Monday, 31 January 2011

Togus Steamed Bread: BBD 36

Bread Baking Day BBD #36 is hosted by Heather of GirliChef. The theme for this month’s bread baking day is CORNy breads. I like that!

Togus Bread is a sweet, rich bread that the colonists adapted from the steamed cornmeal bread of the Algonquian-speaking peoples, who dominated most of northeastern America. It is cooked on the stove in a pot of steaming water and is similar to Boston Brown Bread. I’ve been wanting to make this particular bread for awhile so this event provided me with the perfect opportunity.

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Togus Bread

Source: The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon


  • 2 cups stone-ground white cornmeal, plus extra for dusting the molds
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon white sugar (or granulated maple sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (I used homemade buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
  • 3/4 cup dried blueberries or cranberries (I used cranberries)

Other Items/Equipment needed:

Large Pot (must be big enough to  hold the breads in their molds, the trivets, the water the breads cook in, and it must have a tight-fitting lid).  I used a Dutch oven.

Molds for steaming the bread. (coffee cans, soup or tomato cans or bread molds)

Heat-proof trivet (a few metal canning rings, some wadded-up foil, or a cake rack) to keep the mold from coming in contact with the bottom of the pot, thus preventing the bread baking inside from burning.

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Aluminum foil for top of molds
Kitchen string or rubber bands
Boiling water, for steaming the bread
Cooking spray for spraying the molds



Get the molds, a heat-proof trivet, and a pot to steam your bread in. Wash and dry the molds and spray the insides thoroughly with oil, and dust the insides with cornmeal. 

I used 1-pound coffee cans. These cans had a rim at the top and the bread would get stuck so I had to get creative. I used a can opener to remove the lid from the bottom and then turned the can over and pushed the lid to the top which was now the bottom. I’ve used these molds several times now and the breads don’t get stuck at the top, but my little experiment also makes it easier to remove the bread because you can slide the bread up and out of the can using the lid like a spring form pan. Just be careful not to touch the edges of the lid since they are probably jagged from the can opener.

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Stir together the cornmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

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Whisk together the buttermilk and maple syrup in a small bowl. Combine the wet and dry mixtures, stirring just enough to blend well but not overbeating.

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Stir in the dry fruit with a few quick strokes.

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Scrape the batter into the prepared molds filling each about two-thirds of the way full.  I didn’t think the batter would fit in one mold so I used two. Not sure that was necessary because the loaves didn’t rise that much.

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Tear off a piece of foil that is twice as large as the mouth of a mold.  Fold in half, and spray one side with oil.  Place it oiled-side down on top of the mold, puffing it up a bit to allow for the bread’s expansion as it steams.  Repeat with any remaining molds. Secure each piece of foil tightly with kitchen string or a rubber band.

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Place the trivet in the cooking vessel. I started out using canning rings, but they kept slipping underneath the molds so I switched to my trivets.  If I use canning rings again, I will try the larger size and see if that works better.

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Place the molds on top of the trivets.

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Pour enough boiling water into the cooking vessel to come halfway up the sides of the molds.  Secure the lid of the vessel.  The lid to my Dutch oven is not completely tight so I put a glass lid on top of it to hold it down.  It worked pretty well to keep the steam in.

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Steam the bread for about 3 1/2 hours, then test the bread with a long skewer.  Make sure you get way down deep into the bread’s interior to make sure it’s done.  The bread should be moist in the middle but not sticky.  If the bread is sticky when you test it, steam it a little bit longer.  It it’s wet, keep steaming and check it about every 20 minutes until the moist-but-not sticky point is reached.  It takes awhile.

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When the bread is done, remove it from the cooking vessel, and let it cool in the molds, uncovered, on a rack, for at least 45 minutes.

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Reverse the bread out of the molds – it should come out quite easily – slice it, and serve.

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This bread is really good!  It reminds me of date nut bread and Boston Brown Bread. Enjoy it for breakfast or a snack spread with cream cheese.  Yum!


Heather of GirliChef is hosting BreadBakingDay #36. Be sure to check out all of the fabulous breads in the BBD #36 Roundup.


BreadBakingDay was created by Zorra of  Read more about Bread Baking Day and access the previous roundups on her blog.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hildegard’s Spelt Bread

This month I baked along with the Bread Baking Babes and Friends. The bread of the month was Hildegard’s Spelt Bread. It is 100% spelt bread. I’ve made spelt bread before but with a mixture of whole grain spelt and white bread flour or all-purpose flour. Making a bread using all spelt flour and spelt flakes was a new experience for me.

I almost passed this one up simply because I didn’t have any spelt flakes. However, after reading the background information about St. Hildegard, the twelfth century healer, on Astrid of Paulchens FoodBlog, I was really intrigued and just couldn’t pass this one up. I found some white spelt flour and the spelt flakes at whole foods market so I decided to give that a try instead of using whole grain spelt.

I found it very interesting that Eden Foods, the makers of the spelt flakes, included this quote from St. Hildegard on their packaging.

“Spelt produces a strong body and healthy blood for those who eat it and makes the spirit of man light and cheerful.”

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What’s all the fuss about spelt flour?

"Spelt is one of the super grains. It contains the eight essential amino acids and it is about 60% higher in protein than wheat and contains B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.  It has a deliciously light, nutty flavor and has been grown and eaten around the world for the last 5,000 years. Even though spelt is high in protein, it is a non-hybrid grain and contains low gluten so it is tolerable by some wheat-sensitive individuals. Source: Cooking with Chef Brad: Those Wonderful Grains II by Brad E. Peterson.


How do you use spelt in breads?

You can substitute spelt in anything in which wheat flour is used. However, according to Purity Foods, the company that reintroduced spelt into North America in 1987, there are some important considerations that need to be taken into account when working with spelt.  Source:

1) You must use the correct amount of water. Too much, and the dough is sticky and weak and will not be able to hold the gasses that are produced during the fermentation process. Too little, and the dough will be dry and dense. It will not rise properly because the water never fully gets into the protein and there is nothing to hold the loaf up. Also, the dense loaf is too tight to allow the yeast gases to expand the loaf.

2) You must also mix it just right. Too little mixing causes the dough to be crumbly (one of the problems you mention) and it will not develop the necessary protein to cause it to expand properly. A dough mixed too long will break down the fragile protein strands that hold in the gases. The first few minutes of mixing are critical, the company says. From the moment you add the water to the flour, you should take no more than 4 minutes to mix the dough completely.


Hildegard’s Spelt Bread

Makes: 2 loaves

Armed with my spelt flour and spelt flakes and St. Hildegard’s recipe, I set out to make the spelt bread.

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Here is the recipe as Astrid presented it.  My notes are in italics.


  • 400 grams spelt flakes
  • 600 grams white spelt flour
  • 15 grams salt
  • 40 grams fresh yeast (or 16 grams active dry)
  • 200 ml milk, lukewarm
  • 500 ml water, lukewarm
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil


Mix spelt flakes and spelt flour with the salt. Dissolve yeast in milk and combine everything to a sponge.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15-20 minutes.  This produces a very crumbly dough.  According to the directions, you’re not supposed to worry about that, but I didn’t want the bread to be dry and dense (as the above observations suggest) so I added a little more milk. 

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Add water and lemon juice to the sponge and knead for at least 15 minutes gradually adding the sunflower oil.  I used the food processor for this part.  I had been sick so I didn’t have the energy to knead dough for 15 minutes by hand.  I also added a little less water since I had added additional milk to the sponge.

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Form dough ball and coat with warm water. It wasn’t exactly a dough ball.

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Cover again with kitchen towel and let double in size. Knead for another 2-3 minutes.

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Cut dough in 2 equal halves and place each in a prepared baking pan.  The dough was a little bit sticky so I spread it in the two loaf pans rather than cutting it.

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Cut the surface of both breads about 5 mm deep and let rise again until doubled in size. (Top with more spelt flakes, if you wish)

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Bake the first 15 minutes at 200 °C [400F], then lower heat to 195 °C [385F] and bake for another 30 minutes.

Let the loaves cool on a wire cooling rack.

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I was very pleased with the results of this spelt bread.  I couldn’t seem to get enough of it. I think it’s because I had been sick and my body was craving the nutrients in it.  So there may be something to what they say about the healing qualities of spelt.  All I know is that I loved this bread and so did my boyfriend.

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I froze one of the loaves so we’ll see how well it freezes.  I’m still enjoying the other loaf.  I’ve been having slices toasted with butter for breakfast and snacks.  I feel like I’m eating really healthy. Yum!


Happy Baking!


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Pomegranate and Pear Jam

Pomegranates are gorgeous in color and delicious in flavor. They contain healthy antioxidants and can be used in all kinds of juices, teas and even sodas. I’ve never really given them much credit though because of the effort it takes to extract the arils. This Pomegranate and Pear Jam changed my mind about that. 

I saw this delicious recipe in the November issue of Cooking Light, then I found these beautiful crimson globes in the market and couldn’t resist. I’ve been enjoying this jam with all kinds of bread, but especially with Cheese and Chive Challah, the Simple Milk Loaf and Pullman Bread.

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Extracting the juices from these gems is a bit messy, but worth the effort.  I used my chinos to do this part.  It made things a bit easier.

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Pomegranate and Pear Jam

Source: Cooking Light, November 2010

Yields: 2 cups

This jam is not canned for long-term storage.  It is refrigerated and if you’re like me, it won’t stay around very long. 


  • 2  cups  sugar
  • 2  cups  chopped, peeled Seckel (or other) pear
  • 2/3  cup  strained fresh pomegranate juice (about 2 pomegranates)
  • 1/4  cup  rose wine
  • 1/4  cup  pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2  teaspoon  butter
  • 2  tablespoons  fruit pectin for less- or no-sugar recipes (such as Sure-Jell in pink box)
  • 1  tablespoon  grated lemon rind
  • 1  teaspoon  minced fresh rosemary


Combine sugar, pear, pomegranate juice, and wine in a large saucepan over medium heat; stir until sugar melts.

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Bring to a simmer; simmer 25 minutes or until pear is tender. Remove from heat; mash with a potato masher.

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Add pomegranate seeds and butter; bring to a boil.

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Stir in fruit pectin. Return mixture to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

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Remove from heat; stir in lemon rind and rosemary.

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Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill overnight.

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This Pomegranate and Pear Jam has become one of my favorites.  I love the lemon and rosemary undertones.  Delish!


Nutritional Information:

Calories: 90
Fat: 0.3g (sat 0.1g)
Sodium: 1mg

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Pullman Bread: Mellow Bakers

The final bread in the Mellow Bakers’ lineup for January is Pullman Bread. Pullman Bread gets its name from it’s former use on the long distance Pullman trains in the United States. In France, however, it is referred to as pain de mie, or “bread of crumb,” because it has very little crust. It is usually baked in a rectangular straight-sided pullman pan which gives it a firm crust and a delicious crumb.  It makes excellent toast!

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Most of the Pullman Breads that I’ve seen are made with all white bread flour and are similar to the Simple Milk Loaf I made a few days ago. However, I have seen a few versions that include a portion of whole wheat flour in addition to the white bread flour. Since I had just made an all white sandwich bread, I wanted something different. So I made my version using white bread flour and about 35% clear flour.

Clear flour is flour that clears the first sifting (to separate out the bran and germ).  It still retains some of the finer bran fiber from the outer endosperm of the wheat berry and is thus coarser and contains higher levels of ash. It is usually made from very strong, high-protein wheat. I used whole wheat flour home-milled from hard red spring wheat for this bread. Hard red spring wheat has a higher level of protein than hard red winter wheat due to the shorter growing season.

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Here is the sifted bran. I saved it for use in another recipe.  

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Light Wheat Pullman Bread

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

Makes: 1 pullman loaf with dough left over for 1 small loaf


  • 4 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (sifted once to remove the bran)
  • 5 tablespoons milk powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 – 2 7/8 cups water (lukewarm)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/4 instant or active dry yeast



Mixing: Mix all of the ingredients in a spiral mixer until they are thoroughly incorporated.  The dough consistency should be medium.  You want to develop a fairly strong gluten network.  Desired dough temperature is 78 to 80 degrees F.

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Bulk Fermentation: Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a linen towel and let it ferment in the bowl for 2 hours. Fold the dough once, after 1 hour of fermentation. 

This is the dough after 1 hour of fermentation.  I folded the dough and put it back in the bowl.

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I was doing other things while the dough was fermenting so I let it ferment a little bit longer than the suggested 2 hours.  This is what the dough looked like after 2 1/4 hours. Oops!

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Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into appropriate-sized pieces. My pullman pan measures 13 by 3-1/4 by 3-3/4 inches so I used 2.25 pounds of dough and had about 1 pound or so left over.  I preshaped two pieces (one big and one small) into rounds, covered them with plastic, and let them rest on an unfloured counter for about 15 to 20 minutes.

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Then I shaped the big round into a long cylinder with no tapers at the ends.

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I placed the dough in the pullman pan to rise.  The dough came about halfway up the sides.  Maybe a little bit more.

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I slid the lid on it and hoped for the best.  I put it in the oven with the light on to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half as the recipe suggested.

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Well, it rose all right. Right out of the pan. It didn’t take an hour. It oozed out of the lid and made a big mess.  Fortunately, I had greased the pan and lid really well so the clean up was fairly easy. After I had removed the sunken dough from the pan, I reshaped it and put it back in the pan to rise. I figured I might as well try it and see what happened.

In the meantime, I had shaped the smaller dough ball into an oval shape (sort of).

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It rose really well so I scored it and let it rest on the counter while the oven preheated to 400 degrees F.

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When the oven had preheated, I placed the loaf on the middle rack with a steam pan underneath. 

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I baked the loaf until it was golden brown and sounded hollow when thumped on the bottom.  It was delicious!

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Now, it was time to check the pullman bread again to see if it had risen enough but not too much this time.  It’s supposed to rise within 1/2 inch from the top of the pan.  There you go…

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I slid the lid back on and baked the loaf at 400 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes.  Then, I slid the lid off to see if it had an even golden brown color all around and a perfectly even crust.  Voila!

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I removed the loaf from the pan as soon as I took it out of the oven.  If you leave these loaves in the pans, they will sweat from condensation and that would mess up the nice firm crust.

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After the loaf had cooled, I cut it into slices and put the slices into two bags.  It’s a long bread so it made about 24 slices.  I froze one bag and I’ve been enjoying the other pieces toasted with jam for breakfast.  I’ve also had a slice or two with peanut butter. It passed the test!

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This was a very forgiving dough. It performed well even when I overproofed it.  It has a terrific flavor.  This is definitely a keeper.  My taste tester really liked it as well.


This bread has been YeastSpotted. Please visit Wild Yeast to view all of the lovely breads in the roundup.

The Mellow Bakers are baking breads from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman. Feel free to join us.


Thanks for visiting the Bread Experience bread-baking blog.  I hope you’ll join me again soon.

Happy Baking!