Sunday, April 26, 2009

Easy Whole Wheat Bread

This delicious whole wheat sandwich bread is made with buttermilk and honey and is great toasted and served with marmalade or jam.

This bread really is easy and I'll tell you why.

I wanted to go visit a friend of mine today but I also wanted to get this bread baked. I decided I could do both with a little planning. I combined all of the ingredients using my stand mixer, then transferred the dough to a large bowl to rise. I went to visit my friend (who lives an hour away), with the bread rising in the bowl in the car. Once I got to his house, I put the bread in the loaf pans and let them rise for another hour and then baked the loaves. The bread turned out great! Believe me, my friend was only too happy to help test taste it. We ate it toasted with pear preserves! It was so good.

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe
Makes: 2 9-by-5-inch loaves

Adapted from
Bread by Williams-Sonoma.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • Pinch of brown sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (105º - 115ºF)
  • 1 1/2 cups tepid buttermilk (90ºF)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey, or light molasses
  • 1/4 cup  canola oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups freshly milled whole wheat flour from organic hard red winter wheat
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup organic white whole wheat milled from hard white spring wheat
  • 3 cups bread flour


Add the warm water to a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast and brown sugar over it. Stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour.  Beat on low speed until creamy, about 1 minute.

Gradually add in the yeast mixture and the remaining whole wheat flour and beat for 1 minute. Add in the bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until the dough pulls away from the bowl sides.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead it until it is smooth and slightly sticky.  Or, knead the dough in the machine, about 5 minutes. Add in extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as necessary to form a workable dough.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat it with oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease two loaf pans. Then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.

Divide in half and pat each piece into a long rectangle. Fold 1 rectangle like a letter, overlapping the short sides in the middle; press to flatten.

Bring the other end up and press again to flatten.

Beginning at the narrow end, tightly roll up the dough into a thick log.

Roll the log back and forth with your palms until it is the same length as the pan. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, in a prepared pan, tucking the ends under to make a neat, snug fit. Repeat with the second portion.

Cover with plastic again and let it rise until it is about 1 inch above the rim of each pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Bake until the loaves are golden brown and pull away from the pan sides, 35-40 minutes. Place the loaves on wire racks and let them cool completely.

There!  That was easy!  I hope you enjoy this bread as much as we did.
Happy Baking!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rustic European Whole Wheat Bread

This rustic European-style loaf is made with whole wheat and walnuts. The bread is round shaped and slightly porous. It is a rather wet dough so it’s best to form it by the sink so you can wet your hands frequently to keep the dough from sticking.

To begin the process, you make an Italian biga in the bread machine and let it sit overnight. Use 1/3 cup of the biga and mix the rest of the ingredients using the dough setting on the bread machine.

Using the bread machine definitely makes the dough easier to work with. After about 20 minutes in the bread machine, we'll take the dough out and let it rise and bake in the La Cloche. Or, if you prefer, you can use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and tented with foil to rise then bake it on a baking stone.

Italian Biga for Wheat Breads

Adapted from: Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts

Note: The longer you allow the biga or homemade starter to stand, the more sour the flavor will become. 


  • 1/4 teaspoon bread machine yeast
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spring water
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic bread flour


Add the yeast, water, and flour to the bread machine pan and process on the dough setting until the starter has mixed for 5 minutes, then turn off the bread machine.

Let the biga sit in the bread machine or in a covered jar overnight, or for a minimum of 10 hours. I let my biga sit for 12 hours before using it in the recipe.

Remove the starter to a 2-quart glass or plastic storage container. Cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, store it in the warm kitchen for a few days, stirring from time to time to further "sour" the taste. Feed this starter as you would any other: Add 1/2 cup each organic bread flour and spring water, knead thoroughly, cover, and set aside n the warm kitchen overnight or until it becomes bubbly and active again.

A Rustic Round of Whole Wheat and Walnuts

Adapted from: Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts

Makes: one 1 1/2-pound loaf


  • 1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
  • 1/3 cup Italian biga
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup black walnuts or English walnuts if black are not available, or more to taste.


Add the yeast, flours, biga, salt, and water to the bread machine pan.

Process on the dough setting just until mixed and kneaded, about 20 minutes.

Remove the dough from the pan to a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set to rise for 4 hours, or until tripled in bulk.

The dough can be left alone to rise in the refrigerator overnight or for as long as 24 hours if need be. If you leave it in the refrigerator for the long, cool rise, bring it back to room temperature before shaping.

Lightly flour a work surface close to your sink. With wet hands, scoop the tripled dough out of the bowl onto the work surface.

This is the scooped dough. Although mine sort of just plopped out.

Flatten it into a 12-inch disk.  Sprinkle the surface with the walnuts

Press them into the dough with flat palms.  Pull the sides of the dough into the middle and form a tight, smooth ball.

Line a rimless cooking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with flour.  Place the dough ball on the parchment paper and tent it with heavy-duty aluminum foil or cover with a large bowl, making sure the dough has plenty of room to rise and will not touch the foil or bowl and stick.

The dough was really wet and I didn't want to add additional flour so I decided to let it rise and bake in the
La Cloche rather than putting it on a baking sheet to rise.

Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone (if using) in place to 450 degrees F.

When the loaf has doubled, carefully slide the parchment paper with the dough on it onto the hot stone. After about 15 minutes, pull the paper out from under the loaf to help insure a crisp bottom.

Bake until browned and crusty, 30 to 35 minutes. Since I baked the loaf in the La Cloche, I let it bake about 40 minutes.

Cool the bread completely on a rack.  It will keep in a brown paper bag for up to 4 days.

This loaf is delicious! Crusty on the outside, but chewy on the inside.

This bread is very good by itself. In fact, I made a meal of it. It's very hearty (and healthy for that matter), but not too heavy. It tastes great warm with butter or you can spread other yummy stuff on it. I prefer just butter.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Greek Easter Bread

Greek Easter bread is braided and contains hard boiled eggs, dyed red for fertility, symbolizing the Resurrection of Christ.


A funny thing happened on the way to the family Easter dinner...

I started making this bread Saturday morning to take to my family's Easter celebration that afternoon. I was running late so I decided to let it rise in the car and bake it once I got to my sister's house. I had to hold onto the baking pan to keep the loaf from sliding off. It slid a couple of times and I was able to catch it. I kept saying "will you just cooperate?". It decided to have the last word. It slid completely off the seat. I couldn't catch in time. It stayed on the parchment and was still covered, but it was ruined.

I was soooo mad that I balled the dough up and threw it down on the baking pan. I decided I didn't care. We just wouldn't have any bread for dinner. I kept driving down the road mad at the world. Then, I started laughing my head off at myself.  You can’t get mad at bread. It was then that I realized I could just reshape it and let is rise again. So that's what I did.

The moral of the story is when you think all is lost, it usually isn't. You just need to laugh and try again!


Greek Easter Twist
Makes: 2 Loaves
From Breads from Betsy's Kitchen by Betsy Oppenneer.

  • 2 scant tablespoons or 2 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon crushed anise seed
  • 1 tablespoon orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 to 7 cups unbleached flour
  • 8 to 12 hard-boiled eggs, dyed bright red
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Coarse sugar or sesame seeds



1) Hard boil 8 to 12 eggs. I used about 8 eggs but you can use more if you like.

2) Dye the eggs red. I've never dyed Easter eggs red before. Very interesting and beautiful!


Stir the yeast into warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the milk, butter, eggs, honey, anise seed, orange peel, salt, and 3 cups flour and beat vigorously for two minutes.

Gradually add in the flour, 1/4 cup a a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.

Put dough into an oiled bowl and turn to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide in four pieces.

Shape each fourth into a 30-inch strand.

Twist strands together and pinch the ends together.

Spread the dough and insert four to six eggs evenly spaced between the strands.  Place onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining two strands.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Just before baking, brush each loaf lightly with the glaze and sprinkle with the coarse sugar or seeds.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaf reaches 190 degrees. Immediately remove the bread from baking sheets and cool on a wire rack.

This is the loaf I took to my sister's house. It turned out great even though I had to reshape it.

This is the second loaf that I made a couple of days later. I put the dough in the refrigerator and took it out 2 days later and let it rise at room temperature before shaping. It did just fine. It amazes me how forgiving a lot of breads are. We should be more like that!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kulich: Russian Easter Bread

Kulich, is a Russian Easter Bread that is usually made with a baba dough, but with more sugar, and added candied peel, almonds, raisins, and saffron. The top is iced and decorated, usually with Cyrillic letters standing for 'Christ is risen'.

"Traditionally during the Easter service, the kulich, which has been put into a basket and decorated with colorful flowers, is blessed by the priest. Leftover kulich that isn't blessed is eaten with Paskha for dessert. Blessed kulich is eaten before breakfast each day. It is baked in tall, cylindrical tins (like coffee or fruit juice tins), and when cooled is decorated with white icing (which is slightly drizzled down the sides), colorful flowers, and XB (the traditional Easter greeting of Христос воскресе, "Christ is Risen") is decorated on the side. Kulich is only eaten during the 40 days after Paskha (Easter) until Pentecost."
 ---This information is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Kulich"

According to Peter Reinhart, Dresden stollen, Milan panettone, Russian kulich, and English hot cross buns can all be made from this same multipurpose holiday bread formula. The difference is in the way the bread is shaped, baked and decorated.

For this version, we'll use the master formula and add dried apricots, almonds, and golden raisins rather than the candied peel and saffron. Then, we'll drizzle the top of the baked bread with a powdered sugar glaze and decorate it with colored sprinkles.

All-Purpose Holiday Bread

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Makes: 1 very large loaf, several small loaves, or up to 24 hot cross buns

This formula utilizes a sponge. The sponge is similar to a poolish except it is made with buttermilk. Although you can use other types of milk, buttermilk gives the dough the best flavor.

After 1 hour of fermentation, you can retard the dough for up to 24 hours.



  • 3/4 cup (3.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (0.25 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature


  • 4 1/3 cups (19.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1/3 cup (2.25 ounces) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (0.25 ounce) salt
  • 5 large eggs (8 ounces), cold
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 11.75 ounces sponge; use all

Additional Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup rum or orange juice concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds or walnuts
  • 1/4 cup multicolored candy sprinkles
  • Cooking spray


To make the sponge:

Stir together the flour and yeast in a mixing bowl. Then stir in the buttermilk and mix till smooth. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, till very bubbly.

Soak the dried fruit in rum and/or vanilla in a bowl while the sponge is developing.

To make the dough:

Combine all the other dough ingredients and the sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix the dough on slow speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 5 minutes.

Add the fruit and nut mixture and mix for an additional 2 minutes, or until the dough is soft and tacky. Add water if the dough is too stiff or flour if it is too sticky.

Spray the dough with cooking spray, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes. The dough should increases in size by 1 1/2 times.

Forming the Kulich:

This formula makes one large kulich. Generously spray the inside of a clean coffee can or other can with cooking spray. To make a large kulich, you will need a 2-pound coffee can. You can also use smaller cans, such as tuna fish cans to make a bunch of cute baby kulich's if you prefer. Fill each can slightly more than halfway with a ball of dough. Let the dough rise till it comes just above the rim of the can.

The dough may take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to rise enough, depending on the warmth of the room.
I used a 2-pound coffee can. It was a little chilly so it took about 4 hours for the dough to rise.

Baking the Kulich:

Bake the loaf at 325°F till the top begins to brown, 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size. The bread will have crowned above the can and mushroomed slightly over the edge.

The dough that is exposed will bake much faster than the rest of the loaf, so cover the top with aluminum foil and continue to bake it for about 15 minutes longer, till the center reaches 185°F. Turn off the oven and allow it to bake another 5 minutes.

Allow the kulich to cool in the can for about 10 minutes. When it is no longer hot but still warm to the touch, carefully remove the loaf, taking care not to separate the crown from the base (tap the sides of the can if necessary). Cool on rack.

Decorate the crown with lemon or orange sugar glaze (recipe follows), and sprinkle golden raisins, chopped dried apricots, sliced almonds, and/or colorful candy sprinkles into the glaze as it drips down the side of the loaf. Use golden-colored fruit to symbolize Christ's resurrection.

Making the sugar glaze:

Whisk together 1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar and 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons hot water into a paste that is thick but still can be drizzled on the bread. You can also add a few drops of lemon, orange, vanilla, or almond extract. A thinner sugar glaze can be brushed on by adding a little corn syrup and a few drops of milk.

Some people like to drizzle the glaze from a fork in streaky little lines. Others prefer to brush it on with a pastry brush to coat the whole piece.

Why don’t I have a photo of the finished bread? 

Well, you win some and you lose some. My loaf would not come out of the pan. It seems that using a coffee can is not as foolproof as other methods. I'll have to investigate further and let you know how to avoid the same fate. In the meantime, I have some yummy crumbs and broken pieces of bread that taste really good, but don't make such a pretty picture.

Note: I found a solution to the problem of the loaf sticking in the coffee can after it is baked. You have to get rid of the rim at the top.  To do this, I removed the bottom of the pan using a can opener, then I let the bottom fall to the top so that it was resting on the rim (which was now at the bottom).  If you decide to try this method, please be careful of the rough edges.

Happy Baking!

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