German Black Bread

Years ago, I was in West Germany (Schwarzwald, the Black Forest) for many months on a work assignment. While there, I ate a very interesting bread known as Black Bread. It was incredibly dense and interesting and like nothing I had ever had before. This last weekend, I decided to give it a go.

First of all, this is not a normal bread. It’s made up almost entirely of crushed rye berries (most would call them seeds or grain), with a tiny bit of sourdough starter. The first stage of creating this bread called for a fermentation of the starter and berries and it looked much like porridge.

After the initial fermentation, more rye berries were added and then there was an additional fermentation cycle. Finally, the porridge was massaged by hand until the berries showed some inkling to stick together. I must admit I added a small amount of APF to help with things stick together, but not enough to change the character of the bread.

Then off to a slow oven for many (3-1/2) hours and I ended up with this loaf:

The recipe indicated I should wait until slicing, but I went ahead and gave it a try shortly after it came from the oven. Not bad and close to what I remember from my time in Germany. I did manage to put it aside for a couple more days and then tried it again and the texture was improved. My daughter was present at the time and she liked it so much that now that loaf is hers 🙂

I may try this again in the future. If I do, I think I’ll try and get some dark rye berries (not available locally) to make the bread even blacker.


I’ve been working on my Sourdough, all the live-long day!

No, my name’s not Dinah and there’s no one else in my kitchen 🙂

However, I have been tending to my sourdough starter daily, trying to achieve that characteristic tangy taste. I started this starter from scratch only about two weeks ago (I’ve read of some that have been in existence for 150 years or more!). Each day, I remove a couple of cups of batter and replace it with fresh water and flour. In the beginning, it mostly smelled yeasty, but now it’s getting a bit sourer daily. I’ve also increased the volume and hence had to move it to a larger container since the old one kept bubbling over.

So, what to do with the cast-off batter? How about a nice stack of pancakes which I made following this recipe:


The two cups of batter made 10 pancakes. So light and fluffy and very tasty 🙂

Now that the starter is developing some flavor, I decided to make some more bread. This time, utilizing two different styles of recipe. The first recipe, called Sourdough Bread III from All Recipes, used quite a lot of starter (1-1/2 cups) plus normal yeast and yielded a quite nice looking boule.


It had a firm texture which sliced very well and will surely be a part of some yummy sandwiches soon:

The second recipe, Sourdough Bread I from the same site, used only 1 cup of starter and no yeast. It also took a very long time to rise/proof – about 4 hours for the first rise, then I formed a nice looking batard and left it to rise overnight. When it came from the oven this morning, my wife kidded that it looked like I was cheating and had gone out and purchased this one!

She was right, this is the best sourdough bread I’ve ever made and one of the best I’ve ever tasted 🙂

In love with Soda Bread!

Monday and Tuesday I tried my hand at Irish Soda Bread. What a treat! It’s so quick and easy to make and the results are astonishingly good. It’s a wonder why anyone bothers with yeast breads with all of their steps and finicky rises, etc.

The first recipe I tried was a simple White Soda Bread. It came together very quickly – no kneading, no rising, no punching – just roll it up into a simple ball:

It looked rather like a brain sculpture… Here’s what it looked like after about 30 minutes cooking:

Very nice texture and flavor:

Since that loaf was so easy and rewarding, I decided to stretch my legs. Much of what I read about soda bread is its versatility, i.e. you can do most anything with it – make it sweet or savory, simple or complex. I had been thinking about making an olive bread for a while so that’s what the soda bread became.
I started with the Irish Soda Bread recipe from Ina Garten which was for a somewhat sweet, albeit traditional Irish, loaded with currants. For my loaf, I substituted 3 oz chopped green olives plus 2 Tbsp basil pesto for her sugar and currants.

The second recipe wasn’t all that different from the first except the dough was much wetter, probably because of the butter and the addition of pesto (loaded with olive oil). This meant that the resulting loaf was much larger and fluffier which was simply outstanding – so flavorful!

It must have been good – my wife took it to work with her and she already asked me to share the recipe 🙂

Adventures with Brioche

I spent the weekend making brioche. Just a single batch takes quite a lot of time, including a resting period overnight. The resulting bread is light, buttery and oh so tasty.

The dough started with a sponge. The recipe said to wait until the wet part of the sponge broke through the flour crust, like this:

The next step created a rather sticky dough:

Then a ton (actually only 1-1/2 stick!) of butter gets creamed in:

After a normal rise (to double in size) and resting overnight in the refrigerator (in this case, the garage), the dough was split into three parts. One was destined to become a typical brioche loaf:




The other two parts became cinnamon rolls.

I added 1/2 stick melted butter to the thinly rolled dough.

Then a mixture of 1 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp cinnamon, plus some chopped walnuts:

Finally, it was rolled into a log:

cut into 1″ pieces

and put half on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper.



To see how the rolls behaved, the other half were put into a round cake pan:

The resulting loaf and rolls cooked a bit quicker than the recipe indicated, but came out beautifully:


The only thing the cinnamon rolls needed was some frosting made from 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup creme cheese and 1 tsp vanilla (I cheated here and used Grand Marnier as a tasty substitute improvement):


Overall, I think this adventure was quite successful. We’ll have to wait and see what the final verdict is – I gave them all away already 🙂

Bagels are bread, n’est-ce pas?

Yesterday, Jan 10, bagels were on my mind. I decided to try two different kinds at once; the sweet Cinnamon Rasin ones that my wife likes and the only kind I eat: Garlic!

The preparation of these two styles of bagel were really quite different. The Cinnamon Raisin ones used very little proofing, just a few rest periods. Also, the bagel itself was formed by making a rope and connecting the two ends (which was really hard to get right and failed about 75% of the time!).

This is what they looked like, after resting but before being boiled:

The final result didn’t look too much like the ideal bagel, but they were quite tasty. See what I mean about the ends not staying together (bottom right)?

The Garlic bagels used a more traditional bread approach. The dough was set aside to rise (double in size), punched down and then split into 8 pieces:

Each piece was then rolled into a ball and the hole formed by punching a finger through and then working it into the nice bagel shape. I thought I had made large enough holes, but many of them closed up after a rest and then being boiled:


The result, basted in garlic and olive oil, came out simply delicious. The only improvement on the next one I eat will be to split, toast and slather with cream cheese!

Rosemary Potato Bread

Another Brown-eyed baker success, this time I made Rosemary Potato bread.

The interesting thing about this bread was the use of a biga, which is a style of sponge that ferments overnight in the refrigerator. I think it added quite a bit of extra flavor to the bread.

Note: the recipe implies that if you make two boules, they should fit on a single cooking sheet. I tried it and found that they expanded too much and ended up having to reform them on separate sheets. Most likely, I just left them too long – so much for taking the dog for a long walk!

Very nice taste and texture – will probably bake it again in the future.

Betty Crocker Let-Down…

I’m always on the lookout for new bread ideas. Yesterday, I decided to try the “Swiss Cheese Souffle bread” from the Betty Crocker kitchen. I doubt I will be tempted to go there again 😦

Basically, the dough failed to rise during the second proofing and I was left with a rather small, dense loaf that looked more like a cake than bread. Perhaps it was because I used a loaf pan and not a round casserole as specified in the recipe (I didn’t have one handy). Not sure. The bread tasted OK, but just didn’t live up to my expectations.

Anyway, here’s what the result looked like:


It turns out we won’t have to eat this bread anyway! Our little dog Zsa Zsa, aka Walter the Terrible, took it down from the cooling rack on the table and shredded it. It seems she didn’t like it much either 😦

Pepperoni rolls!

Since yesterday, Jan 6, was “Three Kings Day” or “Epiphany”, my wife really wanted me to make a “Galette de Rois” which is traditionally eaten on that day. It’s more of a cake/pie than bread, so I opted for something else with a surprise inside – Pepperoni rolls 🙂 I patterned the recipe after the Soft Cheese and Pepperoni Bread by the “Brown Eyed Baker”. The one thing I changed was to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped garlic as well as the optional chopped onion.

It starts with a fairly soft dough, rolled out thin, then add pepperoni and shredded mozzarella cheese:

I really need practice rolling dough so it comes out even. I guess that’s part of this experiment to make some bread every day until I get it right!

Anyway, the result was 4 medium loaves of deliciousness:

Good by itself, maybe a bit better with some warm marinara sauce. Note: the reason the loaves have different finishes is I was playing a bit by misting two of them during the bake to get a bit firmer crust.

Sponge it up!

Sourdough bread is made by replacing [at least part of] the yeast with a culture, also known as the sourdough starter or sometimes “the mother.” I made this starter on Friday using this very simple recipe:

2 cups all purpose flour
2-1/4 tsp dry yeast (one packet)
2 cups warm water

This was placed in a large bowl and stored in a warm spot while it bubbles away. I put mine on top of the refrigerator. Note: make sure your bowl/vessel is big enough as the culture will expand quite a lot in the early stages. After a day or so it should be moved into the refrigerator until ready to use. Mine now looks like this:


The next step for sourdough bread is to make a sponge using the starter. Again a pretty simple recipe:

1 cup sourdough starter
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups warm water

Mix well in a large bowl and place in a warm spot and leave for at least 12 hours. Here’s what mine looks like, ready to make the bread today (Sunday):


Look at all of those bubbles! To create the final dough, add these to the sponge:

1 pkg active yeast (2-1.4 tsp)
1 cup warm water
1/2 Tbsp sugar

Mix the yeast first in a separate container and let it dissolve fully. Then add

4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter or shortening
1/4 tsp baking soda

Mix it all together and you’ll end up with a fairly loose/sticky dough:


I had to work in another 1/2 cup of flour to make it smooth and elastic.
Here’s what it looked like after the first rise of around one hour:

And the final product – two large boules – quite tasty, but I think it could use a bit more salt 🙂


Soooooooooo sloooooooooooooooooooow!

Today, Jan 3, I tried the Julia Child French Bread recipe for the third (and probably last for a while) day.  I was confident with the success of Jan 2 that this would be easy!  For whatever reason(s), it was anything but 😦

The main problem was that the dough pretty much refused to rise.  I think this may have been because the house (hence kitchen) was a bit cool.  It may also have been due to a bit too much of olive oil in the bowl I used.  I normally smear a small amount in the bowl to help the dough not stick.  Perhaps there was just too much – whatever.  It took the dough some six hours to achieve the first rise, including some coaxing by putting it into a slightly warmed oven (probably only 75F).  Anyway, I carried on with the full three rises (a total of nine hours) and formed a batard – a largish loaf containing the whole batch.  I originally formed it as a boule, something that looks more like a flattened soccer ball, but when I put that into the hot oven to cook, it collapsed into a thick, round puddle 😦  A quick reform and some resting then created the batard.

The result turned out to be not bad at all:

P1070094 P1070097

Next up; adventures with Sourdough bread 🙂 I made the starter on Jan 3 and will make the first bread from it starting on Saturday, Jan 4