Friday, 29 June 2012

Easy No-Knead Sourdough Bread in a Pot

I needed some stale bread for a couple of dishes I’ll be making in a few days so this gave me an excuse to make more bread. Not that I need an excuse.

I chose this easy no-knead sourdough bread. It takes a couple of days to make from start-to-finish, but doesn’t require much hands on time. Most of the time is spent proofing the culture and the dough.

I followed the method in the book Classic Sourdoughs by Ed and Jean Wood. They have a very scientific, yet uncomplicated approach to making sourdough bread. Supposedly this method provides a reliable way of controlling the sourness and leavening of the sourdough. I liked the results of this bread even though I wasn’t able to proof at the recommended temperature.



Basic No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Adapted from Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood and Jean Wood

Makes: 1 Loaf


  • 1 cup (240 mL) culture proof (see method below)
  • 1 cup (240 mL) water
  • 3 1/2 cups (490 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour (I used 50/50 mix of AP and bread flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt



Step 1: Activate the culture (sourdough starter):

I used my apple starter which hadn’t been fed in a couple of weeks so it needed to be activated. It was also really acidic (sour smelling) so I needed to reduce the culture’s acidity level as well. This process is supposed to help with both.

To activate the culture, take the jar of starter out of the refrigerator and fill it with warm water while you stir it vigorously. Leave a little more than 1 cup in the jar and discard the rest. Feed what’s left in the jar with 2/3 cup (90 g) of flour and enough water to restore the culture to the consistency of pancake batter. If you are using a 1-quart jar, the jar should be slightly more than half full.

It’s best to proof at 70 degrees to 75 degrees F. for about 2 to 4 hours.  It will be ready for the next step, the culture proof, as soon as it forms foam and bubbles and the volume increases by about 2 inches. If your starter has been refrigerated (or dormant) for longer than 2 weeks, you may have to repeat this process.  My starter had been in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks or so, but I only had to do this step once.  It’s really hot here so I proofed it at about 80 degrees F. It didn’t take quite as long for it to foam and bubble.


Step 2: Create a Culture Proof

This step is similar to the liquid-levain build that Jeffrey Hamelman uses in his breads. You need to start with a fully active culture (step 1).

Stir the culture vigorously and put half of the mixture in another quart jar.  In each jar, add 2/3 cup (90g) flour and enough water to maintain the pancake-batter consistency.  If it is thick, you’ll need about 1/2 cup (120 mL). My culture was more liquid so it didn’t need as much water. Proof the culture for 8 to 12 hours.


The book states that to get a good concentration of both yeast and bacteria to produce good flavor, leavening, and sourness, they like to proof their cultures for 2 to 3 hours at 65 degrees F, then another 6 to 10 hours at 80 degrees F.  I didn’t have that option so I let mine proof for about 8 hours or so at 80 degrees F.  They said the higher temperature will cause the culture to have good flavor and sourness, but could have moderate to poor leaving ability.  I found that the culture was moderately acidic which added to the flavor of the bread, but the yeast wasn’t inhibited.  I’ll have to experiment some more with this method to see if I get the same results each time with the higher proof temperature.


Step 3: Mix the Dough

Take the amount of culture needed (from the 1st jar), and place the remaining culture (from the 2nd jar) in the refrigerator to use another day.  Combine the cup of culture and water in a large mixing bowl.



Mix together the flour and salt in a separate bowl, then add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients. 



Mix just until you have a dry, firm, shaggy dough.  Add up to 1/2 cup (120 mL) more water as needed.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and proof for 8 to 12 hours at about 70 degrees F.



Step 4: Bulk Fermentation

After the 8- to 12-hour fermentation, use a plastic spatula to ease the sticky dough away from the sides of the bowl. 



Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle the surface of the dough with additional flour and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten.



Step 5: Shape the Loaf

Gently form a loaf, without degassing the dough, and place it in a baking container.  You can use a loaf pan or a covered casserole dish or baking pot.  I used my Bread Dome.



Step 6: Final Proof

Proof the dough at room temperature (70 degrees F) for 3 to 4 hours, or until doubled in bulk.  Since I proofed my dough at 80 degrees F., it only took about 2 hours or so to double in size.



Step 7: Bake the Loaf

Place the pot (with the proofed loaf in it) in a cool oven, then turn the temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and bake for 70 minutes.  I removed the lid of the bread dome after about 55 minutes and let it finish baking with the lid off.  It wasn’t browned after 70 minutes so I let it bake about 5 more minutes.

When the loaf is finished baking, remove it from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.



Step 8: Slice and Enjoy

I wasn’t as gentle with the dough as I should’ve been so the crumb doesn’t have a lot of holes. I’m okay with that because I actually need a tighter crumb for the recipe I’ll be using the bread in.



This bread tastes really good!  It’s chewy with a hint of sourness, not too much, but enough to notice.  It tastes great plain with butter or as a sandwich with peanut butter and strawberry jam.  Yum!

Happy Baking!


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Let’s grill some pizza to beat the heat!

I don’t know about you, but it’s hot and humid here. They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing. To beat the heat last weekend, my taste tester and I made BBQ pizza on the grill. The grill master and the bread baker combined our talents to come up with a winning combination.

Want to know how we did it?

Check out my Grilled BBQ Pizza on

Grilled BBQ Pizza

Now you can enjoy the outdoors and baking too!

Happy Baking and Grilling!

Friday, 22 June 2012

My Buddy Twists

Here’s a new twist on a theme…

Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms, the host of the BBB’s this month, made Summer Twists for the bread bake this month. She adapted her recipe from Farine’s Morning Cuddles. Both versions sounded cute and cuddly, but I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I created my own version using spelt, hazelnuts and dates.

I’m calling them My Buddy Twists because I made them with the Bread Baking Babes and Friends and they’re a little twisted (the bread that is).



I also substituted a spelt levain for the sourdough starter. You can use an overnight poolish instead of the sourdough (refer to Elle’s post), but I wanted to get some more mileage out of the spelt levain I created a few weeks ago. I also substituted Spelt flour for the whole wheat flour and ground hazelnuts for the pecans. Then, I added some dates for kicks. I’m living dangerously these days…ha! Actually, I was trying to be practical and use what I had on hand instead of running to the store to get the missing ingredients. I think I did pretty good.


My Buddy Twists

Adapted from Summer Twists by Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms

Makes: 16 Twists


I hadn’t fed my Spelt levain in a couple of weeks so I fed and doubled it in the morning and let it sit on counter all day (about 10 hours) until I was ready to bake the bread after work.


  • 320g all-purpose flour
  • 230g Spelt flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 115g rolled oats (I used old fashioned oats)
  • 15g salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoons powdered buttermilk
  • 100g hazelnuts, ground
  • 1 3/4 cups
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g dried dates, chopped
  • 1 egg white and 1 tsp water, for egg wash



Mix the flours together with the yeast, oats, salt and powdered buttermilk.



Stir in the ground hazelnuts.



Add the water and butter to the dry ingredients.



Add the levain and mix until a soft dough forms.



Let sit 10 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead in additional flour if needed until dough is tacky but not sticky.  Add in more flour or water as needed.



Knead in the dates.



Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl greased with oil, turn the dough to coat with the oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This might take 2 hours or 6.  At this point, I covered the bowl and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, the next day, I took it out and let rise on the counter until it was doubled in size.


When dough has doubled in size, turn out onto lightly flour surface. Divide the dough into two pieces.



Return one piece of the dough to the rising bowl and cover. Divide the other piece of dough into 16 pieces, each about 52 g. Shape into balls.



Shape each piece into a rope.


Twist two pieces together a a time or two. Repeat with remaining 7 (52 g) pieces. You will have eight twists.



Place twists on a greased baking sheet. You can also use parchment or a silicone mat to line the baking sheet.



Take the remaining large (about 800 g) piece of dough and repeat the process above. You will finish with 16 twists set out on baking sheets. Cover twists and let rise until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F when twists are almost doubled.



Uncover and brush with egg wash using a pastry brush.



Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. If browning too rapidly, turn down the oven temperature. Turn the pans back to front and bake another 10 - 15 minutes or until breads are 180 degrees inside. Cool on a rack then serve.



After I removed my buddy twists from the oven, I brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar. They had a wonderful flavor – a little sweet from the dates and cinnamon sugar and a little nutty from the hazelnuts. Yum!


Happy Baking!


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Cucumber and Potato Soup

I’ve had a continuous supply of cucumbers this season from my cucumber plants. It’s been rewarding (and tasty) to watch the plants grow from seedlings into mature plants. I’ve enjoyed raw cucumbers, refrigerator pickles, and now this cucumber soup. I have more cucumbers so I’ll be looking for other creative ways to use them.

This Cucumber and Potato Soup is based on a recipe for Austrian Cucumber Soup.  The traditional version, known as Gurkensuppe in Austria, is thickened with a white sauce consisting of white flour, milk, lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Although that sounded interesting, I decided the version with potatoes sounded more appealing. So I made mine with potatoes instead of the white sauce.



Cucumber and Potato Soup

Serves about 6

Adapted from: Soups by Marguerite Patten


  • 5 medium cucumbers
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 to 3 celery sticks
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk



Peel the cucumbers, but leave a few strips to provide flavor and color to the soup.  You can leave more of the peel, but it makes it slightly bitter.



Chop the cucumber flesh into small dice. Peel and dice the potatoes, chop the onion, and dice the celery. Put the vegetables into a large pot along with the broth and a little seasoning and some tarragon.  Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.



Place the mixture in the blender and blend until it becomes a smooth purée. Add more seasoning if needed.  Return the soup to the pan and add the milk.



Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with parsley or a little finely chopped tarragon if you like. I didn’t have any fresh tarragon so I added dried tarragon while the soup was simmering.  I added freshly ground black pepper as a garnish.



This soup is really good and freezes well. I like the combination of cucumbers and potatoes and the tarragon provides a nice bit of a kick. Very simple, yet tasty and satisfying.

You can also cook this soup in the microwave if you peel the cucumber completely. Otherwise, the skin will be slightly tough.


Happy Cooking & Baking!


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Poolish Baguettes revisited

I really enjoy participating in bread-baking groups and events because it provides me with the opportunity to make many different types of breads and to meet and learn from other bread bakers. However, sometimes you just want to focus on a particular bread or technique until you master it.

With that in mind, I’m beginning a journey to learn more about baguettes and hopefully, how to enjoy them. Baguettes represent the epitome of French bread baking, but I’ve never really been a true baguette fan. Don’t get me wrong. I love the tradition of baguette-making and all that goes along with it -- working with the wet dough, shaping the baguettes, the crackly crust and all that. It’s the flavor that doesn’t wow me.

I decided the problem must be with me, not the baguettes. I must not have given them a fair shake. So I’ll be experimenting with different types of baguettes. In this post, I’m revisiting Poolish Baguettes.



For these baguettes, I wanted to use a basic formula and adjust as necessary.  I consulted a few of my bread books and finally decided to use a compilation of the basic bread formula with an overnight poolish in Bread Science by Emily Buehler and the formula for the Team USA Baguettes from Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart.

I made these baguettes twice and adjusted the hydration in the poolish and the final dough each time.  I also used different amounts of yeast in the final dough to see how the dough would perform.


1st Attempt:

For my first attempt at these baguettes, I increased the hydration in the poolish and kept the water the same in the final dough because I was aiming for a wetter dough. The formula in Crust and Crumb uses less poolish and more flour than the formula in Bread Science. I ended up somewhere in between the two formulas.

I forgot that my oven is really hot when I decided to go with the suggested temperature of 475 degrees. It was too hot so the tips of the baguettes got a little burned before I turned the oven temp down. I also removed the parchment paper partway through baking on this attempt.

These baguettes were definitely crispy, but not exactly what I was aiming for.  They tasted rather blah. I forgot to write down how much salt I used so that may have been part of the problem. I didn’t forget the salt this time, but I did reduce it a bit. These baguettes worked well as Crostini, but I wanted them to taste good on their own.



2nd Attempt:

For the second batch, I used the same poolish (I had made a double batch), but reduced the amount of water and yeast in the final dough.  I decided the extra hydration in the poolish needed to be adjusted in the final dough. I also baked the baguettes at a lower temperature (450 degrees). I was much more pleased with these baguettes. They were crispy on the outside and even crackled when they came out of the oven. The flavor was much better as well.  I didn’t get the chance to try them until the next day but they tasted pretty good by themselves the next day.  I also enjoyed them with jam, butter and egg salad.



Here is the formula I used for the 2nd Attempt.


Poolish Baguettes

Adapted from Bread Science by Emily Buehler and Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart

Makes: 3 Baguettes



  • 1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch of instant yeast


  • 3 1/2 cups white bread flour
  • All of the Poolish
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt



1. Making the Poolish:

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Beat with a spoon or whisk about a minute, until the batter is mixed thoroughly and is pretty smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let it rest on the counter for 12 to 15 hours.



2. Mixing the Dough:

When the poolish is ready, combine the flour, water, and poolish in a large mixing bowl. 



Add the yeast, then the salt and mix the ingredients together until the dough forms a ball. I used my hands to incorporate the yeast and then the salt thoroughly into the dough.



3: Kneading the Dough

Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 12 minutes. I only kneaded the dough for about 3-5 minutes.  I used the turn and fold method during the bulk fermentation instead of the longer kneading time.



4. Bulk Fermentation

The dough should be shiny and smooth and little bit tacky, but not sticky.  Place the dough in a greased bowl and let the dough proof for 2 hours. After an hour, fold the dough, re-shape it into a ball and place it back in the bowl.  



The dough should be about 1 1/2 times its original size after 2 hours.



5. Shaping the Baguettes

When the dough has risen, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Shape them into rough logs and place them on a lightly-floured counter.  Mist them lightly with spray oil and cover them with plastic wrap.  Let them rest for 30 minutes.



Shape the dough pieces into baguettes and place them on a floured couche.  Refer to the Rosemary and Flax Baguettes post for step-by-step instructions on shaping baguettes.



6. Proofing the Loaves

Bring up the folds of the couche to support the shape of the loaves while proofing. I put books at either end to hold up the sides of the couche.



Spritz the loaves with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the loaves proof for 2 hours at room temperature, or until nearly doubled in size.  If your house is warm, it might not take that long.



7. Prepare your oven for hearth baking

In the meantime, prepare your oven for hearth baking by placing a baking stone on the middle rack and an empty steam pan on the bottom rack.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.


8. Scoring the Loaves

Carefully and gently transfer the loaves from the baker’s couche to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I used a baker’s bench to assist with the process.



I reused the parchment paper from the previous batch of baguettes.



Score the baguettes by making 1/2” cuts in the dough using a lame or serrated knife.  I’m still getting the hang of this part.



9. Baking the Loaves

Pour 1 cups of hot water into the steam pan and immediately slide the loaves off of the baking sheet (parchment sheet an all) onto the baking stone.  Steam the loaves again by spritzing the loaves and the oven walls with a spray bottle. Close the oven door and repeat the spraying process again after 2 minutes.

Bake the loaves for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown in color. The formula in Crust and Crumb says to turn off the oven at this point and bake them an additional 5 to 10 minutes; however, this didn’t work for me. As I mentioned previously, the tips burned on the first batch, so for the 2nd batch, I only baked the loaves about 25 minutes at 450 degrees. The crust turned out great.  It was crispy and crackly and wasn’t burnt at all. 


10. Cooling and Slicing the Loaves

Transfer the loaves to wire racks and allow them to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and eating.



Slice and enjoy!


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


I enjoyed these baguettes. I hope to enjoy more baguettes as I continue learning more about them and trying different techniques.


Happy Baking!