Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Soft Pretzels: BBB (Bread Baking Babes)

I’m baking along with the Bread Baking Babes and Friends this month. Elle is the hostess and she chose Soft Pretzels.  I love pretzels, especially the soft ones so I’m delighted to be baking along with this talented group of bakers.  Elle gives an interesting account of the history behind pretzels on her blog. You might want to check it out.

These pretzels are really easy to make and the dough is great to work with. I’ve been eating them for snacks. I topped some of them with kosher salt and some with cinnamon sugar.  Delicious!



Soft Pretzels

Yield: 12 Pretzels (serving size: 1 pretzel)

Source: Cooking Light OCTOBER 2005:


  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.


  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.


  3. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°.


  4. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends.


  5. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle.






  6. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).


  7. Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a nonaluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds.


  8. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.


  9. Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt.


  10. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.



  11. To make Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzels: When you put on the egg glaze in the above recipe, don't add any toppings. As you can see in the photo above, six of the pretzels are plain. When the pretzels are baked and still a little warm, dip them in melted butter and then into a cinnamon-sugar mixture.

    I made six cinnamon sugar pretzels.



    And six pretzels topped with kosher salt.



Thanks for joining me in the bread-baking blog. 

Happy Baking!




Sunday, 25 September 2011

Classic Tomato Soup from the Garden

Nothing beats the taste of fresh tomatoes from the garden.  At least that is what I’ve always heard. I had never really been fond of tomatoes regardless of whether they were fresh from the garden or from the market.  That is, until I started growing my own tomatoes. There’s just something about growing your own food that makes you appreciate the flavor of food more and gives you a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are eating healthy. 

Even though I didn’t care too much for raw tomatoes growing up, I have always enjoyed dishes made with tomatoes, particularly tomato soup. When you pair tomato soup with crusty bread or a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s comfort food at it’s finest.

I picked a bunch of tomatoes from my garden the other day and since the weather has gotten a little bit cooler, I decided to make tomato soup - again.  This Classic Tomato Soup is made with Roma tomatoes and herbs from my garden.



A friend came over for dinner the other night and I served this tomato soup with the Garden Tomato Bread I posted about a few days ago.


The combination of the tomato soup and bread was delicious! I think this is my favorite tomato soup so far. It’s smooth and creamy, but it doesn’t have any milk or cream in it. My friend enjoyed this soup so much that he texted me a couple of days later and said “The soup is still on my mind. Next time you make it, make a couple of extra bowls 4 me”. I still have a bunch of tomatoes so I don’t’ think that will be a problem.


Classic Tomato Soup

Yield: 8 cups

From: Fine Cooking Magazine 91, pp. 55; January 16, 2008


  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, puréed (include the juice)  (I used fresh Roma tomatoes)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (or more to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh basil, chives, or dill, or a mixture of all three



  1. I used about 44 ounces of fresh Roma tomatoes. I blanched them in boiling hot water, then put them in ice cold water and the peels came right off.



  2. In a nonreactive 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onion and garlic.



  3. Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture to make sure that the flour is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.



  4. Discard the thyme sprig. Let cool briefly and then purée in two or three batches in a blender or food processor.



  5. Rinse the pot and return the soup to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat if necessary. Serve warm but not hot, garnished with the herbs.



    Note: This soup stores beautifully and tastes better the second day. You can keep it in the refrigerator as long as you bring it to a boil every two days. Or you can stash it in the freezer for up to three months.

    nutrition information (per serving):
    Calories (kcal): 110; Fat (g): 5; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 1.5; Protein (g): 3; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3; Carbohydrates (g): 11; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5; Sodium (mg): 430; Cholesterol (mg): 5; Fiber (g): 2;

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Garden Tomato Bread

What does a bread baker do with an abundance of homegrown tomatoes?  She makes Tomato Bread, that’s what!

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog (and to anyone that will listen), I’ve had a wonderful harvest of tomatoes from my container and straw bale gardens this year. I’ve been having lot’s of fun making tomato soup, and canning tomato sauce, salsa, pasta sauce and slow-roasted tomatoes. I’ve even put three quart-size jars (and still counting) of lemon cherry tomatoes in the freezer.

I still have a bunch of tomatoes waiting to be eaten and even more on the bushes waiting to ripen.  So I started looking for different ways to use the tomatoes. 

I happened upon this Garden Tomato Bread and thought it would be the perfect match. It is made with homegrown tomatoes and fresh herbs and even includes some pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  When you bite into this bread, it’s like eating a slice of garden.  And, when you pair the bread with some homemade classic tomato soup, you’ve got yourself a delicious and local meal. 



I was really excited to serve a meal made from my urban garden so I invited a friend over for dinner the other night. He liked the combination of this bread and the tomato soup so much that he said I needed to market it. I decided to blog about it instead.


Garden Tomato Bread Recipe

Makes: Two 2-pound loaves

Recipe adapted from: Sunset Magazine, November 2001


  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (I used instant)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 3 1/2 cups of tomato chunks)
  • Biga (recipe below), at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (I didn’t have any fresh parsley so I used a few teaspoons of dried parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used freshly milled whole wheat flour)
  • About 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • About 1/4 cup cornmeal (for sprinkling on the baking sheet)


  1. Making the Biga: In a bowl, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast over 1/4 cup warm (100° to 110°) water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cold water. With a wood spoon, stir in 1 1/2 cups bread flour until mixture forms a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 12 to 24 hours. Let come to room temperature before using, about 1 hour.


  2. Rinse and Core Tomatoes: Rinse and core tomatoes; cut each in half crosswise. Squeeze juice and seeds into a bowl; cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks. You need 1/4 cup juice with seeds (if you have less than 1/4 cup, add water to make up the difference; if you have more, discard extra) and 3 1/2 cups tomato chunks. I didn’t have quite 3 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes so I used what I had and all of the juice from the tomatoes (about 1/2 cup) instead of 1/4 cup. I omitted the 1/4 cup water.


  3. Mixing the Dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer or another large bowl, sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup warm (100° to 110°) water. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. I used instant yeast so this part wasn’t necessary. I just added all of the dry ingredients together, then mixed in the wet ingredients using the mixer.


  4. Add biga, tomatoes and juice, tomato paste, parsley, sage, garlic, thyme, pepper, whole-wheat flour, 2 cups bread flour, and salt to yeast mixture. Beat with paddle attachment on low speed, or stir with a heavy spoon,until well blended. Gradually beat or stir in 1 1/2 more cups bread flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until mixture forms a soft dough.


  5. Switch to a dough hook and beat on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic and pulls cleanly from sides of bowl but is still slightly sticky, 6 to 8 minutes; or scrape dough onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand until smooth and elastic but still slightly sticky, 7 to 10 minutes. Add pumpkin and sunflower seeds and beat in with dough hook or knead in by hand just until incorporated (after mixing in by hand, place dough in a bowl).


  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let dough rise at room temperature until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Punch down with your hand to expel air.


  7. Re-cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Or for a slow rise, chill at least 8 and up to 12 hours; let come to room temperature, about 3 hours.


  8. Scrape dough onto a well-floured board (or counter) and knead briefly to expel air. 


  9. Divide in half.


  10. With lightly floured hands, gather each half into a ball, then stretch and tuck edges under to shape into a smooth round ball. Place loaves on a well-floured surface, dust lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until they're slightly puffy and hold the imprint of a finger when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours. I placed the balls into banneton baskets to proof.


  11. Sprinkle a 13- by 17-inch baking sheet generously with cornmeal. Transfer loaves, one at a time, to sheet, spacing 2 to 3 inches apart. With a sharp knife, slash a 1-inch-deep X on top of each loaf. Place sheet on rack in lower third of a 450° regular or convection oven. 
  12. Or, if using a baking stone, gently slide edge of cornmeal-covered baking sheet under one loaf and lift it onto end of sheet. Slash as directed above, then gently slide loaf onto one side of stone in oven, leaving room for second loaf. Repeat to slash and transfer second loaf.  I used a baking stone so I placed the loaves on the parchment paper and used a baking sheet to transfer the loaves to the preheated stone.


  13. Spray 3 to 4 squirts of water on floor or sides of oven, taking care not to spray near heating element or light bulb, then quickly close door.
  14. Bake bread, spraying twice more at 5-minute intervals during the first 10 minutes of baking, until crust is well browned, 35 to 45 minutes total.
  15. Transfer loaves to a rack to cool for at least 1 hour.


  16. Store in paper bags at room temperature up to 2 days. To recrisp the crust, place loaves directly on a rack in a 400° oven and bake for about 5 minutes.



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

    Happy Baking!


    Nutritional Information

    Nutritional analysis per ounce.

    Amount per serving

    • Calories: 82
    • Calories from fat: 7.7%
    • Protein: 2.9g
    • Fat: 0.7g
    • Saturated fat: 0.1g
    • Carbohydrate: 16g
    • Fiber: 1.5g
    • Sodium: 152mg
    • Cholesterol: 0.0mg

Monday, 19 September 2011

Mixed-Flour Miche with high extraction flour

A Mixed-Flour Miche is a huge country loaf made with a stiff-texture levain and high-extraction flour.  According to Jeffrey Hammelman, this bread is similar to the type of large, naturally fermented whole-grain loaves that were common on country tables for centuries throughout Europe. So when we eat this bread, we’re enjoying a bit of history.  I like that!



In case you’re wondering, high-extraction flour is whole-wheat flour that is sifted to a partial whole wheat, a 90 to 95% extraction rate. You can buy high-extraction flour, or you can sift medium-to-coarse whole-wheat flour to obtain high-extraction flour.  In this formula, Hammelman uses a flour that has an ash content of about .92 percent. The ash content is the amount of bran that remains when the wheat grains have been milled into flour.

I mill my own whole wheat flour so I decided to do an experiment to see if I could determine the percentage of extraction and get to 92% or something close.  Now let me just say that I’m not a mathematician but I figured I could do this.

I measured 3.2 ounces (3/4 cup) of medium-grind Hard Red Spring Whole Wheat Flour and sifted it to determine how much of the bran/germ was removed.  I ended up with 3.17 ounces of flour after sifting it once and 3.10 ounces after sifting it twice.  I performed this experiment a few times and each time I got the same result.  So I determined that if I use the same flour and sift it once, I end up with a .935% extraction and sifting it twice leaves a .914% extraction.  I decided to go with the .914% extraction for this bread.



You can do this experiment even if you don’t mill your own grains.  Just choose a hard red spring or winter wheat, or one with a bread flour gluten specification of 11.5 to 13 percent.  Use a medium-to-coarse grind because the fine grind will pass right through the sieve.  Run it through the sieve or sifter.  The smaller particles of bran and germ will sift through, but the larger pieces will remain in the sieve. Refer to the above photo.

Another method is to blend half whole-wheat flour and half bread flour or you can even use all whole wheat for this bread.


I used the Mixed-Flour Miche formula from the Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman

I didn’t change the formula so I’m not posting it, but you can find an adapted version here.


As I mentioned the loaf was huge. However, it fit perfectly in my La Cloche baker.



So I proofed it and baked it in the bell-shaped baker.



After the loaf has baked and cooled, you’re supposed to wrap it in baker’s linen and let it sit for at least 12 hours before slicing and eating.


I waited about 18 hours and then sliced it and tried it.  It was chewy and very tangy. It reminded me of a typical chewy sourdough rye bread.  Not exactly my cup of tea (or slice of bread rather), but I enjoyed making it. 


This bread has good keeping qualities and it tastes better (to me) after a couple of days.  It can keep for about a week at room temperature.


I had dinner with my friend from Eastern Europe the other night and I gave him a slice of this bread.  He took one bite and his eyes lit up.  He said, “Sourdough Rye. Oh!  This is so good!”  So I gave him the rest of the loaf.  He was only too happy to receive it. That made me very happy.  I knew there was a reason I made this bread.


Mellow Bakers was started by Paul at Yumarama. We’re baking breads from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.


Happy Baking!


Resources for Home Milling

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Whole Grain and Emmer Challah with Apples and Honey

The HBinFive Challenge is winding down. I haven’t made all of the breads in the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes book but I wanted to at least finish the race.  With only a couple of bread braids to go, I decided I better get baking. The breads for the September 15th Bread Braid include Apple and Honey Whole Grain Challah and Sweet Potato and Spelt Bread.

The challah, shaped like a turban, is a delicious Fall bread made with whole wheat, apples and honey. It was a fun bread to make. I added some Emmer flour in addition to the whole wheat and all-purpose flour.  So my version became Whole Grain and Emmer Challah with Apples and Honey.  The Sweet Potato Spelt Bread also sounds really good so I hope to get to that one next time.



Whole Grain and Emmer Challah with apples and Honey

Makes: 2 Medium Loaves (about 1.5 pounds each)

Adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois


  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Emmer flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 1/4 cups water, lukewarm
  • 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large baking apples (I used Fiji apples)
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on the loaf
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling on top



  1. Peel, core the apples and cut them into 1/2-inch dice.  



  2. Mix together the flours, wheat germ, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a large bowl using a whisk or a wooden spoon.



  3. Combine the liquid ingredients and dates. 



  4. Incorporate them into the dry ingredients using a Danish dough whisk or a wooden spoon.



  5. Cover the bowl (or container) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses, about 2 hours. Refrigerate the dough for at least 24 hours and up to 5 days.



  6. When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator, dust it lightly with flour and shape it into a ball. Let the ball rest for about 5 minutes before further shaping.



  7. Gently roll and stretch the dough, dusting with flour so that your hands don’t stick to it, until you have a cylinder.  Thin out one end so it is tapered.



  8. Keeping the thick end stationary, wind the thinner end around it and, finally, tuck it underneath to seal. Place the turban on a greased cookie sheet or one with parchment paper, and allow to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap for 90 minutes.



  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash, and then sprinkle the crust with sesame seeds.


  10. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until browned and firm.


  11. Allow the challah to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving.


    I brought this challah to a get together and it was received very well.  It’s healthy and delicious! 

    This bread is also very photogenic so I took lots of pictures. 



    I especially liked the way the Challah looked in this Bamboo Turtle Bag.



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


    Happy Baking!


About the HBinFive Baking Group


The HBinFive Baking Group was started by Michelle of BigBlackDog.  We have been baking through the breads in the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes book.