Rustic Whole Wheat Bread for Pappa al Pomodoro (and some Holiday gift ideas)


Once again, my gracious friends Jim and Theresa invited my family to their gorgeous cabin, where we needed a warm-up.  Jim made fantastic Italian Tomato Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro), which is actually a bread soup usually made from stale Peasant Bread (see page 46).  But we decided to use the dough from the Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread on page 78 instead, forming it into rustic round loaves.  That’s them just after being slashed, above.  Because they’re free form loaves rather than loaf pan breads as in the recipe, you can bake at 425 degrees F, right on the baking stone for about 35 minutes (use steam from a broiler pan to get a great crust). 

Northern Minnesota is JUST like northern Italy in winter, isn’t it?  Though I guess tomatoes in the soup would make this southern Italian.  Want to make it?

It’s basically tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, and stale bread–we crisped our cubed bread (1-inch cubes) in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes, because it was fresh-baked (a 1-pound loaf):


Then, saute a medium onion (chopped) in olive oil until browned.  Add a couple of chopped garlic cloves (more to taste) and continue to saute until fragrant.  Then, prepare the tomatoes.  Jim had fresh Roma tomatoes, and we used about 25 of them.  Blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water and then dump into ice water so you can peel them easily:


Then peel and dice with a sharp knife:


Put the tomatoes, sauted onion and garlic, and the toasted bread cubes into a roomy soup pot and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the bread is soft but not completely falling apart (a matter of taste, really):


Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste.

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People have been asking us about more last minute gift ideas for the Holidays.  In our last post Zoe dropped in a few bread-making essentials, but I’ve added quite a few additional Amazon links here:


Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

A Passion for Baking, by Marcy Goldman:  Marcy’s newest book is a winner, covering the gamut of traditional baking.  Everything in this book will work; my family’s been using her books for years!  If you celebrate Hannukah, make Marcy’s rugelach in Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking.  You will not be sorry (actually, make these even if you don’t celebrate Hannukah, just call them Christmas Rolls). 

Bread equipment:

A Baking Stone, we like the ones that are a half-inch thick

A Pizza Peel, to slide free-form loves into the oven

An Oven Thermometer, to check if temperature is correct in your oven

A Dough Storage Bucket

Silicone mats:  These are completely non-stick and reusable about 1,000 times.  It’s a great alternative to corn meal on a pizza peel.  You rest your loaves on them and then pick up the mat and put it on the stone.  Peel loaf off the mat about 2/3’s of the way through baking to crisp up the bottom crust.  I’ve had good experience with this Silpat brand.

Parchment paper:  Another alternative to corn meal or a silicone mat.  Just line the pizza peel with a sheet of parchment and it will slide off perfectly every time (it’s single-use but works beautifully). 

Dough scraper:  Also known as a “bench scraper,” these are pretty much essential when you’re rolling out dough for pizza or pita.  Periodically scrape the dough off the work surface when it sticks. 

Immersion blender:  I’ve been using one of these to mix “old” dough with my water to jump-start sourdough flavor in new batches. 

Salter 5-pound scale, or the Escali 11-pound scale:  Both are terrific for weighing ingredients rather than using cup-measures, but the extra capacity of the Escali is nice for large batches.  Our Master Recipe (page 26) flour and water weights are:  1 1/2 pounds of water, and 2 pounds of flour.

Henckel’s Bread Knife:  Very affordable model; you can’t cut good bread without a good bread knife.

Microplane Grater/Zester:  This is the best way to get orange, or lemon zest for recipes like limpa (page 65)

Pizza wheel:  Best way to cut pizza, by far.  Also great for cutting strips of dough for breadsticks. 

Chicago Metallic 1-pound loaf pan:  This is a great, smallish, non-stick loaf pan (grease lightly anyway).  We get great results more easily in this size than the big ones. 

Fox Run Marble Rolling Pin:  The weight of this pin makes it very, very easy to get uniform rolled-out rounds for pizza and pita. 


I use a Nikon D200, which seems to be on sale everywhere because I think they’re discontinuing it; other Nikon digital SLRs which give terrific results are the D40, D60, D80, and D90.  I also like Nikon’s point and shoot cameras, like the Coolpix L18.   Zoe uses a Canon Digital Rebel XSi, and you can see the fantastic results she’s getting. 

Happy Holidays!

33 thoughts to “Rustic Whole Wheat Bread for Pappa al Pomodoro (and some Holiday gift ideas)”

  1. Thanks for the wonderful recipe! This year my gift list to family consisted of your wonderful book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”, a dough whisk, and a dough bucket. Those 3 items are my idea of pure bliss!

    I am so looking forward to your new book, as I like to grind my own flour and haven’t had great luck with the artisan method and whole wheat. I can make sandwich loaves 100% wheat all day long that are as fluffy as a cloud, but I can’t seem to get it working in the artisan method.

  2. CJ: Have a look at our post on the subject: In that post, we talk about vital wheat gluten (mix it in with the dry ingredients). You can experiment with that, or wait for our second book, which will be on the same method but focusing on whole wheat recipes– won’t be out till 12/09 though. Thanks for your note! Jeff

  3. What a great update. This is very timely for me, last night I mixed up my first batch of the whole wheat dough. Will be baking it tomorrow AM.

  4. Thanks Jeff! I do add gluten to my whole wheat sandwich bread, and extra water, but I didn’t think to try gluten in the artisan loaf. I’ll give that a shot thanks!

  5. Hi, Awesome book, bought one & was going to share with my sister…got thru looking at half & went downstairs to Amazon to order her own ! Made the deli rye today,absolutely delicious & I love easy !!! My question is, could I use half of the water amount & the other half dill pickle juice to make dill rye ?? Or would the vinegar affect the yeast rising ?? Thanks so much for the book, great job guys !!!!!!! Happy Holidays!!!! diane

  6. That much vinegar and salt, I’m thinking, might affect the flavor and yeast performance too much. But you can add dried or fresh dill though to the regular rye recipe. Vinegar weakens gluten structure and a tablespoon or two has been tried in order to open up the whole structure. But this is a lot of vinegar.

    Having said that, I’ve been amazed at how forgiving the recipes are, it might work. But I’d be skeptical. Your experiment would only waste a pound of dough! Jeff

  7. I never had luck baking bread and reconciled to pasty tasteless bread from grocery store.

    Three weeks ago a food blog mentioned the no-knead Boule from your book. I Googled and then read your book.

    Last week I baked a batch of raisin Challah. My 5 year-old daughter has proclaimed me as the best bread maker ever.

    Tonight, subbing in 4 cups of whole-wheat with 10 cups of all-purpose, I baked 8 loaves of raisin Challah to give to family members during Christmas.

    You have opened a door to bread making adventure to me and my family will get to eat along as I have fun. And more importantly, no more grocery bread.
    Thanks much!

  8. Peter: Thanks for your kind words. How did your WW substitution go? In general, we need to add more liquids when we try that…

  9. I just tasted the Challah w/ WW. The crumb is drier and airier compared to the original recipe made w/ all-purpose flour. Still very tasty. Perfect for french-toast.

    I noticed the WW dough ball was very wet and shaggy, whereas the all-purpose flour one was much drier and easier to handle and thought maybe it needed less liquid.

    Is there a thumb of rule for how much more liquid to add when subbing WW?

  10. Depends on how much WW you’re adding. For now, since your question bears directly on yet-unreleased content from our second book (December ’09), I’ll ask you to work out the numbers for yourself. Increase by an eighth of a cup at a time and see what happens. Jeff

  11. I received a wonderful and surprising compliment at our christmas dinner yesterday, I had made the flatbread with pine nuts and the olive oil bread for our Christmas eve family get together. I sent the extra home with my brother in law as we were having dinner at his house yesterday. Last night after dinner I was having a discussion with a friend on bread baking. She always uses a bread machine, but lately they have a habit of not working for her. I told her it was a sign that she needed to start making it without the machine. She then asked if I had made the bread they had. I told her I had.She said when she first tasted it, she thought it had come from the french bakery in town, but then remembered they had closed down.After a while she was thinking I might quite possibly had made it. It is great knowing my bread compares with the stuff that came from the french bakery that had all the professional equipment. Thanks
    Zoe and Jeff!

  12. Hi Jeff & Zoe – I stumbled across one of the news videos on Youtube and was captivated! I have just begun to entertain the thought of bread baking, but thought I was intimidated by yeast…. I love to cook and bake and not much in the kitchen intimidates me, but yeast… anyway, I purchased some yeast, made a batch, and am just amazed!! I can bake bread!!! It’s so easy, and everything else you say it is! Now today I am under the weather. A friend brought me some soup and “Artisan” bread from the grocery…. how could anyone call that bread?! No body, no flavor… Now, in addition to being a wine snob, I have turned into a bread snob! Thank you both!!

  13. I baked bread!!!! I am more of a cook not much of a baker. But, wait I baked bread!!!! I was looking to kill some time and needed a magazine to read and my husband handed me a copy of Mother Earth News and told me to check out this great article on bread – WOW. I am so glad he passed it on to me the only sad part is that he is in Nashville on business and has to wait until nest weekend to try it. I will be purchasing your book tomorrow!!!!

  14. Jeff and Zoe, I love experimenting!! I made a new artisan bread called flaxseed bread. Using the proportions from the book, 3 cups of water, 1 1/2 TBS of yeast, 1 1/2 TBS of salt, 2 TBS of molasses, 1 cup of ground flaxseed, 1 cup of oat flour, and 4 1/2 cups of allpurpose flour. All I am not sure of, is how long to keep it in the fridge? I baked it at 450 for 30 minutes and it was enjoyed by all who tasted it. I used the oat flour because I love the oat flour bread. I could have used the whole wheat flour, too, and perhaps it would have been even better. Really am looking forward to the next book!!! Louise

  15. Sharon: Hope the book’s working for you, let us know if you have questions.

    Louise: Flax is going to be all over our next book. My guess is that you can go at least 7 days with that recipe (no more than 14, but that will be pushing it with all that whole grain).

  16. Thanks for this great recipe! At the suggestion of a fellow blogger I picked up your book.. Artisan Bread in Five and I’m so pleased with it. My second loaf is in the oven now..I subbed in a bit of wheat flour and added rosemary, garlic and sage. My kitchen smells marvelous and I’m so glad to see others bringing this wonderful craft back to life. Keep on baking!

  17. Sourdough works with our method but it’s a little temperamental and requires some experience. Use about 1 1/2 cups of active sourdough starter in place of some of the water and flour, then adjust so that the consistency is the same as in our Master Recipe (page 26). I wouldn’t try to leave out all the commercial yeast but you can decrease it ( Have fun!


  18. I bake all of my bread, and grind the wheat as needed for my baking. Have I missed it? Is there a recipe on this site that uses 100% whole wheat? I have white and red hard wheats. I’m feeling very impatient for your new book!!!!! 😀

  19. AND would the nutritional value of the freshly ground grain be lost if it stays in the refrigerator several days?

  20. Sue: We have one 100% WW bread in the first book, There’ll be nearly a dozen more in the 2nd book, available for pre-order now at Meanwhile, have a look at the post we did on the subject of WG breads at

    I’m afraid I just don’t know how nutritional content changes during storage, once grain has been ground, or whether this is likely to be significant (but I would doubt it). Jeff

  21. I just had to share how you have changed our bread eating….I have not gotten past page 26 in your first book my family eats the loaves so fast I can not keep up…They have me adding, dried fruit to the loaves it is amazing flavor. My 15 yr, old daughter her friends request my loaf of bread for their birthday presents. Thank You for the great book…….

    1. Hi Janine,

      Thank you for letting us know and we are particularly thrilled that your daughter and her friends are appreciating all the bread you bake. We hope they will become the next generation of bread bakers!

      Thank you, Zoë

  22. A quick search of your site came up with nothing about croutons. (a search of ‘stale’ on your site sent me here). Now a crouton is really nothing more than a cube of stale bread — like what you use in this recipe. But some of the croutons you can buy at a store for salad have herbs, and possibly oil baked in, I dunno. I was hoping that you might have a 5min/day type recipe for dealing with stale cubes and turning them into ‘excellent artisan’ croutons for a nice salad taste. Or do I have to wait for the next book? (I am, by the way).

    1. Rob: Start as we do in this post, but douse them well with olive oil from a drizzle bottle. Salt to taste, and then crisp them in the oven as we do here. The recipe here omits the oil, with an obviously different result. Less intense flavor, but much less caloric for people interested in that.

      Consider using garlic infused oil too. Jeff

  23. Do you need to adjust the resting time if you are making the whole wheat sandwich bread as a free form loaf? Should it rest for the entire 1 hour 40 minutes?

    1. Hi Shalon,

      The bread tends to spread a bit and not be as tightly packed, so you can get away with a slightly shorter resting time, but not much. You can probably trim off about 10 to 15 minutes. If you make your loaf smaller you can trim even more.

      Thanks, Zoë

  24. I use King Arthur white whole wheat and bread flour when I make whole grain bread. I also use their whole grain dough enhancer. Could I sub these in your basic ww boule/oblong loaf? I also have their AP, of course.

    1. Mary Ann: If you swap bread flour where all-purpose was called for, you might need to increase the water a little. Unless the KAF dough enhancer is a water-absorber, in which case all bets are of. We haven’t used dough enhancers, so not sure how to advise. My guess is that it’s worth trying, their products work nicely in our recipes.

      FYI, only need to post once; we see everything… Jeff

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