Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Carrot Bread in a Clay Baker: HBinFive

The first bread in the HBinFive April 1st Bread Braid is Carrot Bread. The authors described this bread as the bread version of carrot cake.  I liked the sound of that!  I love carrot cake!

In one of the online discussions, some of the other bakers had mentioned they liked to bake bread in their clay or ceramic bakers. That reminded me that I hadn’t used mine in awhile. So, since it’s Spring, and we’re baking with carrots, it seemed fitting to bake this bread in a clay bread baker.

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You can find the recipe for this bread on page 157 of Healthy Bread In Five Minutes.

I made half a batch of the dough. This amount would normally make two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaves; however, my clay baker is large so I baked all of the dough (2-pounds) in the bread baker.

To make the dough, I used freshly milled whole wheat flour from hard red spring wheat, all-purpose flour, wheat germ, shredded coconut (sweetened) along with carrots, currants, walnuts and some cinnamon and brown sugar. 

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The nuts really added to the texture as well as the flavor of the bread, but I couldn’t really taste the coconut.  My taste tester said the same thing.  We both like coconut so it was a little bit of a let down.  I’ve heard some of the other bakers mention that they would use more coconut next time.  I agree!

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After the dough had risen, and right before baking the loaf, I brushed it with egg wash and sprinkled raw sugar on the top. 

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The crust was a little crunchy since I baked it in the clay baker, but that added to the effect, particularly with the addition of the walnuts and the raw sugar on top.  Yummy!  Although next time, I think I will use pecans instead.  I like that combination.

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This carrot bread is pretty good.  It’s a bit dense, but full of flavor.  I liked it, and my taste tester loved it!


Thanks for joining me in the bread-baking blog.  Check out the blog BigBlackDog to see the April 1st Bread Braid roundup.

Happy Baking!


About the HBinFive Baking Group

The HBinFive Baking Group, started by Michelle of Big Black Dogs, is baking through all of the breads in the  Healthy Bread in Five Minutes book. For more information on the new HBinFive baking group, check out Michelle's blog.



Here are some additional bread-making resources:

You might enjoy some of the other breads that have been featured in the bread making blog.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hot Cross Buns: Mellow Bakers

After I finished with the BBA Challenge, I joined the Mellow Bakers. We baked breads from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.

The first bread we made was English Hot Cross Buns.  I had never made hot cross buns before so I was looking forward to this one. They sounded delicious!  And, let me tell you, they are delicious!

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“Hot cross bun, a round bun made from a rich yeast dough containing flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, currants, and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. In England, hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday; they are marked on top with a cross, wither cut in the dough or composed of strips of pastry. The mark is of ancient origin, connected with religious offerings of bread, which replaced earlier, less civilized offerings of blood. The Egyptians offered small round cakes, marked with a representation of the horns of an ox, to the goddess of the moon. The Greeks and Romans had similar practices and the Saxons ate buns marked with a cross in honor of the goddess of light, Eostre, whose name was transferred to Easter. According to superstition, hot cross buns and loaves baked on Good Friday never went mouldy, and were sometimes kept as charms from one year to the next. Like Chelsea buns, hot cross buns were sold in great quantities by the Chelsea Bun House; in the 18th century large numbers of people flocked to Chelsea during the Easter period expressly to visit this establishment."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 114)

Source: http://www.foodtimeline.org/easter.html#hotcrossbuns


Traditional English Hot Cross Buns

Makes: 12 buns

Adapted from: Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.

You can find a variation of this Hot Cross Bun recipe on Wild Yeast.

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I made the version in the book; however, I made a few adjustments myself.

When I got ready to bake this bread, I didn’t have any bread flour so I used a combination of unbleached all-purpose flour and freshly-milled white whole wheat flour. It worked out really well!

I also used homemade candied orange peel rather store bought.

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This bread takes about 4 hours to make. I started the process Saturday morning.  I didn’t actually bake them until Saturday evening so it took me a little longer than 4 hours.



  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7/8 cup milk
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast

Final Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup home-milled white whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 T. Allspice, ground
  • Sponge, all of the above
  • 3/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/4 cup (packed) candied lemon or orange peel, finely chopped

Crossing Paste:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/8 cup milk
  • 1 T. Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon peel, grated
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 1 7/8 cups cake flour, sifted

Simple Syrup:

  • 8 T. sugar
  • 1/2 cup water


Make the Sponge

You begin by making a sponge with the flour, milk, sugar, and yeast. The sponge will be very thin. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 to 40 minutes. 

The sponge will have risen to about 3 to 4 times its original height.  It should be quite light, but there should be structure to it.

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Mix the Dough:

Place the flour in a mixing bowl and add the soft butter, and mix just until the butter is dispersed. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, and allspice and mix them all together. Then, add the sponge and mix until everything is thoroughly combined. 

At this point, I realized I was going to have to add more flour.  This is what it looked like after several minutes of mixing. The book said that strong gluten is not the goal of this mix, but enough dough development is necessary so that there is sufficient strength to lift the fruits and butter.  It was still a wet mess, so I added more flour.

When a moderate gluten development has been achieved, add the currants and diced peel.  Mix until these are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

This wasn’t happening with the mixer, so I transferred the dough to a counter sprinkled with flour and kneaded it until it all of the currants and candied peel were integrated and the dough was the right consistency.  I had to add more flour during this part as well, but I finally got a supple dough that was tacky and not sticky.

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Bulk Fermentation:

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment for 1 hour, with a light fold after 30 minutes.

I fermented the dough for about 2 1/2 hours because I had to run some errands.  I did do the light fold after 30 minutes, but then it fermented for another couple of hours.

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Divide, Shape and Final Proof:

Cut the dough into 2.7 ounces pieces.  Round the pieces well, and place them on a sheet pan in an even configuration.

Cover the buns with plastic wrap to prevent crusting on the surface. Proof the Buns about 1 hour at 76 degrees.

I proofed them a little over 2 hours at room temperature.  It just worked out that way due to my schedule.  They didn’t seem to be any worse for the wear.

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Prepare the Crossing Paste:

While the buns proof, make the crossing paste.  In a saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk, vanilla, grated lemon peel, and beaten egg. Whisk all of these together, then add the sifted flour.  I used cake flour.

Using a round tip with a 1/4 to 3/8-inch diameter, fill a piping bag with the paste. I couldn’t find my round tip so my piping is a little more decorative.

When the buns are finally proofed, pipe lines in one direction on each bun, transecting the top of each bun.

When all the lines have been piped in one direction, rotate the pan 90 degrees and pipe lines again, so that the lines form an even cross.

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Prepare the Simple Syrup:

Prepare the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pan. Bring to a full boil, stirring once or twice so the sugar won’t burn on the bottom of the pan.  The syrup can be brushed while still hot onto the buns, or it can be made days ahead and kept refrigerated.  I made mine while the buns were proofing.


Bake the Buns:

The directions say to bake the buns at 440 degrees for 14 to 16 minutes.  I started out following the directions, then realized this was way to hot and way too much time to bake them!  I baked them for about 5 minutes or so, then checked them and realized I needed to turn the heat down or they would burn. 

I turned it down to 400 degrees then to 350 and baked them just a little bit longer.  They had some browning, but were still soft.

Once you remove them from the oven, brush them with the simple syrup.

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The buns are best when eaten fresh, but day-old buns can be reheated and served. 

My taste tester read the part about the buns tasting best when eaten fresh, and he kept asking when we could eat them. I only let him have one because I needed to save the rest for the photo. I know I’m cruel that way!

These Hot Cross Buns were really good, but the crossing paste made way too much and it kept breaking off.  I didn’t mind, I just kept eating it. I have enough crossing paste left over for another batch.  Hmmm…that gives me an idea!  I’ll make more…

This bread has been submitted to BBD#28 hosted by Tangerine’s Kitchen. Be sure to visit her site to view all of the buns in the roundup.




The Mellow Bakers was started by Paul at Yumarama. We’ll be baking breads primarily from the book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman, but we probably won’t bake through the whole book. If you’re interested in baking at an easy pace, please join us!



Happy Baking!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Roasted Onion & Asiago Miche: BBA

I finally reached the end of the BBA Challenge! The 43rd and final bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice is Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche.

Wow! What a way to end! The last bread in the Bread Baker's Apprentice is another extraordinary bread from Bennett Valley Bread and Pastry Bakery. This is a huge and very flavorful bread made with roasted onions, chives, scallions and cheese.  It has a thin and crispy crust on the outside and a soft and flavorful crumb on the inside.  Delish!

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This bread usually takes 3 days to make; however, it took me a total of 5 days to make both loaves. I baked the first loaf on the 4th day and the 2nd loaf on the 5th day.  Originally, I was going to halve the recipe because the loaves are huge, but then I changed my mind.  I decided to give most of the 1st loaf to my main taste tester.  He didn’t get to try the Potato, Cheddar & Chive Torpedos so I thought it was only fair that he got his share of this one.  He really liked it!

To make this bread, you begin by making the sponge one day before making the dough and 2 days before baking the bread (or 3 days before making the bread in my case).

Making the Sponge

To make the sponge, mix together the starter, water, and flour in a bowl until the flour is completely hydrated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

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Ferment at room temperature for 8 hours, or until the sponge is very bubby.  If it is a cool day and the sponge is fermenting slowly, you can leave it out overnight (which is what I did).  Then put it in the refrigerator.

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Remove the sponge from the refrigerator about 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill. 

While the sponge is resting on the counter, roast or sauté the onion and set aside.  Or, you can do this the day before, which is what I did.


Making the Dough

To make the dough, stir together the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and the sponge and stir until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the dough forms a ball.

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Let sit for 5 minutes. Then add the salt and olive oil and stir to distribute.  I did this by hand and it was pretty tricky getting the salt and the olive oil mixed it.  I literally used my hands.

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Add half of the grated cheese (I used parmesan) and all of the chives and scallions.

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Transfer the dough to a counter sprinkled with flour.

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Knead the dough for about 4 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed, adding additional flour as needed to make a soft, tacky, but not sticky dough.

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Fermenting the Dough

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. 

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Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough nearly doubles in size.

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Shaping the Dough

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, mist with spray oil, and dust with cornmeal.

Dust the counter with flour and transfer the dough from the bowl to the counter, taking care not to degas the dough. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

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Gently shape them into large boules. Place a round of dough on each pan.  Mist the dough with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Place the pans in the refrigerator overnight.

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Proofing the Loaves

Remove the pan from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake.  You can hold them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, baking each pan on a different day which is what I did.  Proof the dough for approximately 2 hours at room temperature.

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Baking the Loaves

Prepare the oven for hearth baking by placing a baking stone on the middle rack and a steam pan underneath.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil.

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Using your fingertips, make dimples all over the dough, pressing almost to the bottom of the loaf and creating a series of ridges and pockets all over the surface.

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Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top of each loaf.

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Divide the roasted onion pieces into 2 portions and evenly distribute them over the top of the cheese.  Let the dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

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Transfer the loaves to the baking stone.  Pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the walls of the oven with water, and close the door.  Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals.  After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.

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Rotate the bread 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes. 

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The bread should be golden brown and the cheese melted and brown. 

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The loaf should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.  If the cheese seems to brown, but you still need more baking time, cover the top with aluminum foil or a piece of baking parchment to protect the top.  I covered mine with aluminum foil but the onions still got a little charred. 

Transfer the finished bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving. 

Here it is!  A big, beautiful loaf of deliciousness!

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This is the crumb from the first loaf.

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Here is a close-up of the crumb from the 2nd loaf.  It was so good!  I really, really like this bread!

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That’s it for this bread!   

Wow!  Is the BBA Challenge really over?  It’s been a great ride!


Which breads are my favorites from the book?  Let me see…

Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread hands down is my very favorite enriched bread.  It’s beautiful as a braided bread and it tastes great, freezes great, and is great toasted! A very versatile bread indeed!

I also like (in alphabetical order, couldn’t rank them if I tried):


I want to thank Nicole of Pinch my Salt for creating the BBA Challenge and for bringing all of the wonderful bread bakers together around the world.  It’s been a wonderful and rewarding experience.

To all my fellow BBA Bakers, I wish you well and hope to continue seeing all of the wonderful bread and other goodies you’ll be baking.

So what’s next…

I bid farewell to the BBA Challenge, but look forward to new experiences with the Mellow Bakers Group and continuing baking with the HBinFive Group and canning with the tigress can jam

I’ve also got a few other surprises that I look forward to sharing with you so please come back for a visit soon.


Happy Baking!


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Potato, Cheddar & Chive Torpedos: BBA

We’re almost finished with the BBA Challenge!  Forty-two breads baked, one more to go!  #42 is Potato, Cheddar & Chive Torpedos. 

These batards are made using the mixed-method which means it utilizes wild yeast spiked with commercial yeast.  I like how Peter Reinhart describes these loaves: “They pucker open with a grigne of crispy Cheddar cheese, followed by a beautiful soft cheese spiral highlighted with bits of green chives.”

I loved this bread!  It was so good.  I thought it was very fitting that Mr. Reinhart saved this bread and the next one for the end of the book.  He tells a very interesting story of Tim and Crystal Decker; then shares two of the most popular breads from their Bennett Valley Bread and Pastry Bakery.  This is one of those extraordinary breads.  Tim bakes his breads in a wood-fired oven, but I’ll have to make do with a simulated hearth oven.

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Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedos

Makes: two 1 1/2-pound loaves

Adapted from: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart


  • 1 large or 2 small unpeeled potatoes, coarsely chopped, boiled in 3 cups water until soft, and cooled. *
  • 1/2 to 1 cup potato water, lukewarm (saved from above)
  • 1 1/2 cups of mature sourdough starter
  • 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 6 thin slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

* Yukon Gold or regular baking potatoes will work for this recipe, depending on your preference.


Prepare the potatoes in advance and let them cool to lukewarm.  Set the potatoes and lukewarm water aside until needed.

Take the sourdough starter out of the refrigerator and measure the required amount.  Let it sit for 1 hour before making the bread to take off the chill.

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Stir together the starter, half of the flour, the yeast, cooked potatoes, and 1/2 cup of the potato water in a mixing bowl. 

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Let the mixture rest uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the rest of the flour and the salt and mix together until the ingredients form a ball.  Add as much of the remaining water as necessary.

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Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 6 minutes, adding flour or water as necessary.

Add the chives and continue kneading until they are evenly distributed.  This will take about 2 minutes.

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The dough should be very tacky but not sticky.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it in oil.

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Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough bulk ferment at room temperature for about 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

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Transfer the dough to the counter and cut it into 2 equal pieces.

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Press each piece into the shape of a rectangle approximately 6 inches wide by 8 inches long.  Place slices of cheese on each rectangle.  You can use more cheese if you like to give it more cheese flavor.bba-potato-cheddar-chive-torpedo 016

Tightly roll up the dough, from bottom to top, jelly-roll style, creating a spiral with the cheese.

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It should look like a log.

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Seal the ends of the rolled dough into points.  This will give them a torpedo shape, plump in the center and tapered at the ends.  I’m not sure if I achieved that, but I liked the way they looked.

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Place the loaves on a sheet of parchment paper sprayed with spray oil and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Mist the tops lightly with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough nearly doubles in size.

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Prepare the oven for hearth baking by placing a steam pan in place.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Score the top of each loaf with 2 diagonal slashes, making sure to cut through to the first layer of cheese.

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Slide the loaves onto the baking stone. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the walls with water, and close the door.

Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals, then lower the oven setting to 450 and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  After 15 minutes, rotate the breads 180 degrees for even baking. 

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The loaves should be nicely browned all over, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.  The cheese will bubble out of the cuts, crisp up, and also brown.

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Transfer the baked loaves to a wire rack and cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving.

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This was hard to do with this bread. It looked so good, I just wanted to eat it right when it came out of the oven, but I refrained and waited until it cooled to slice it. 

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Then I sliced it.  You can see the hole where the cheese melted through.  Yummy!

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On this one, you can actually see the cheese spiral.  And yes, I did eat both of those slices and enjoyed them immensely.  I didn’t need another taste tester for this one.

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I will definitely make this bread again.   It is a keeper for sure.

Thanks for joining us again in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.


These Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedos have been YeastSpotted. Please visit Wild Yeast to view all of the lovely breads in the roundup.


Happy Baking!