Sunday, 31 August 2008

Whole-Wheat Batter Bread

This whole-wheat loaf is a batter bread, meaning it doesn’t have to be kneaded. Because the dough consists of only whole-wheat flour, the loaf won't rise as much as a loaf made with bread flour (due to the protein content). However, the good thing is it's a batter bread so you don't have to worry about working the dough to develop the gluten. The batter will be soft and fairly light and the finished loaf won't end up looking and tasting like a brick.

The slice is wheaty and chewy. You can serve it with soft cheeses, topped with a wisp of ham. Or, spread a slice with cinnamon and butter for a yummy toast. It also makes a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich to be enjoyed with a tall glass of milk!

Batter Whole-Wheat Bread
(Makes two loaves)
The recipe for this bread is from Bernard Clayton's
New Complete Book of Breads.


  • 6 cups whole-wheat flour (I'm using organic whole wheat from War Eagle Mill)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups hot water (120° to 130°)

Baking Pans:
  • 2 medium (8" x 4") loaf pans, greased or Teflon (I'm using greased glass pans)


Note: You don't even need to use your mixer.

Mixing by hand - 13 minutes

In a large mixing bowl measure the flour and stir in the sugar, salt, and yeast. Pour in hot water and stir 50 strokes to blend.  This will be a soft batter, not to be kneaded.

Fill the pans two-thirds full. Spread the batter into the corners using wet fingers.

Rising Time: 30 minutes

Cover with wax paper and leave at room temperature to double in volume only - about 30 minutes. If you let the batter rise longer, it will fall during baking.

Preheat the oven to 400°F 20 minutes before baking.

Baking Time: 400°F 15 minutes; 350°F 45 minutes

Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F for an additional 45 minutes, or until the loaves test done. (I'm using glass pans, so I need to reduce the oven temperature by 25°.) A metal skewer or cake testing pin inserted in the center of the loaf will come out clean and dry. (If using a convection oven, reduce heat 40° for each bake period).

Final Step

Remove the bread from the oven, turn from the pans, and place on a metal rack to cool before serving.

Happy Baking

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Brioche -- A rich no knead bread

Brioche is a very rich and delectable bread. In fact, this particular recipe utilizes a 70 percent butter-to-flour ratio so it would definitely be considered a "rich man's brioche". In France, they make two types: rich man's and poor man's brioche -- the difference being the amount of butter.

I made Brioche this past Easter and my oldest son loved it. He said "Mom, I wouldn't mind if you made this bread again". That's a teenager's way of saying he likes it. I took the hint and made it again.

Shaping Brioche: Brioche can be made into many shapes and forms. It is often made as a petite brioche à tête, a small roll with a topknot; it can be baked in loaf pans and sliced like any other bread; or it may be shaped into torpedo rolls and eaten on the side with foie gras or other rich delights. It also makes wonderful French toast and bread pudding.

Using a Master Formula for Brioche: This particular formula utilizes a sponge that is really a type of poolish, made with milk. It is thicker than other types of poolish. The poolish has enough yeast so that no additional yeast is required.

Making Brioche

The master formula for this brioche is found in Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.

Yield: 3 loaves, or up to 4 dozen small rolls. I’m using a smaller fluted pan to mold the brioche so it will make about 3 brioches.

Ingredients (Sponge):
  • 1 teaspoon Instant Yeast
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm milk (90°F)
  • 1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

Ingredients (Dough):
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (0.25 ounce) salt
  • 5 large eggs (8 ounces), cold, plus 1 large egg for egg wash
  • 1 1/2 cups sponge (from above; use all 8.6 ounces)
  • 1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray (optional)
  • Melted butter and flour for the molds (Tip: to coat the pan melt 3 parts butter and stir in 1 part flour (by measure, not by weight). Brush this on pans whenever you need a buttery pan release. The flour keeps the butter from burning.


To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the milk in a mixing bowl. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the sponge to ferment at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. It will become very bubbly.

In a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, salt, 5 eggs, and sponge.

Note: If you have a heavy-duty mixer, now is the time to use it. Mixing this dough by hand is quite a workout.

Mixing the dough by machine:
Mix it on low speed for about 2 minutes, till a smooth dough is formed. Cut the butter into 3 pieces and beat in 1 piece at a time at medium-low speed till each is absorbed. Continue beating at the same speed till the dough is smooth, about 6 minutes. It will be very soft and sticky.

Mixing the dough by hand:
Gradually combine all the ingredients and beat vigorously with a wooden or metal spoon for about 10 minutes, to make a smooth, wet dough

Mist the top of the dough with cooking spray, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight (or for a minimum of 5 hours). The dough will firm up considerably as it retards.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it, while it is still cold, into loaves, rolls, or molded petites brioches à tête.

Grease the molds well with cooking spray or with melted butter and flour. Mist the top of the dough with cooking spray, cover it with plastic wrap or enclose it in a plastic bag, and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or till nearly doubled in size.

Brioche dough doubled in size after 2 hours

Position on oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F for a large, full-size brioche, 400°F for smaller loaves. Beat the remaining egg till smooth and brush it on the tops of the brioche, taking care not to let it drip down the sides of the molds.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes for loaves, 20 to 25 minutes for small rolls
, until a rich, deep gold. If using molds, remove the rolls 1 or 2 minutes after they come out of the oven, taking care not to tear them (use a small knife to loosen them from the side walls). Cool the brioche on a rack for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size, before eating.

Happy Baking!

If you'd like to try a different
Brioche Recipe, check out these No Knead Breads.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Batter Corn Bread

Batter Cornbread is brown and golden and similar in texture to a quick corn bread. However, it’s different from regular cornbread because it uses yeast as the leavening. The batter is beaten, not kneaded and it rises once in the pan before baking.

This easy bread takes about 2 hours from start to finish. It is a good bread to make Sunday afternoon for dinner with the family. You don't even need any special baking equipment, just 2 medium (8" x 4") loaf pans, greased, Teflon or even glass loaf pans. You don't really need a mixer but you can certainly use one if you prefer.

Batter Corn Bread
From Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads


  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water (120°F - 130°F)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, margarine, or other shortening
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon each milk and cornmeal


In a large mixing or mixer bowl, stir together the yeast, flour, cornmeal, and dry milk. In another bowl, pour the hot water over the shortening, sugar, salt, and eggs. Combine. Add to dry mixture. Beat until well blended, about 50 strokes, or 1 minute with a mixer flat beater. The batter will be stiff.

Turn the batter into the loaf pans and push into the corners with a rubber scraper.  Cover the loaf pans with wax paper and put aside to rise at room temperature until the batter has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F 20 minutes before baking. I reduced the heat to 350°F since I was using glass baking pans.

Before putting the loaves in the oven, carefully brush the tops with the milk and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.

Bake in the oven until golden and brown, about 35 minutes. The loaves will be done when the bottom crust makes a hard, hollow sound when thumped, and a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry and clean.

Remove the bread from the oven and turn the loaves out onto cooling racks.

This bread is especially good warm. I’m serving it with some homemade chili. The first batch of the season.

This bread freezes pretty well. You can eat one loaf now and save one for later. That's what I'm going to do. I made a big batch of chili and I'm freezing some of that as well. One cold winter night, I can take the chili and the corn bread out of the freezer and have an easy meal that my family will love. I can't wait!


Happy Baking!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

White Velvet Batter Bread

This savory batter bread requires no kneading. It fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma while its baking. It is a unique bread that was developed for baking in coffee cans to create a special mushroom shape.
It is an easy yeast bread which is suitable for a beginning baker. However, it's fun to make regardless of your baking level.

I like this bread because it is quick to make. It
can be prepared in 2 hours from mixing to table. If you don't have time to prepare a kneaded bread, this is a good alternative because it rises once, then bakes.
Batter breads require no kneading so the process is quicker than for regular bread doughs and it is easier to clean up -- a definite plus. For more information, check out this section on no knead breads.

White Velvet Batter Bread

From Beth Hensperger's Bread Made Easy: A Baker's First Bread Book
Special equipment needed:Two 13-ounce coffee cans or two 4 1/2-inch diameter ovenproof glass baking canisters.


  • 1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar (I didn't have light brown sugar so I substituted dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk, regular, fat-free, or goat's milk, undiluted, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil or unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 1/4 cups (exact measure) unbleached all-purpose flour


Step 1: Mixing the Batter
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast, a pinch of the brown sugar, and the ginger over the warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

For this recipe I’m providing the instructions for making the batter by hand. I got a good workout because you have to beat the batter vigorously. If you prefer, you can let your mixer do the work for you.

Combine the milk, the remaining sugar, salt, oil or butter, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour in a large bowl.
Beat vigorously with a balloon whisk or dough whisk, at least 40 strokes by hand, until thick and sticky. Add the yeast mixture and beat vigorously for 1 minute more.

Continue to add the remaining flour gradually, 1/2 cup at a time, then beat vigorously another 100 strokes, about 2 minutes. By this time, I had switched to using the Danish dough whisk because the batter was too thick to use the balloon whisk. The batter will stay sticky. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Step 2: Panning and Rising
Generously grease the bottom and sides of the coffee cans or glass baking canisters.
Divide the batter evenly between the 2 molds, filling one-half to two-thirds full.

Use a spatula to push the batter into the corners and smooth the top with flour-dusted fingers. Cover loosely with plastic wrap lightly greased with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The batter should be even with the rim of the pan and slightly lift up the plastic wrap. Do not let the dough rise more than double (over risen loaves collapse during baking).

Tip: If the batter over rises, scrape it into a bowl, beat vigorously about 20 strokes, then return it to the pan and begin the rising process again.

Step 3: Baking, Cooling, and Storage

About 20 minutes before baking, place the oven rack in the lower part of the oven and preheat the oven to 350
°F (325°F) if using glass molds). Bake until the top is crusty and dark brown, the bread sounds hollow when tapped, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

An instant-read thermometer should read 200
°F. The crown will dome about 3 to 4 inches above the rim of the mold. Cool in the molds for 5 minutes.

Finished batter breads
As you can see the crowns domed very nicely

Turn mold on its side and slide the loaves out onto a rack to cool on their sides for at least 2 hours. Serve slightly warm, sliced into thick rounds or cut into long wedges, with lots of butter.

There wasn't that easy! Don't wait too long to eat the bread after it cools, it is really good!

Storing the bread:
Store wrapped in a plastic food storage bag (or bread bag) at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sourdough Bread using a Grape Starter

I’ve been developing a natural grape starter using grapes from a local vineyard. I took a tour of the winery recently and it was very educational.

Did you know that red wine is better for you than white wine because they use the whole grape and not just the juice? 

When I heard that, it reminded me of the difference between whole wheat flour and white flour. Whole wheat flour utilizes the whole grain whereas white flour separates the bran and the germ.

Another similarity between making wine and bread is the
fermentation process. When the wine maker started talking about the fermentation process for wine, I just smiled. Anyone that bakes bread on a regular basis is familiar with the fermentation process, particularly when you make bread using a starter. I think the process is fascinating - whether it's winemaking or bread making.

Speaking of starters, it's time to get started making the grape starter.

Here are the grapes I used. Don't they look yummy!

You can get organic grapes at a natural foods store or go pick you own.

Natural Grape Starter recipe
from Rustic European Breads from your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts. They got the recipe from an old Oklahoma Dust Bowl cookbook.

  • 1 1/2 cups/7.5 oz./210 grams organic unbleached bread flour
  • 2 cups/16 oz./450 grams  room temperature spring water
  • 1/2 pound/8 oz./225 grams organic grapes on the stem, unwashed

Day 1: In a medium-sized glass or plastic bowl, whisk together the bread flour and spring water until its lump free.

This is what the starter looks like before we add the grapes.

Submerge the grapes in the mixture

Starter after the grapes have been added.

Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm room from 4 to 7 days. Feed the mixture every day with a few spoons of additional flour and water, keeping the ratio 3 parts flour to 4 parts water. Within a few hours the mixture will begin to bubble and expand.

Grape starter after a few hours on the counter.
It's already starting to bubble!

The starter is ready to use once the aroma is tangy and the taste is sweet and sour all at once, usually on about the third day.

Day 2: Starter after being fed on Day 2. It still needs to sit for another day or so.

Note: If the starter just lies there after a couple of days, heavy and lifeless, throw away most of it and feed it again with 1/2 cup flour and 2/3 cup water. Let is sit for about 12 hours, and look to see if it's started bubbling again. If it's still dead, throw it out and start over.

Day 3: Here is the starter at the beginning of Day 3.
It doesn't look to bubbly right now so we'll let it rest a little while longer.

After we fed it on Day 3, the starter came alive.
See how bubbly it is now!

Once you have a lively homemade grape starter, strain out and discard the grapes. Then, transfer the starter to a clean glass jar, cover, and refrigerate.

Here is the starter after the grapes have been strained out.
It's very bubbly although it’s hard to see in this photo.

We'll put the starter in the refrigerator for a day or so until we're ready to make bread.

To use the refrigerated starter, bring it to room temperature and give it a little feeding of 2 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons water. Let it stand in your warm kitchen overnight, then use it in your recipe.

Here is the grape starter after sitting overnight.
It's really bubbly and ready to go!

Day 4: Now, we're ready to make some yummy sourdough bread with the grape starter. Since we put all that effort into making the starter, let's use an easy recipe and make the sourdough bread in the bread machine. I'm also going to experiment a little this time since the bread machine will do most of the work from here.

Classic Bread Machine Sourdough Bread

We'll be making a Classic Bread Machine Sourdough Bread. The recipe is also from Rustic European Breads from your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts.

Since we used their starter recipe, it's only fitting we should use one of their bread recipes. For my experiment, I'm going to do one loaf without adding extra yeast like the recipe calls for and the other loaf with the extra yeast. We'll see how it goes.


1-Pound Loaf

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup starter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 1/2-Pound Loaf
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup water


Combine the ingredients in the bread machine pan and process on basic bread setting.

For the first loaf, I decided to make the 1-pound loaf. I didn't add the extra yeast to see if the starter would be enough to make the bread rise. Watch the machine for the first 10 minutes. If the dough seems dry, or if the machine lugs, add water, a tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too wet, add flour by the tablespoon until you have a soft dough ball.  Remove the bread promptly from the bread machine at the end of the baking cycle and cool it on a rack. Store in a paper bag.

Here are the photos of the 1st loaf of bread. As you can see, it didn't rise very well. The texture looked good, but I tasted it and let my son taste it and it was rather flat. Oh well! I guess that experiment didn't work very well. But that's the fun part of baking just try again next time.

Day 5: Ok, now for the 2nd part of the experiment. This time, we're making the bread according to the exact instructions on the recipe.

For this loaf, I decided to make the 1 1/2-pound loaf. I put all the ingredients, including the extra yeast, into the bread machine and set it on the basic bread setting. In a few hours, we'll have some bread.

It's been a few hours and the bread machine just beeped. I've been checking on it every once and a while to make sure it was rising properly. It looks good.

2nd loaf of bread right out of the bread machine.

Now here are the comparison photos. The 2nd loaf rose much better. However, keep in mind that I made a 1-pound loaf for the first loaf and a 1 1/2-pound loaf for the second loaf.

Comparison photos of 1oaf #1 and loaf #2

The 2nd loaf looks better and it tastes better too!

My oldest son doesn't really like sourdough but he liked this bread. It's actually very mild for a sourdough. The starter probably needs a little more time to develop it's flavor. We'll keep the starter going for a little while to see if it develops a more sour flavor. Even though the starter isn't very sour, it did live up to it's reputation of creating a bread that is chewy and crusty. Yummy!

Guess what? Although my family didn't like the 1st loaf, the squirrels and birds did. I always let them try my bread creations. They haven't complained yet.

Thanks for indulging me in this bread-baking experiment! I had fun. I hope you did as well.

Happy Baking!