Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts (folgt noch)

After sadly slacking off last year, I hope to be a more productive blogger in 2017.

My cookie baking activities are usually restricted to the time before Christmas (except for NYTimes Chocolate Chip Cookies), but I DO like brownies.

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen promised a cookie with "everything that we expect from a great brownie, a slight crackly exterior, and a plush, fudgy interior".

That sounded very enticing, and I was eager to tackle "The Browniest Cookies" - our Avid Bakers' February project.

But I didn't look at the recipe carefully enough, and, instead of mixing the sugar with the melted chocolate-butter, I added it to the dry ingredients.

Overmixing the batter was a no-no, and I feared that the undissolved sugar might give the cookies an unpleasant grittiness (it didn't!). 

I reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon and added some espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor.
Browniest Cookies - crackly exterior and fudgy inside
With Chad Robertson's fabulous Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies in mind, I exchanged a bit of the white flour for rye.

The batter seemed to have the right consistency, so, instead of chilling it first, I  refrigerated the shaped cookies on the baking sheet.

In spite of these missteps, my cookies baked up perfectly, no unsightly flattening, crackly from the outside and fudgy from inside.

And, to my delight, VERY chocolate-y!

My husband ripped one hot from the baking sheet - of course, it fell apart - claiming they should be eaten warm.

A bit later, we had them, more civilized, slightly warm, for dessert. The dollop of vanilla ice cream that hubby added certainly didn't hurt.

THE BROWNIEST COOKIES  (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
(ca. 28 pieces)

115 g all-purpose flour
15 g whole rye flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
45 g unsweetened cocoa powder, any kind
115 g butter
115 g g unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli's)
190 g dark or light brown sugar
25 g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
115 g semisweet chocolate, chips or chunks

In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa (sifted if necessary), baking soda and salt.

Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double-boiler over simmering water.

Mixing dry ingredients into chocolate mixture

Off the heat, whisk sugars into chocolate mixture, followed by eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and espresso powder. Add flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips (or chunks).
Folding chocolate chips into the batter

Refrigerate batter for ca. 30 minutes. (If longer, it needs to warm up slightly to make it easier to scoop).

Heat oven to 350°F/175°C. Line 2 baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

A small scoop makes portioning the batter easy

Using a 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoon scoop, place mounds of batter on prepared baking sheets (they spread a little.)

Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes (they will look glossy and underbaked in the cracks, and feel still soft to the touch.)

Let cookies set on their baking sheets for 10 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool (an offset spatula works best.)

Warm Brownie Cookies - what can be better on a cold winter day

They taste best when they are slightly warm. Nuke them for a few seconds to re-warm (beware: if they get too hot, they will fall apart!)

Store the cookies, covered, in a tin or platter at room temperature.

View from our window - and the next blizzard is coming!

Friday, January 13, 2017


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Last September, William Rubel challenged Facebook group members of "Bread History & Practice" to gather acorns, and use them for bread baking. I was intrigued - the huge European oaks in our neighborhood had produced a bumper crop of acorns this year.

Shelling acorns - as easy as cracking nuts
Squirrels and pigs love the fat kernels, but acorns are too bitter for human consumption, unless the tannins are leached out of them.

This process, as described in "Acorns: The Inside Story", is easy.

Soaking ground acorns in cold water (instead of boiling them) works best for bread making, since the meal retains it binding qualities.

I gathered a bag full of acorns, and left them for several weeks on our porch to dry - the kernels shrink a bit, and are easier to remove from the shells.

With a nutcracker, the acorns could be cracked like hazelnuts, and I ended up with about half a pound of kernels.

The acorn are ground with some water in the food processor

First I ground the acorns with water in the food processor, then rinsed the meal in a fine-mesh strainer, before transferring it to a bowl and soaking it in a lot of cold water. Three times a day I rinsed and drained the acorn meal, and changed the soaking water.

After two days I started testing the meal for bitterness, and finally, after three days of leaching, the tannins had been washed out, and the meal tasted similar to walnuts, but a bit milder.

Acorn meal after drying
The wet acorn meal had to be dried. I used my dehydrator (lowest setting), or you can spread it out on a baking sheet and dry it in the oven, at very low heat.

Now I had my meal, ready to use. But what kind of bread should I bake with it?

The author of "Acorns: The Inside Story" offers a simple skillet bread, but I wanted a real loaf with a nice rise.

The percentage of the acorn meal should be high enough to be discernible, without compromising the structure.

My usual to-go bread is a Tartine-ish kind of loaf, with high hydration, long fermentation, and baked in a Dutch oven. I adapted one of Chad Robertson's formulas, using a mix of whole wheat, bread flour and 16% acorn meal.

My acorn levain turned out very nice - a hearty, slightly nutty loaf with a crisp crust, fairly open crumb, and a dark, reddish color from the acorns. Good for sandwiches and, also, for toasting.

Next year I will channel my inner squirrel again!

If you want to try it, but can't get acorns - you can purchase acorn flour online, but it costs a fortune: $28 - $32 per pound.

Baked Acorn Levain

10 g/1/2 tbsp. very active starter (refreshed twice the day before)
50 g/1.5 oz bread flour
50 g/1.5 oz whole wheat
100 g/3.5 oz water (80-85ºF/26-29ºC)

Final Dough
250 g/8.8 oz bread flour
150 g/5.3 oz whole wheat flour
100 g3.5 oz acorn meal
35 g/1.2 oz wheat germ
455 g/16 oz water
210 g/7.4 oz starter (all)
13 g/0..45 oz salt

acorn meal, for coating

(For the BreadStorm formula please scroll down)

Float test - the starter swims on the surface

6:00 - 8:00 am: Mix starter. Leave for 4 - 8 hours, or until a spoonful of starter floats in water (if not, it needs to ferment longer!)

Whisk together flours, acorn meal and wheat germ in medium bowl. In large bowl, dissolve starter in 430 g/15 oz of the water.

Mixing flours and wheat germ

Add flour mixture to bowl with starter and stir (I use a Danish dough whisk) until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 30 minutes at warm room temperature.

Mixing the dough

Add salt and remaining slightly warm water, pinching and folding dough in the bowl to incorporate (as described here for Einkorn Hazelnut Levain).

....then pinching it to incorporate the salt (photo: Einkorn Hazelnut Levain)

Let dough rise for 3 hours (DDT: 80-85ºF/26-29ºC), stretching and folding it in the bowl, 6 times at 30 minute intervals (I use a wet bowl scraper).

Dough after 3. folding

Risen dough - it will be sticky!

Sprinkle half of the work surface with flour, leaving the other half free. Transfer dough to the floured part. Lightly flour top. Using oiled spatula(s), work dough into a round by drawing the spatula(s) around the side in circles to create surface tension. (Dough round should be taut and smooth).

Working dough into a taut round

Re-flour top, cover dough (I use the empty bowl), and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes. Generously flour rising basket with a 50/50 wheat and rice flour mixture. Sprinkle a layer of  acorn meal on the bottom (looks nice and prevents sticking).

Preparing the banneton like this prevents sticking

Using oiled bench knife, flip dough around, so that the floured side is down. With floured hands, fold bottom end of dough up to a third, then fold both sides over the center to elongate.

Fold top down to the center. Now fold the bottom again to cover top fold, so that package is closed. Flip dough package over to the un-floured part of the counter, so that seam is underneath.

Shaping the dough by folding sides over

Shaped loaf

With both (floured) hands, rotate dough ball, pulling it towards you, to tighten it.

Place shaped loaf, seam-side up, in rising basket. Sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. (No warming up necessary!).

Bread in banneton, seamside up

Preheat oven to 500ºF/260ºC, with a Dutch oven (with lid) in the middle. Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter.

With an energetic smack of the rising basket on the counter, turn bread out onto the parchment paper. Cut paper around loaf into a sling with 2 wide handles (see photo), and score bread (brush off excess flour from the parchment).

Cutting the paper sling and scoring (I tried to do an acorn)

Remove hot Dutch from the oven, take off lid (I leave an oven mitt on the lid to remind me it's hot). Transfer bread with paper sling into Dutch oven. Replace lid, and put it in the oven.

Bread with paper sling in the Dutch oven

Bake bread for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 450ºF/230ºC and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove lid, and continue baking for another 20 - 25 minutes, until loaf is golden brown (internal temperature at least 200ºF/93ºC).

Baked Acorn Levain

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula here

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Just in time for Zorra's 2016 World Bread Day event, I received my copy of Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker in the mail.

I met Stanley several years ago at the The Fresh Loaf forum, when he looked for test bakers for his first book, "Inside the Jewish Bakery". Though, at that stage, some recipes still were a bit rough around the edges (my husband complained about feeling like a guinea pig!), the book was well worth it, and his Onion Rolls are still a great favorite with my customers.

Last year, I was happy to help with the translation of some German recipes Stanley considered for his newest book, devoted entirely to rye breads.

Leafing through the The Rye Baker, a cluster of spiral shaped savory rolls caught my eye. Not only because the "Swabian Rye Flower" looked so attractive - it was made with a laminated rye dough!

I had never even heard that such a thing existed.

The filling was easy: Trader Joe's Prosciutto (lightly smoked), and French Comté cheese were already in my fridge, and for the herb topping I snipped off fresh thyme in the garden.

The cottage cheese for the filling had to be rinsed and drained to make it, mixed with cream cheese, dry enough to emulate quark (what they would have used in Germany).

Filling ingredients
10 grams of instant yeast seemed a lot, I reduced the amount to 9 grams (and would try 8 next time), and it rose just fine.

Laminating the dough was a bit more challenging. The recipe requires vegetable shortening for the fat layer.

I had made croissants before, and if butter and dough are sufficiently chilled, the fat stays put during the rolling and folding process.

Soft shortening is more difficult to contain. I should have straightened the edges of the rolled dough with a knife before folding it. This step from croissant making could have prevented a raggedy seam where fat can be squeezed out.

Too late: on this day neither my hands, nor the rolling pin or work bench needed any more lubrication - Crisco took care of it! Fortunately, most of the shortening behaved, staying within the dough, and the fat leakage during baking was not more than to be expected.

Stanley chose shortening because of the water content of butter - shortening doesn't have any - that could make the sticky rye dough even stickier. His advice: if you want to laminate with butter, you should mix it with some flour (1 tbsp flour/200 g butter).

We loved the hearty rolls! The laminated rye layers came apart and had a satisfying crunch, and the filling was delicious. The pretty flower shape, though, prevented the crisping in those places where the rolls touched. Being a sucker for crispiness, I would sacrifice form for function next time, and bake the spirals separate from each other.

But I will definitely make the Swabian Rye Rolls again!

One of these tasty rolls are a meal!

SCHWÄBISCHES ROGGENBLÜMLE - SWABIAN RYE FLOWER (adapted from Stanley Ginsberg: The Rye Baker)

(7 Rolls)

102 g/3.6 oz white rye flour
93 g/3.25 oz water  (105ºF/41ºC)
5 g/0.2 oz rye mother starter

Final Dough
200 g/7.05 oz starter (all)
153 g/5.4 oz medium rye flour
245 g/8.65 oz all-purpose flour
218 g/7.7 oz cold water
10 g/0.7 oz salt
10 g/0.7oz instant yeast (I used only 9 g)
3 g/0.12 oz bread spices

200 g/7.05 oz vegetable shortening, at room temperature (68-72ºF/20-22º)

125 g/4.4 oz dry cured ham (like country ham or prosciutto) (I used Trader Joe's Prosciutto)
125 g/4.4 oz onion, chopped
2 tsp vegetable oil, for sautéing
125 g/4.4 oz hard cheese (like Gruyere, Parmesan etc.) (I used Comté)
85 g/3.0 oz cottage cheese, rinsed and drained
42 g/1.5 oz cream cheese, softened
black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste (I didn't add any - ham and cheese had enough salt)
chopped parsley, dill, or chives, for topping (optional) (I used fresh thyme)

The rye starter is made with white rye

DAY 1 
3:00 - 6:00 pm:
For the starter, mix ingredients in small bowl until all flour is hydrated. Cover, and leave at room temperature overnight (ca. 15-18 hours - it's ready when small bubbles appear on the surface, and it has a spongy structure underneath.)

Sautéing ham and onion

For the filling, in medium skillet over medium heat, sauté ham and onion in oil, until onions are translucent. Let cool to room temperature.

In medium bowl, mix all three cheeses, until well blended. Stir in ham, onion, and season with pepper to taste. (I did not add extra salt). Cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Tasty ham and cheese filling

6:00 - 9:00 am:
For the final dough, mix ingredients at low speed (KA 2, dough hook)), until dough pulls back from sides of bowl, 5-6 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

For laminating, transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, keeping extra flour and a pastry brush at hand.  

Always lightly re-flour work surface as needed, to prevent sticking, and brush off any excess flour from dough before folding!

It's easier to roll out the dough under a piece of plastic wrap

1. Turn:
Roll out dough into a rectangle (45 x 20 x 1.25 cm/18 x 8 x 1/2 inches). Spread 1/2 of the shortening in an even layer over left 2/3 of dough (leave a 2 mm free rim along the sides, since the soft shortening spreads a bit when rolled). 

Starting from the right side, fold rectangle into thirds like a business letter. Using a bench knife, straighten and square edges, so that layers are neatly stacked. (You can put cut-off pieces on top of dough, so that they are rolled in at the next turn)

Spread shortening over 2/3 of dough - I should have left a small free rim

2. Turn:
Turn dough 90 degrees, re-flour work bench as needed, and repeat rolling, greasing (with remaining shortening) and folding. Wrap dough in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Wrap dough package in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes

3. Turn:
Roll out dough to the same size, and fold into thirds again.

4. Turn:
Roll out dough to a rectangle (60 x 20 cm/24 x 8 inches). With bench knife, straighten and square short edges as needed (to get an even seam). Fold rectangle into fourths, bringing left and right side towards center, the fold in half, like closing a book. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

If I had remembered to straighten the edges, my folded dough package.....

.......could have looked like this (croissant dough) - no smearing of grease!

Roll dough out into a 20 x 45-50 cm/8 x 18-20 inches rectangle (1.25 cm/ 1/2 inch thick), short end facing you. With rolling pin, taper dough on near side (so that it's easier to seal the seam later).

Spread filling over 4/5 of the dough rectangle

Starting 2.5 cm/1 inch from far edge, spread filling evenly over ca. 4/5 of dough. Roll dough towards you into a log, like a jelly roll. Moisten free bottom edge with water, and press to seal.

Cut log into 7 slices with a sharp knife

Using sharp knife, cut log into 7 even slices. Place one slice in center of a parchment lined baking sheet, and arrange others around it so that rolls touch each other. Sprinkle with herbs. (If you want your rolls all around crispy, forgo the pretty flower shape and place them separately.)

Assembled "flower"

Cover, and proof rolls at room temperature for 20-25 minutes. They will not have grown much in size, but the spaces between the rolls will have shrunk a bit.

Preheat oven to 410ºF/210ºC, adjusting a rack in the middle, and place a steam pan on bottom or top rack (I use a broiler pan.)

Place rolls in oven,  creating steam by pouring a cup of boiling water into steam pan. After 5 minutes, remove steam pan, and continue baking for another 17-19 minutes (rotating baking sheet 180 degrees after half the baking time for even browning). Rolls should be medium brown, and the cheese melted and bubbling.

We loved the hearty rolls!

Serve warm or at room temperature.

STORAGE: The rye rolls can be frozen, individually wrapped in plastic, then placed in a freezer bag.
Thaw, then re-crisp for a few minutes at 400ºF. Or microwave frozen rolls, until halfways thawed (not fully!) then finish in the oven.

Reprinted with permission from "The Rye Baker" by Stanley Ginsberg, copyright © 2016. Published by W.W. Norton & Company

Monday, June 13, 2016


When I started baking breads for A&B Naturals, I searched online for some interesting rye breads. A recipe that really intrigued me was made with an intermediate dough, with a batter-like consistency, and just poured into a loaf pan - no shaping involved!

At The Fresh Loaf, my Frisian Rye post sparked a bit of a controversy - a Dutch user protested this were not a "real fries roggebrood": a pumpernickel-type bread, dark, and very slowly baked.

North Frisian Islands

But the Frisian region stretches along the North Sea coast from the Netherlands to Germany and up to Denmark, and there is really no such thing as ONE authentic Frisian Rye.

A quick search on Google shows several different recipes, all with different amounts of rye, wheat, seeds, and what not. I was never able to find the original recipe again, but the guy who had posted it said he was from Frisia - so he should know!

Whether real authentic or not - this Friesisches Schwarzbrot tastes great! Over the years I tweaked the formula quite a bit to achieve a nice, thin crust and satisfying crumb.

                                               Amrum - my favorite North Frisian island

The North Sea coast is lovely, dotted with islands, with white sand beaches and dunes, and definitely worth a trip - whether on the Dutch, German or Danish side. Close to Hamburg, this was a popular destination for our family vacations.

Fortunately, it's not sooo different from Maine, so I won't get homesick!

A typical sea coast resident - whether in Germany or in Maine!


100 g rye meal
  26 g whole wheat or rye mother starter
200 g water, lukewarm

Intermediate Dough:
     all starter
100 g rye meal
100 g whole wheat flour
150 g water, lukewarm

Final Dough:
     all intermediate dough
100 g whole wheat flour
    6 g salt
  10 g honey
    8 g molasses
  25 g flax seeds
  25 g sesame seeds
  25 g sunflower seeds, toasted
  50 g water, lukewarm (or more, as needed)
sunflower seeds for topping

Sunflower seeds, sesame and flax seeds for a nice crunch

Stir together all starter ingredients in medium bowl. Cover, and leave at room temperature to ferment overnight.

The intermediate dough is very liquid

In the morning, using a large spoon or Danish dough whisk, mix together all ingredients for intermediate dough until well combined. Cover, and leave at room temperature for 6-8 hours, until its visibly risen and puffed.

Wow - hyperactive intermediate dough!

In small bowl, soak flax seeds in the water for final dough (longer soaking makes them better digestible).

In the evening, using a large spoon, dough whisk (or mixer with paddle attachment on low speed), mix together all final dough ingredients for a few minutes, until well combined - dough will have the consistency of thick pancake batter.

This is what the dough looks like after mixing

Fill dough up to 3/4 in lightly oiled medium sandwich loaf pan (9-inch), smooth with wet rubber spatula, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Cover pan with aluminum foil (you will use it as cover for baking, later) and refrigerate overnight.

Ready for a cold night in the fridge

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before baking. The bread will have risen a bit, but not much.

Preheat oven to 450ºF/230ºC.

The dough is puffed, but has not risen much

Place bread (covered with foil) in oven, reduce temperature to 425ºF/220ºC, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake for another 40 minutes (rotate180 degrees after 20 minutes, if bread browns uneven). Internal temperature should be at least 200ºF/93ºC.

Freshly baked Frisian Ryes

Remove bread from pan. Mist bread with water while hot (optional - this softens the crust a bit), and let it cool on wire rack.

To avoid a gooey mess on your bread knife, be patient and wait at least for 12 hours to cut into your bread - and it will have developed its full aroma, too!

Even if it's hard to resist - wait at least 12 hours before slicing!

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula here.