending on how your flour was stored and/or the dryness of your climate, flour can have different amounts of moisture. This means you may need more or less flour than the recipe calls for. This recipe called for 5 1/2 cups, but I added only 4 1/2 and thought that was plenty. The cookbook I am using does come from Ireland, a moist country to say the least, which means that bakers there can use a higher flour to water ratio and still have a moist dough.
Well, this is the reason i have come up with to explain the discrepancy. I also may have just made the dough wetter than it is intended to be. Just remember to be careful, don’t add all the flour at once.

-Sprinkle some flour onto a nice surface for kneading. Knead the salt into the dough and continue kneading for 15+ min. If it is sticking a lot, keep putting flour on the table, but don’t add too much (<1/2 cup total). I often just accept that the dough will stick to the surface and deal with it because I want to have a moist bread. If you do this, having a bench scraper or a knife to periodically get the dough off the counter and into a ball is very helpful. Also, cooling the dough makes it less stretchy and easier to work with.

20130309-143729.jpg a good test to see if you have developed enough gluten is to stretch a piece of dough and make a “window”. If light comes through without the dough tearing, you have probably kneaded enough. I learned this trick from Daniel Leader’s book Local Breads

20130309-144218.jpg at first the dough was very stretchy and sticky

20130309-144312.jpg I let the dough sit for a bit in a cool place, and it became much more manageable (actually, I discovered this because I forgot to add salt. It was already rising, so I got it down to knead the salt in, and it was much easier to deal with. The place I left it was obviously too cold, but it turned out to be a useful mistake:) )

-Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in it, cover it, and put it in a warm place to rise for 6-9 hours.


20130309-223722.jpg It rose beautifully! And this is all from the wild yeast in the sourdough starter, amazing!

-Punch down the dough and knead it a few times. Divide it in two equal pieces.
-Heavily! flour two bannetons (or two large bowls lined with a kitchen cloth). I had trouble with the dough sticking when I tried to take it out, so don’t skimp here. And the four makes the loaves look rustic :)
-Shape the dough into two round loaves. Put them into the bannetons/bowls with the smooth side of the loaf facing down. Dust the top with flour.

20130309-230031.jpg Shaped loaves ready to rise :)

-Put the bowls in large plastic bags and let rise in a cold room (or the fridge) overnight. The loaves should about double in volume.
-Check on the loaves. If they have risen enough, put them in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours to bring them back to room temperature before baking. If they are still a bit small, leave them in a warm place for longer.
-At least 30 min before baking, put a bread stone and cast iron pan in the oven and preheat to 450f.

20130310-192057.jpg one loaf ready to go in the oven! the other has to wait longer because the bread stone will only fit one loaf.

-Ease the dough onto a floured bakers peel (or some parchment paper) and make slashes on the top with a serrated knife. I only have room for one loaf on my baking stone, so I could only bake one at a time. Meanwhile, let the other rise longer. It will make it a bit more sour, but, having German roots, Rosie and I agreed that we like it better that way :)
-Slide ( to the best of your ability) the loaf onto the hot baking stone in the oven and pour 1 cup water into the cast iron pan. Immediately close the door to trap in the steam.
-Bake for 30-40 min depending on how high your bread rose (more time for thicker bread).
-Take out the bread and test if done by thumping on the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.
-Bake second loaf end enjoy the fruits of your labor!

20130310-193226.jpg slashed loaf on a bakers peel, ready to bake

20130310-193328.jpg and voila! It turned out beautifully!

20130310-193402.jpg the second loaf not so much… It had some trouble getting out of the bannetons, and sliding off the bakers peel onto the bread stone. That didn’t affect it’s deliciousness though!


20130310-195006.jpg eating it with almond butter, banana, and honey. Just like my momma taught me :) Mmmm, so yummy and so European ha ha

The second loaf had some trouble in the process (apart from its looks), so it rose for 4 hours longer and was considerably more sour, almost like a pure rye. Delicious to me! But maybe not for everyone…
The bread came out flatter than i hoped it would, which may have been because i added leas flour. I could also have not kneaded it long enough, but i don’t think that is the case. Any other ideas why? Anyways, I’ll just keep practicing and see if I can make it rise more!

Congratulate yourself on a job well done! I know I am :)