Calculating nutritional information for our recipes

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Many of you have asked about nutritional information… you can use the SparkRecipe calculator, at http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp, to calculate nutritional content for any of our recipes. Remember to adjust for portion size.

The USDA Nutrient Database , at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/ is also useful.

And to calculate your daily calorie requirement try WebMD’s site: http://www.webmd.com/diet/food-fitness-planner/ 

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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.  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.

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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Pumpkin Pie Brioche just in time for Thanksgiving!

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Pumpkins are associated with the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, a decadent pie filled with spices and sweetness. The pumpkin adds a smooth and luxurious texture that amounts to pure comfort food. Pumpkin is not only wonderful for its flavors but is also chock full of healthy vitamins. This was the inspiration for making a pumpkin pie brioche to include in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I wanted to take some of the butter out of this healthy version of brioche, but I didn’t want to lose the rich texture. Pumpkin is the answer! I added the spices and a touch of sweetness to create what I love about pumpkin pie in this fantastic and versatile bread. It can be baked as a loaf, in a brioche pan or even made into our Indian Spiced Doughnuts (page 287) or as the bottom crust for the Pear Tarte Tatin (page 290). It is fabulous as dessert or breakfast.

Check out this video that Lenny and Denise from ChezUs made for us at Omnivore Books while we were on book tour in San Francisco. Thank you both for taking the time to make the video, it was so wonderful to see you.

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Using Fresh-Ground Whole Wheat Flour (and some highlights from our book tour)

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The flour on the left (the browner, coarser one) is an organic fresh-ground whole wheat.  On the right, the commercial whole wheat flour is obviously finer-ground and lighter in color (it’s the Dakota Maid brand, a very consistent and tasty product).  So many of you have asked about grinding your own wheat to make whole grain breads, that I decided to try it myself.

OK, I didn’t really grind it myself, I sourced fresh-ground wheat from Sunrise Flour Mill at the Mill City Farmer’s Market, next to the Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis.  After Zoe and I did an event and booksigning there, Marty Glanville of Sunrise Flour came by to say hello.  She gave me a great home made whole grain bread to try, made from her fresh-ground whole wheat, and I was sold.  The flavor is, well, very fresh.

It’s not an absolute requirement for whole wheat bread, but here’s a little on my first experiments with this great flour.  Considering how different the fresh-ground product looked compared with commercial whole wheat, I was surprised at how easily this stuff was able to be used in our Master Recipe– with no changes.  After some whole wheat talk, a little about the West Coast leg of our book tour (Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco).   Continue reading

Almond Bear Claws

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A couple of months ago I got a request from one of you for a recipe for bear claws. What fun, my boys absolutely love them, as much for the appearance as for the taste. There are many styles of bear claws, but this one is easy and most of all the kids will get a kick out of it.

Thank you for the requests, we want to hear what you’d like to make with all the dough. If you have an idea for a bread post, just drop us a note in the comments. It may take us a while, but we will try our hardest to make it. Continue reading

Blueberry Lemon Curd Ring

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Many people have written in to ask about assembling the Blueberry Lemon Curd Ring from page 228. I already had a bucket of Brioche dough, and some lemons rolling around in my refrigerator, so this ring was simple to throw together. The brightness of the lemon and berries is perfect folded into the rich Brioche dough. The ring is simple enough to make on any day of the week, but so impressive that you can serve it on special occasions.

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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?

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. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Buns and Helpful Hints for Holiday Baking!

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Jeff and I wanted to express our gratitude to all of you! We’ve loved hearing from you over the past year. Your questions have challenged us to learn more, your stories have inspired us and your encouragement makes this whole project a joy!

We know from your comments and emails that many of you will be baking bread for Thanksgiving. We are so pleased it will be part of your special meal. Just in case you need a little guidance on Thanksgiving day, I wanted to lead you to some good information about our most frequently asked questions:

Dense Crumb or Loaves Not Rising Enough?

Wet Dough Sticks to the Peel?

How to Improve Whole Grain Loaves?

High Altitude Baking?

Using a Different Type of Flour?

Too Salty or Not Salty Enough?

During the past week we’ve had several questions about making our various doughs into buns. These tiny little loaves are the traditional shape for the holidays and can be easily made from any of our doughs.  Here is how: Continue reading

Pumpernickel Bread– how to make your own caramel coloring

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[Another awesome Mark Luinenburg photo by the way] I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the caramel color, a brown and slightly bitter powder )made by over-caramelizing sugar) that we call for in the pumpernickel bread recipe on page 67 of the book.  It’s hard to find in local stores, and it’s not an absolute requirement for the bread, but most U.S. consumers will miss it if it’s left out.

Yes, caramel color can be made at home, but not as a powder– what you make will be a liquid that is added to recipes; you should decrease the liquid a bit to account for the extra. Here’s what I’ve done at home (it won’t be quite as dark a result as powdered caramel color): Put 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon water into a saucepan. Melt the sugar over a low flame, then increase heat to medium-high, cover, and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue to boil uncovered until the mixture becomes very dark. Remove from heat and allow to cool partially. Very carefully, add a quarter cup of boiling water to the pan (it may sputter and water may jump out of the pan so wear gloves and keep your face away from it). Dissolve the caramelized sugar and cool to room temp. Use about a quarter-cup of this mixture in place of commercial caramel color powder in our Pumpernickel recipe on page 67.

If you use liquid caramel coloring like this, you need to add extra flour to make up for it– about twice the volume of flour as liquid.  Otherwise the dough will be too loose.