Sourdough Starter in our Recipes

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Yes, you can use activated sourdough starter in our recipes.  My own sourdough starter, after I activate it from the fridge, is about half water and half flour (you can find recipes for naturally-fermented sourdough starter all over the web, and one of our future books may have a recipe of our own). I’ve found that about 1 1/2 cups of activated sourdough starter works well in our full-batch recipes, which make 4 to 5 pounds of dough.  This means that you need to decrease the water in the recipes by 3/4 cup, and the flour by 3/4 cup. At the end, you’ll probably need to adjust water and flour to create a dough that looks and feels just like what you get with our yeast-based recipes.

So, having done this, do you need to use commercial yeast in addition?  I found that I still needed some yeast in the recipe, though I could use a lower dose, which I’ve posted about before in the context of our yeast-risen recipes.    That seems like a good compromise.  I did experiment with zero-yeast versions, but I found them a bit temperamental– didn’t store terribly well so we decided not to put that in our books… yet!

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Sweet Provençal Flatbread with Anise Seeds

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In our first book, we covered the classic European baking tradition, and that meant lots and lots of bread from France, a country where I love to eat anything, but especially bread.  Sweet Provencal Flatbread with Anise Seeds is a marvelous example of a bread that is  so versatile that it can be split to make great sandwiches today, and then dunked, stale, into strong cafe au lait tomorrow morning.  You can mix a whole batch with the sugar, orange zest, and anise seeds, or roll a little of those three into a plain dough to make just a pound’s worth (see end of post). (more…)

Julia Child’s Beef Wellington, With Our Brioche Crust (Filet de Boeuf en Croûte)

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Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking has a terrific French bread recipe, but it takes about three days to prepare– still, it was one of the first loaves I ever was really, really happy with years ago.  Back then, I wasn’t thinking about brioche, or brioche-wrapped beef tenderloin, but you can bet that I am now.  The brioche recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is one of the most popular ones in our book.  Recently I remembered that Julia Child’s Beef Wellington recipe actually calls for brioche rather than the more traditional puff pastry (it’s in Volume Two of “Mastering the Art…”).  Voilà!  Easy Beef Wellington?  Well, all I can tell you is that the pastry part becomes easy if you have our brioche dough in the freezer or fridge.  And the result is scrumptious and festive.  But five minutes a day?  Well… (more…)

Kohlrabi Greens Pesto for Grilled Pizza

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This year my family finally signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share.  Every Friday, our farmer wakes before dawn and drives to the Twin Cities and other communities to deliver the week’s bounty of organic produce.  We pick up a half-share; above is just a portion of one Friday’s haul (though this year’s drought has definitely decreased the crop).

Every week, we get whatever’s in the box.  I’d never eaten Kohlrabi before  (the bulbous thing on the right, with greens growing out of it).  When you get lots of something you’ve never eaten, there’s only one thing to do, at least at my house… make it into bread or pizza… (more…)

Breakfast Pizza

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We had friends for brunch this past Sunday, and I decided to try something I’ve been meaning to do for a while:  Breakfast Pizza.  It’s basically a pizza dough base, topped with egg, cheese, and whatever meat you like, if you’re a meat eater (we are).  In order to contain the egg, which might otherwise run off the pizza, I baked this pizza in an unfinished, plain black 12-inch cast iron pan.  The result is closely related to the Italian frittata. (more…)

Pizza discussion forum

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(photo by Mark Luinenburg)

Some of our blog readers have noticed that we have lots of summertime posts and discussions on outdoor-grilled pizza and even desserts, and pastries, but we’ve never posted on baking pizza the old-fashioned way.  As summer comes upon us, believe me, there’ll be more and more that we do outside on the gas grill (I like the Weber grills for that, available at Amazon).

One thing I have to share:  Amazon has dropped the price on the Old Stone Oven pizza stone:  Click here to order.

So before it gets hot, let’s talk about indoor-baked pizza.  Our lean doughs make great pizza bases, and nicely tolerate a pre-heated stone up to 550 degrees F.  Use lots of flour and roll it out to 1/8-inch thick and you cannot miss (be patient).  What kinds of pizzas are people making?

Lemon-Poppyseed Mini-Brioches (with a couple of healthy tweaks)

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On Mondays, it’s my turn to pick up my older daughter from school, and then stop for tea and treats before her guitar lesson.  We’ve been doing this for six years, and I think I love the tradition as much as she does.  Our downtown coffee shop has great coffee and tea, but the baked goods leave a lot to be desired, especially by the time we roll in at 4:00pm.  There’s one exception– they have a lemon-poppyseed pound cake that is just terrific (or it would be, if it were fresh!).  I wondered if we could adapt the brioche from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to the bright fresh flavor of lemon and the crunchy texture of poppyseed, topped with a simple glaze.  They baked up perfectly in cupcake tins so if you’re inclined to call these cupcakes, go right ahead.  And I snuck in two healthy tweaks to the recipe:  canola oil instead of butter, and even a little whole grain.  (more…)

Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven! (see post below for winner of the book giveaway!)

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Here is yet another way to get a fabulous crust on your bread without using any steam in the oven. I mentioned my very unsophisticated disposable lasagna pan as an option and now I present you with yet another ingenious idea. Baking bread in a Dutch oven was made popular by a Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times  about baker Jim Lahey. He introduced home bakers to a professional style bread that didn’t require a steam injected oven.  All the iron-pot methods are based on the old European technique of baking inside a closed clay pot.  Most people don’t have one of those, but enameled cast-iron pots are readily available– and they trap all of the internal moisture in the dough and that creates the steam you need to get a crisp and shiny crust. It really is fantastic and it works perfectly with our stored doughs from the book. (more…)