Cornell Bread


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(… and a recipe for pitas from so-called “Cornell” dough).  Our third book will be officially released on October 25, 2011, but it’s now available for Pre-Order on Amazon! To view the book’s cover, which is now finalized, click here. It will have pizza and flatbreads from all over the world—plus, the recipes will be complemented with soup, salad, and dip recipes so that these pizzas and flatbreads become the basis of an entire five-minute meal.  As in all our books, the idea is to do all the mixing once, but serve many times from a big batch.  That’s a perfect fit for soups and dips (and you can get a salad ready while your bread’s in the oven).

Turns out that you can make great flatbreads (like the pitas above) using a modification of our Whole Grain Master Recipe (that original appears in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day).  The modification was inspired by “Cornell Bread,” a bread baked from soy-enriched dough originally developed as a vegetarian protein source during World War II.  Many of you have asked us about whether our recipes work with some soy flour— they do…          Return to FAQs page, or scroll down for more on Cornell Pitas…

In the 1940’s, war rationing took hold, and panicky parents began to wonder whether their families were going to be able to meet nutritional needs, especially those with growing children. Back then, most Americans believed that you couldn’t be healthy without eating meat, which was one of the most strictly rationed goods.

Money was also tight; between the ration stamps and dwindling income, Cornell University nutrition professor Clive McKay was motivated to develop a high-protein dough that baked into what became known as “Cornell Bread.” To replace the protein and nutrition people were missing from meat, McKay added non-fat dry milk, wheat germ, and soy flour.  Along with Victory Gardens, “Cornell Bread” was promoted to dutiful families as a way to stretch budgets at a time of national emergency.

Here’s what blows my mind about Cornell Bread: the original is made almost entirely from white flour. McKay understood that Americans still hadn’t embraced the nutritional value (and good taste) of whole grains. White bread was still viewed as the pinnacle of developed bread-cuisine, and he needed something that would be embraced by everyone.

When I saw the original recipe for Cornell Bread, I was struck by how much skim milk powder, wheat germ, and soy flour was needed to make white bread more nutritious. I decided to use McKay’s ideas to create a super-fast, nutritious pita bread, but start with more whole grains so I wouldn’t need as much soy and milk powder.

The Master Recipe in our second book is based mostly on whole wheat flour and other inexpensive ingredients, so I used that as a nutritious and economical basis for Cornell pitas. Because whole wheat is so much more nutritious in the first place, I felt comfortable decreasing the wheat germ, soy flour, and skim milk, letting the grain flavors shine through.

And like all our recipes, stored dough is the key for busy families: if you have the dough mixed and ready to go every day, whenever you need it, you’ll make your own bread as often as you like.

Best news of all: all the ingredients for a four quarter-pound pitas cost less than 70 cents! When you do the math, you’ll see what I mean. Remember that the full batch makes enough dough for over sixteen pita breads. Buy your yeast in bulk or in 3-pound packages to realize the most savings. When you’re done with this quick and inexpensive recipe, you’ll have 4⅓ pounds of dough that will develop lovely sourdough flavors over its 5 days of storage. With our method, you just pull dough out of the storage container as you need it. Because that recipe has no milk, it can be stored for 14 days in the refrigerator. In addition, we go through the steps for forming loaf-shaped breads (Cornell dough can be used similarly).  As you look over this recipe, you’ll also find pictures and instructions from our other pita bread postings (click here).  Or, here, for Turkish-style pita.  And here’s a version done over a hot grill (click here).

5½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup soy flour
¼ cup non-fat dry skim milk powder
¼ cup wheat germ
1½ tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4¼ cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
1 to 2 tablespoons of whole seed mixture for sprinkling on top crust:  sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, and or anise
1.  Measure the dry ingredients into a 5-quart bucket or bowl, and whisk them together (you can also use a fork, or if it’s lidded, just shake them well).  Mixing the dry ingredients first prevents the vital wheat gluten from forming clumps once water is added.

2.  Add the water and mix with a spoon to form a wet dough. Cover loosely (leave lid open a crack) and allow to rise for two hours at room temperature.  NEVER PUNCH DOWN or intentionally deflate.  The dough will rise and then begin to collapse.  Refrigerate and use over the next 5 days, tearing off quarter-pound lumps for pitas as you need them, or grapefruit-sized balls if you want to make a loaf bread (see end of recipe for instructions on loaf breads). The dough can be used immediately after the two-hour rise but is easier to handle when cold.

3.  On baking day, pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes, with a baking or pizza stone on any shelf in the oven. If you don’t have a stone, a cast-iron pan works well.

4.  Cut off a peach-sized piece of dough (about a quarter-pound), using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Quickly shape into a ball by pulling the top around to the bottom while rotating quarter-turns as you go.  DON’T KNEAD or otherwise overhandle—you don’t want to knock gas out of the dough. Place the dough on a pizza peel or wood cutting board (preferably with a handle). Using a rolling pin and dusting with flour, roll out in a circle-shape to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Use enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the board.

5.  Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water and sprinkle with seed mixture.  Slide the bread onto the pre-heated stone or cookie sheet and bake for about 5 to 7 minutes and bread is just beginning to brown. Whole grain pitas don’t puff quite as much as white pitas.

6.  Wrap with a clean cotton towel for the softest, most authentic result.  Allow to cool inside the towel.

7.  Split open with a fork and enjoy as a sandwich bread or with dips.

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187 thoughts to “Cornell Bread”

  1. Hi- I’ve been using your ABin5 Min a Day for a year now and love it! Do you have any suggestions for baking two loaves at once w/ a convection oven? I’ve been asked to bring a few loaves of the Boule (p.26) to a party and it would be a time-saver to bake both loaves at the same time.

    1. Kathy: 2 loaves shouldn’t increase baking time by a measurable amount, especially if you’re using a stone. Convection: decrease temp by 25 degrees F, baking time should stay the same. Jeff

      1. Thank you so much for your quick reply! I did what you suggested and they came out fine. I also made your pumpkin-oatmeal loaf but used pecan-pumpkin butter rather than plain pumpkin; it smells amazing! Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I read about your first book (and recipes) in THE KITCHEN COUNTER COOKING SCHOOL. Before I buy it, will it tell me how to make ONE loaf of bread at at time? I live alone, am very small, and while I love bread, I don’t eat more than 2-3 slices a day. There are a lot of one-person households out there, and the number is growing. Sometimes less is best, if it prevents waste. Thanks.

    1. Hi Peggy,

      All of our recipes can be reduced by half, or more if you need. You will make a great loaf of bread, but making only one at a time will reduce the time saving aspect of our method.

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. I noticed in one of your videos that you mentioned making lunches for your kids. Do you ever post what you pack for their lunches or thought about coming out with a book for it? I pack my kids lunch everyday and they all have to be cold because they have no way to heat them and I’m running out of ideas. Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Bethany,

      It is such a challenge to make them lunches that are healthy and interesting. If you have our second book, Healthy Bread in Five, there are some breads that have lunch rolled right into them. It is like these pizza pops, but an entire loaf with ham and cheese or other fillings: Here is a sweet version of what I am talking about:

      Cheers, Zoë

  4. I’m not sure where to post this question: have you substituted einkorn wheat for all-purpose wheat in your recipes? Or have you developed certain recipes that work best with einkorn? Einkorn, as you may know, is the only wheat that has not been hybridized. And after reading Wheat Belly, our family has been striving for a diet free of the conventional wheat because of difference in gluten numbers (einkorn has 1 versus today’s wheat that has about 20). I haven’t tried any of your recipes yet with einkorn, but my supplier says that the liquid in a recipe should be about 1/2 the weight of the flour. I’d be interested in your thoughts!

    1. Kara: Haven’t tried it, but if it’s whole-grain, use it in our recipes where we call for whole wheat flour.

  5. Firstly, thank you for your great book. I have ABin5 and I quite love it. I don’t really know if this is the correct FAQ for my question, but here goes.

    I bought the Kindle version because it is much more convenient in the kitchen when I have a recipe in mind. However, the electronic version is quite bad when I’m trying to find something new to bake. In other words, it is not browse-friendly. Not a fault of the book just the electronic format.

    What would make the process much easier is if there was a list of included recipes in the table of contents or anywhere else. Does such a list exist anywhere? I realize there is the index but it too is a bit awkward given the sheer amount of other information in there. I would appreciate anything you could point me toward.

    Thank you.

  6. Hi,
    I was wondering if there were any plans to release a French translation of your first book. I’m French, and I’d definitely be interested !
    Some changes would probably be necessary, as people don’t use cups in France (we use only the metric system, and weigh indredients), and also the types of flour are not the same. But, as bread making becomes more and more popular too (even though there are “boulangeries” almost everywhere), I’m pretty sure your book could be quite successful.

  7. I used to live in NY and we made a tomato salad similar to your Tuscan Bread Salad but instead of stale peasant bread we used a black pepper corn biscotti called pepper friselle. You could get it in any Italian bakery or the supermarket. I live in the south now and can’t get it. Do you have a recipe for it? I make your Italian semolina bread all the time and it is great. Thanks.

    1. Hi Geri,

      The salad you describe sounds delicious. A friselle is made with baking powder, so it is considered a “quick bread” and we’ve not created any quick bread recipes for our method.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thanks. I Didn’t know it was made with baking powder. I still would like to make them. If anyone has a recipe for them please let me know. Thanks.

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