Monday, 31 October 2011

Pizza Night and the squishy dough balls


To celebrate National Pizza Month, we had pizza night at my sister’s house the other day. I brought some of Peter Reinhart’s Country Pizza Dough from the Pizza Quest site and some whole wheat dough. I made the dough balls the day before so all I had to do was take them out of the refrigerator and let them rest in a baking pan while in transit to my sister’s house. 

Of course, things don’t always work out the way you plan. On the way to my sister’s house, the dough balls slid on the seat of my car and squished together.  I had to reshape them before making the pizzas.  At least the pan didn’t slide off the seat. That happened to me on Easter one year when I was transporting an unbaked braided Easter Bread to the family get together. But, that’s another story.

Needless to say, I didn’t take any photos of the dough balls. The dough was sort of a mess when I got to my sister’s house, but I just reshaped the balls and let them rest while the baking stone was preheating.  Then I spread out the pizzas on parchment paper and par baked the dough. Everything turned out okay.

My niece and her children were there so I made individual cheese and pepperoni pizzas for the kids. I let the kids top their own pizzas and that turned out to be a big hit. Payton enjoyed posing for the camera with her pizza masterpiece.



She also enjoyed eating her pizza.



Caleb had already finished his pizza, but he didn’t want to miss out on a photo op, so here he is enjoying his dessert. 



I made Pizza Margherita for the adults using the Country Pizza Dough. This is the pizza before it was baked.  It’s topped with pizza sauce, herbs, mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes and basil from my garden.



Basil shrivels up after it’s baked so the before-baked photo looks better than the after-baked photo, but the pizza tasted really good.  I almost didn’t get any it went so fast.



I had some Tartine Whole Wheat dough left from the bread I made for World Bread Day so I decided to bring some for the pizza party. The Tartine Whole Wheat Bread is an artisan-style loaf so I thought it might do well as a pizza dough. The dough didn’t have any olive oil in it so I rubbed olive oil on the top of the dough before I par baked it.

The last pizza of the night was topped with pizza sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, pepperoni, fresh basil and dried herbs.



It was actually pretty good considering the dough was a whole wheat bread dough and not a pizza dough per se. I could taste the whole wheat flavor but it wasn’t overpowering.  I thought the flavors blended together really well.  Everyone else enjoyed it as well.



Thanks for joining me in the bread baking blog.  I hope you enjoyed my pizza party. I love pizza so this was a good opportunity to enjoy some.  Not that I need an excuse.

Happy Baking!



Here are some resources for making pizza:

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fougasse: Provencal Bread with Herbs

The Bread Baking Babes are at it again.  Elizabeth of Our Kitchen is the host for October and she chose Fougasse as the bread of the month.  I’ve never made Fougasse so I was delighted to be baking this bread along with the Bread Baking Babes and Friends. I’m also excited that I was able to make this bread completely by hand. I’m on the road to pain free and it’s a wonderful thing. Read on to find out why.

Fougasse is a traditional southern French flatbread that can be flavored with herbs, olives, and lardons (fried bacon or pork belly). Since I’m not big on olives or pork belly, and I wanted to give my physical therapist a loaf, I opted to make my version with Herbes de Provence. As it turns out, my physical therapist doesn’t like olives either so I’m glad I went with the herbs. I incorporated the herbs in the dough and left the outside plain so I could serve it toasted and spread with Roasted Red Pepper Spread and shaved parmesan cheese.



We had the option of using whatever dough we wanted so I chose Baguette dough from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread. I loved working with this dough. It’s buttery smooth. I made the rustic ladder shape (demonstrated in Tartine Bread) rather than the festive ear-of-wheat-shaped loaf. I’ll have to try the other shape next time because it makes for a beautiful display.

I wanted to give a loaf to my physical therapist because she’s been helping me get the strength back in my left arm. I got tennis elbow from gardening (and other activities) this past Spring, and I’ve been in pain for months. I started physical therapy a few weeks ago and I’m almost pain free.  Not quite, but I’m getting there.  I can lift some things now without wincing with pain or dropping them on the floor.  Soon, I’ll be able to knead dough by hand instead of using the stand mixer.  I can’t wait!  Don’t get me wrong, the stand mixer is a great tool, but there’s just something so therapeutic about working and kneading the dough with your hands.



This dough doesn’t require any kneading so I was able to use my hands, literally, to incorporate the dough and then fold and turn it in the bowl during the 3-4 hour fermentation period. This dough is easy enough to turn in the bowl using just one hand.


Fougasse made with Baguette Dough

Makes: 3 Loaves

Adapted from: Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson



  • 200 grams all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams water
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast


  • 1 tablespoon mature starter
  • 220 grams all-purpose flour
  • 220 grams water

Baguette Dough:

  • 400 grams Leaven
  • 500 grams water
  • 400 grams poolish
  • 650 grams all-purpose flour
  • 350 grams bread flour
  • 24 grams salt
  • rice flour for dusting



Make the poolish: In a bowl, mix the flour, water, and yeast. Let stand for 3 to 4 hours at a warm room temperature (75 to 80 degrees F.) or overnight in the refrigerator. I opted to retard the poolish in the refrigerator overnight so it would be ready at the same time as the leaven.

Make the leaven: Place the mature starter in a bowl and feed it with the flour and water.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the starter rise overnight at a cool room temperature (65 degrees F.)

The poolish and the leaven will be ready to use once they pass the float test.  The next morning, I tested the leaven first and it passed the float test right away.



The poolish had to warm up to room temperature and then it passed the float test.



You only need 400 grams of the leaven for this bread so you can refresh the remainder and maintain it as your starter.


Make the Baguette Dough:

Pour warm water into a large bowl.  Add the poolish and the leaven and stir to disperse. 



Add the all-purpose and bread flour. Use your hands to mix the dough until all of the dry bits of flour have been incorporated.  I started out using a Danish Dough Whisk, but found out pretty quickly that I was going to have to finish it with my hands.



So I wet my hand and worked the dough until no dry bits of flour remained. Let the dough rest for 25 to 40 minutes.



Transfer the dough to a plastic container or a larger bowl and begin the bulk fermentation.  The temperature should be about 75 degrees F. Turn the dough about every 40 minutes using this method. Add the salt and the herbs with the first turn. I added the salt first and thoroughly incorporated it into the dough.



Then I added about 3 teaspoons of Herbes de Provence and mixed it in with my hands. 



Let the dough bulk ferment for 3 to 4 hours.



When the bulk fermentation is complete, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. 



Divide the dough into pieces using this method. I divided it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rectangle with rounded corners.  Let rest on the work surface for 30 minutes.

Working with one dough rectangle at a time, fold the third of the dough closest to you up and over the middle third.  Holding the ends of the dough, stretch it slightly.  Fold the right third of the dough over the middle of the dough, and then fold the left third over the middle and the previous fold. Next, fold the third of the dough farthest from you over the middle as if closing the flap of an envelope.  Press on this flap to develop tension in the dough.  Using your palms and fingers together, roll the dough toward you; with each successive roll, press with the outer edge of your palms and fingers to further develop tension in the dough.  You should end up with a slightly rectangular cylinder with the seam facing down.  Using a bench knife, flip the loaf onto a flour-dusted kitchen towel so that the seam is facing up. 



Press out the dough until it is about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Let rise for 2 to 3 hours.



Place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and a steam pan underneath and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Transfer the fougasse loaves to a flour-dusted pizza peel. I used parchment paper. 



Using a bench knife, make a pattern of cuts in the dough, pushing the knife until it touches the peel and being careful not to cut through the edge of the dough. 



Stretch the cut areas to create openings.



Slide the loaves onto the heated baking stone.  I baked the loaves one at a time.  Pour hot water into the steam pan and quickly close the oven door. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 475 degrees F.  Bake the loaves for about 25 to 30 minutes until they are deep golden brown color. 


This bread has been YeastSpotted. Please visit Wild Yeast to view all of the lovely breads in the roundup.  Please also visit this week’s host Bewitching Kitchen.


Serve warm from the oven or let the loaves cool on a wire rack.  I did both.



I tried a slice of this bread right away and it was good, but it tasted much better the next day.  I brought a loaf to my sister’s house and we enjoyed it with the roasted red pepper spread.  I forgot to take a photo of the bread with the red pepper spread, but my sister thought it was delicious.  I thought so too.

I really enjoyed making and eating this bread.  Thanks to Elizabeth of Our Kitchen for hosting the BBB this month.





Happy Baking!


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Experimenting with dough enhancer and Pumpkin Pie Brioche

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been testing Shirley J’s dough enhancer in some of the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes’ breads. The HBn5 recipes call for vital wheat gluten and that’s what I normally use. I had never tried a dough enhancer so when Amanda from Shirley J contacted me to see if I would like to test their dough enhancer, I thought it would be a fun experiment. 



Vital Wheat Gluten vs. Dough Enhancer

In case you’re wondering, vital wheat gluten is flour with the starch and bran removed. What you end up with is the natural protein in wheat – about 75% protein.  When you add vital wheat gluten to yeast bread recipes, it improves the texture and elasticity of the dough. Source:

A dough enhancer is a natural product that is used to make the protein in the flour more elastic.  According to the folks at Shirley J, the finished dough will be more elastic, softer, have a finer texture and will rise better in the proofing stage which results in a bread with a much better volume. Source:


Pumpkin Pie Brioche Loaves with and without dough enhancer



The above photo features two loaves of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes Pumpkin Pie Brioche.  The loaf on the right was made with the Shirley J Dough Enhancer and the one on the left was made without vital wheat gluten or a dough enhancer.

This bread includes all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour so the difference is not as dramatic as it would be with an all whole wheat bread.  However, you can definitely tell that the loaf on the right has higher volume than the loaf on the left. 


Pumpkin Pie Brioche Recipe

If you want to make a loaf of this delicious Pumpkin Pie Brioche, you’ll find a link to the original recipe here.  I cut the recipe in half for this experiment and used 1/2 tablespoon of dough enhancer instead of 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten. You can make it with or without the dough enhancer or with or without the vital wheat gluten.

The suggested amount of dough enhancer to use is 1 level tablespoon of Shirley J Dough Enhancer to a whole wheat bread that uses 6 cups of whole wheat flour. Since I halved the Pumpkin Pie Brioche recipe, I only used 1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat and 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose; therefore, I used 1/2 tablespoon of the dough enhancer.


Side-by-comparisons of the loaves throughout the proofing, baking and cooling process

Here is a comparison of the dough as it was rising in the pan.  The pan on the right is the one with the dough enhancer. As you can see, the dough in the pan on the right has greater volume.  It also looks a little bit fluffier (or lighter).  I used the same size/type of pan for each loaf because I wanted to keep all of the variables the same except the dough enhancer.  You might not see it in this photo, but I marked an X with a Sharpie pen on the pan with the dough enhancer so I wouldn’t get the loaves mixed up.




I decided to slash these loaves for more effect.  You can see the X in this photo.



Here are the baked loaves just out of the oven.  The one on the right looks a little bit bigger but it’s hard to tell at this point.



Here are the loaves out of the pan.  I’m starting to see a little bit of a difference in size.



The loaves are cooling side-by-side.  I can definitely see the difference in volume now.



Here is another view of the cooled and sliced loaves.  There you go…



Then came the taste test.  Both loaves tasted yummy!  Pumpkin Pie Brioche is one of my favorite Healthy Bread in Five Minutes’ doughs so I was already familiar with how it should taste and what the texture should be like.

The main thing I noticed about the two loaves (besides the volume) was in the texture and the taste of the bread made with the dough enhancer. The promotional material for the dough enhancer claimed that homemade bread made with Shirley J Dough Enhancer would slice more smoothly with far less crumbling than regular bread.  To be honest, I was skeptical of this claim; however, after the loaves were baked and cooled, I tested it and found that the bread with the dough enhancer was a little less crumbly, and I even noticed a little flavor boost compared to the other loaf. 


I generally prefer to bake with the simplest of ingredients, but I had fun with this experiment. 

You can try this experiment for yourself with Shirley J Dough Enhancer and see if it improves the texture and flavor of your homemade whole wheat bread. 


Happy Baking!



I was sent the dough enhancer as compensation to try out for my review. All views are expressly my own.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sweet and Chunky Apple Butter


I got a bunch of apples on my apple-picking excursions and after I made the apple starter, I decided to make some apple butter.

As the name suggests, this Sweet and Chunky Apple Butter has chunks of apples in it. It takes apple butter to a whole new level. You can serve it as dessert or on bread or toast. Or, you can do what I’ve been doing and just eat it right out of the jar.  It’s that good!  I think it would also taste great on waffles or pancakes. I’ll have to try that next.

The recipe uses Granny Smith and McIntosh apples. However, I didn’t have any McIntosh apples so I used Granny Smith apples and a combination of other apples I had picked.




Sweet and Chunky Apple Butter Recipe

Makes: 7 cups (1.75 L)

From: The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. 


  • 2 lb  (1 kg) McIntosh apples, peeled and cored (6 large apples)
  • 2 lb  (1 kg) Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored (6 large apples)
  • 1 cup (250 mL)apple cider
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (25 mL) lemon juice



  1. Cut McIntosh apples into 1-inch pieces. Cut Granny Smith apples into smaller dice.
  2. Combine apples and cider in a very large stainless steel or enamel saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half.
  3. Stir in sugar and lemon juice.  Return to boil, reduce heat and boil gently for about 25 minutes or until mixture is very thick.  There should still be some tender apple chunks remaining.  Remove from heat.
  4. Ladle into hot jars and process for 10 minutes. If you live in a higher altitude or need more detailed instructions on water-bath canning, please refer to the instructions at the National Center for Home Preservation.




To make Spiced Apple Butter:

Add 2 tablespoons (10 mL) ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) each ground cloves and all-spice with the sugar.


You might also enjoy these Apple Butter recipes:


    Canning resources:

    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

    Tomato Bread Soup: Pappa al Pomodoro

    This is the 3rd and final post in my Apple Series.  In the first post, we learned how to make an Apple Starter using hazy apples. The 2nd post featured Peasant Bread made with the apple starter. This post features Pappa al Pomodoro, an Italian Tomato Soup made with stale Peasant bread and Italian tomatoes fresh from the garden.


    Tomato Bread Soup is a delicious soup, but it’s also a very practical way of recycling old bread.  I bake a lot of bread, and I enjoy sharing it with other people and sometimes the birds. I also like to make French Toast with sliced bread that has been frozen. However, I’ve been looking for some other productive and useful ways to use old bread. I was delighted when I learned about this soup.  It tastes delicious and it’s so easy to make!


    Tomato Bread Soup: Pappa al Pomodoro Recipe

    Makes: 4 servings

    Recipe courtesy Mario Batali Food Network:


    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
    • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
    • 3/4 pound day-old Italian peasant bread, roughly sliced
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 cup fresh torn basil leaves
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


    Featured ingredients:

    Peasant Bread cut into cubes.  For authentic Tomato Bread Soup, you just tear the bread, but I had already sliced the bread into cubes so that’s what I used.



    Some recipes suggest using Pomi tomatoes.  I grew Roma, Viva Italia and San Marzano tomatoes in my garden this year so that’s what I used. 




    1. In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes, until onion is translucent.



    2. Add chopped tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. I didn’t seed or chop the tomatoes, I just peeled them and used the back of a wooden spoon to break them apart.



    3. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down, about 5 minutes.



    4. Using a wooden spoon, add the stale bread chunks and water.



    5. Continue simmering until all the bread has absorbed as much liquid as possible, yielding a baby food-like consistency. Stir in the basil.



    6. Season, to taste, with pepper. Let the soup continue simmering for 10 more minutes.



    7. Serve immediately in warmed soup bowls. Garnish, to taste, with Parmigiano-Reggiano. I actually forgot to add the cheese, but it didn’t need it. It tasted great!



      I was really excited about this soup, but when I saw the final consistency, I wasn’t so sure.  It looked like mush.  However, you know what they say about not judging a book by its cover… the same goes for this soup.  Don’t judge it by it’s look/consistency because the flavor is wonderful.  It was very satisfying to make something so delicious from recycled bread as well as tomatoes grown in my garden.  I hope you enjoy it as well.


      Happy Baking and Eating!


    Sunday, 16 October 2011

    World Bread Day & Tartine Whole Wheat Bread

    Happy World Bread Day!  World Bread Day was started by the International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners (IUB) as a time to talk about the importance of bread, as well as its history and future.


    Zorra adopted World Bread Day as a (food)blogger event in 2006 and the event has been celebrated by bread bakers around the world every year since then. Take a look at the previous World Bread Day Roundups.  You’ll be amazed at the creativity of all of the bakers around the world.

    I love to talk about bread so I jumped right on the bread-baking bandwagon. This is my third year participating in World Bread Day.



    My contribution to World Bread Day 2011 is Tartine Whole Wheat Bread. This bread is a variation on a theme. It is similar to the Tartine Country Bread I submitted for BBD #37, but it uses a greater proportion of whole wheat flour to white all-purpose flour. And since I use a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and white all-purpose flour, my version has a bit more whole wheat than the original formula.



    My bread is sweet and nourishing, made from my own  wheat, ground in my own mill, and baked in my own oven.”

    Tobias Smollett, Humphrey Clinker, 1771



    Whole Wheat Bread

    Adapted from: Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson

    Makes: One 2-pound loaf



    • 400 grams water (plus a couple of tablespoons)
    • 100 grams leaven
    • 350 grams whole wheat flour (I used home-milled flour from hard red winter wheat)
    • 150 grams all-purpose flour (I used a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and white all-purpose flour)
    • 10 grams salt



    1. Making the Leaven:

      The night before you plan to mix the dough, take 1 tablespoon of a mature starter and feed it with 200 grams of warm (78 degrees F) water and 200 grams of a blend of 50 white bread flour/50 whole wheat bread flour. I used a tablespoon of my new apple starter. Cover with a kitchen towel (or plastic wrap) and let the starter rise overnight at a cool room temperature (65 degrees F).  This is the leaven.* 

      The next morning, the volume should’ve increased by 20 percent.  To find out if it’s ready, test to see if it floats in water.  Drop a spoonful into a bowl of moderate room-temperature water.  If it sinks, it is not ready to use and needs more time to ferment and ripen.


    2. Mixing the Dough:

      Weigh 400 grams of 80 degrees F water and pour it into a large mixing bowl.  Add 100 grams of leaven and stir it to disperse.


      *You don’t use all of the leaven for this bread so save the leftover for your starter if you like or use it to bake more bread. Since I’m keeping my starters separate, I decided to bake another loaf with the left over leaven.


      Add 500 grams of flour – 350 grams whole wheat and 150 grams white – to the water and mix thoroughly by hand until you do not see any dry flour. 



      Let the dough rest for 25 to 40 minutes.  Don’t skip the rest period.  It allows the flour to absorb the water and then swell.  Then it will relax. 



      After the dough has rested, add the 10 grams of salt.  The original formula says to add 50 grams warm water at this point, but this whole wheat version didn’t mention adding any additional water.  However, I used freshly-milled whole wheat flour which  absorbs the water a little more so I added a couple of tablespoons of water and incorporated it along with the salt.

      Incorporate the salt into the dough by squeezing the dough between your fingers. Come on you know you want to get your hands in that dough…



      Fold the dough on top of itself and transfer to a clean bowl. I just washed out the same bowl and placed the dough back in it and covered it with plastic wrap. Let the dough bulk ferment for 3 to 4 hours or longer if necessary.



    3. Turning the Dough:

      I didn’t take photos of this process. You can view the step-by-step process for turning the dough, including photos on the Tartine Country Bread post.

      Using this method, the dough is not kneaded on a counter, the development of the dough is achieved by a series of turns in the bowl during the bulk fermentation.

      To do a turn, dip one hand in water to prevent the dough from sticking to you and then grab the underside of the dough, stretch it up, and fold it back over the rest of the dough.

      Repeat this action two or three times so that all the dough gets evenly developed. This is considered one turn.

      During the first 2 hours of fermentation, give the dough one turn every half hour or so.  During the last hour or so, turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough. If the dough seems to be developing slowly, you can extend the bulk fermentation time.


    4. Shaping the Loaves:

      To view the step-by-step shaping process with photos, go to the Tartine Country Bread post.

      Transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface. Lightly flour the surface of the dough. Cut the dough into two equal pieces. Flip it so that the floured side rests on the counter.  Do this with the other piece of dough.

      Fold each piece onto itself so that the flour on the surface of the dough is sealed on the outside of the loaf.  The outer surface will become the crust, so you can use a little more flour if necessary.

      Work each piece of dough into a round shape. Let both rounds of dough rest on the work surface for 20 to 30 minutes covered with a kitchen towel to prevent the dough from drying on top.  I floured the loaves lightly before placing the towel over them.

      To form the final shapes, lightly flour the top surface of the dough rounds.  Lift both rounds off the work surface, being careful to maintain the round shape. Flip the round so that the floured side is now resting on the work surface.  What was the underside is now facing up.

      Perform a series of folds to build tension so that the loaf will holds it form and rise when baked.  First, you fold the third of the dough closest to you up and over the middle third of the round.  Stretch out the dough to your right and fold the right third over the center. 

      Stretch the dough to your left and fold this third over the previous fold.   Now, stretch out the third of dough farthest from you and fold it toward you, over the previous folds, and press it in place with your fingers.

      I folded both rounds as indicated above, then I pinched the seams together on top and placed the dough seam-side up in banneton baskets that had been floured with a 50/50 mixture of rice flour and wheat flour.



      At this point, you can let the dough rise at warm room temperature for 3 to 4 more hours or retard the dough overnight. 


    5. Baking the Loaves:

      20 minutes or so before you plan to bake the loaves, place a Dutch oven combo cooker (lid and pot) in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.


      Dust the surface of one of the loaves in the basket with rice flour.  When the oven reaches 500 degrees, carefully pull the shallow pan out of the oven and place it on top of the stove.  Leave the other pan in the oven.  Carefully inverting the basket, turn the dough into the hot pan.

      Score the loaf using a simple square pattern with four cuts. To make pronounced “ears,” make shallow cuts at a very low angle (almost horizontal) to the dough.  I’m still working on perfecting this process, but I was pretty pleased with the scoring on this loaf.


      Be careful not to burn yourself during this part.  This is why you use the shallow pan on the bottom instead of the deep pot.  It makes it easier to score the loaf without burning yourself.

      Return the shallow pan with the loaf to the oven and cover it with the deep pot.  This is sort of tricky.  The deep pot can be pretty heavy so be careful. 

      Immediately reduce the oven to 450 degrees F and bake the loaf for 20 minutes.  Then carefully remove the top pan.



      Let the loaf continue to bake (without the top) for about 15 to 20 more minutes, until the crust is a deep color. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the loaf to a rack to cool.



    6. Enjoying the Loaves: Let the loaf cool completely before slicing and serving.




      Thank you for joining me for World Bread Day.  Come let us break bread together.


      Happy Baking!