Christmas Stollen

There is 20 inches of snow on the ground here in Minneapolis and the temperature has dipped WAY below zero. This is why we Minnesotans are such bakers, it warms up the house and makes everyone happy. Christmas Stollen is a great tradition this time of year. A sweet loaf that is studded with fruit, spiced with cardamom and a little treat of almond paste runs through it. Once it comes out of the oven we dust it with a thick layer of confectioners’ sugar to look like the snow outside. If there is any left the next day it makes amazing French toast.

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Shopping for Bread-Bakers

People always ask us about our favorite bread-baking tools, so here are some of them, with links to Amazon:

Thermometer

A thermometer: you really can’t get a good crust until you know your oven’s temp. They’re cheap and effective.

Baking Stone

Baking stone: For a great, crisp, crust, you really need one, and this 1/2-inch thick Old Stone brand has been very durable for us. There are other stone/iron options, see our post on that. Continue reading

Sweet Brioche in a Crock Pot

Sweet Brioche is the latest in my series of crock pot breads*. It may have taken me a while to give the old slow cooker a try, but now I am unstoppable. Some of you may know that I am in the very last stages of a kitchen remodel, which has me displaced and baking under less-than-ideal conditions. So, the crock pot is the perfect way to get the job done. It can travel from room to room and it takes up no space at all. This time of year we may not be concerned with heating up our house with the oven, in fact, I rather look forward to it. That is precisely why we northerners refer to winter as the “baking season,” because we do as much of it as possible to keep ourselves warm. But, this time of year can be a battle to find enough oven space. Thanksgiving and Christmas can pose a Rubik’s Cube style challenge of getting everything baked and on the table at the same time. Why not eleviate some of the pressure by throwing a ball of dough in your crock? Next I have to see if I can make bread pudding in my slow cooker. I do look forward to having my kitchen back, but until then I will not be without fresh baked bread.

Happy Holidays! Continue reading

Gluten-Free Crock-Pot Bread

Last week I did a post about baking a loaf of bread in a slow cooker. The resulting bread was fast, easy and delicious, not to mention it didn’t require a hot oven on a warm summer day. Several people asked if the same technique could be used with our gluten-free doughs. I am happy to announce that YES, it also works with gluten-free. I used the “Not Rye (But So Very Close)” recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Check with your crock-pot’s manufacturer before trying this, since some model’s instructions specify that the pot has to be at least partially filled with liquid to avoid safety or durability problems.  And never bake  in a crock-pot unattended. Continue reading

Crock Pot Bread Baking (Fast Bread in a Slow Cooker)

crock pot bread

When I moved to the midwest I was introduced to Crock Pot cooking. I had never even seen a slow cooker before and had no idea the range of foods that could be created in a plug-in cooking pot. Since then I have had everything from No-Peek-Chicken, Swedish Meatballs and Peach cobbler, done in one of these magic devices. When my husband was an art director Aveda they had “crock pot parties,” which meant everyone plugged in their slow cookers at their desks and made a dish to share.  Brilliant! Maybe kids should bring crock pots to school and have healthy food cooking at their desks.

But, bread in a crock pot? Over the years we have gotten requests from readers to develop a method of baking our dough in a crock pot. I had my doubts, lots of them. I didn’t think the slow cooker could get hot enough, I thought it would take too long, I didn’t think it would bake through or have a nice crust and I resisted trying it. I was so convinced it would be a fail. Oh, how wrong I was. The crock pot does indeed get hot enough, and it takes less time than using  your oven, because the rising time is included in the baking. The only thing I got right was the crust, it is very soft and quite pale when it comes out of the slow cooker, but just a few minutes under a broiler and I got a gorgeous loaf. I am a convert and it is just perfect for summer baking when you don’t want to heat up your oven. You could even amaze your friends at work by baking a loaf under your desk!  *

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pullman loaf

Pullman Loaf – perfectly shaped sandwich bread

The beauty of a pullman loaf is the perfectly shaped slices. If you don’t want to take a chance on a loaf that has a slightly irregular shape, then this is the pan for you. It make for a perfectly square sandwich loaf or movie-worthy toast. Any of our bread doughs will work in this pan, but some rise more than others, so you will have to adjust the amounts. In this post I used a 100% whole grain oat bread from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which will rise less than our recipes using only white flour from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You may need to experiment a little, but I will walk you through the process below.

Jeff and I are back on the road to bake pizzas. We are teaching a few classes on the way and would love for you to join us. There are a couple of spots left in our class in Atlanta if you are free to join us on 1/14, for more information visit our events page. Continue reading

Loaf pan breads work beautifully with our method– giveaway of baking equipment from Red Star Yeast (GIVEAWAY CLOSED, see winners on 10/12 post)

cinnamon toast

People think of artisan-style loaves as being free-form, but our method also works beautifully in loaf pans, as you can see above (read on for instructions on how to make the cinnamon-raisin bread in Zoe’s picture).  We love crusty free-form artisan loaves, but nothing says “comfort food” and kicks off the fall baking season like a luscious traditional loaf like this one.

Our friends at Red Star Yeast have offered to provide some great prize packages for a giveaway– perfect for creating loaf-pan breads.  Red Star also shot a video of Zoe and me demonstrating the basic method from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes  a Day

We first met the Red Star people in Milwaukee, while on book tour for Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day– that’s where the company has its headquarters.  Red Star had found out through the bread grapevine (!) that we use their product.  Both of us have used it for years– it gives consistent, excellent results, and it’s the best value in the grocery store.  This fall, you’ll find bottles of Red Star yeast in the supermarket, with our pictures tied to them, in addition to a 75 cents-off coupon, and recipe links:


OK, here’s what’s in our Red-Star giveaway package, which will be awarded to six lucky entrants picked by random drawing next week.  You must enter by commenting HERE, on this post (one comment only), US entries only.  Don’t try to enter on the contest rules page, we won’t see that for the drawing (click here to view contest rules): Continue reading

Wood Fired Oven in Italy, a Love Affair!

Istanbul, Greece, Naples, Rome and all the stops between were beyond my wildest expectations, but this pizza oven is where I fell in love. I rented a particular house in Tuscany, not for its stunning views, or proximity to wine, cheese, olive oil, gelato, pasta, pastries, all of which were minutes away, but for this oven. For the first three weeks of our journey we ate hundreds of pizzas and flatbreads, as research for our upcoming book on the subject, and now, in Tuscany I finally got back in the kitchen to do a little creating of my own. With a bit of help from David, our trusted culinary guide and keeper of the oven, I set out to bake pizza in Italy, an admittedly ballsy move. Continue reading

Pizza Stones – which creates the best crust?

I’ve been collecting pizza stones in order to recommend the best ones to you and because I have never met a piece of kitchen equipment I could resist. I have been surprised by some and disappointed by others. Here is my review…the stones are in random order. Continue reading

Baking Bread in a Closed Clay Pot (“Cloche”)– the best crust yet!

cover-cloche-baked-boule.jpg

So many people asked us about baking our dough inside a closed cast-iron pan that Zoe did a beautiful post on the subject a few weeks ago.  The cast-iron pan method is based on a much older method, where bread is baked inside a closed clay pot (or “cloche,” meaning “bell” in French).  Both methods depend on trapped steam from the dough to create a perfect crust, but the clay pot has the added benefit of being porous, so moisture is trapped, but also conducted away from the surface as the bread bakes.  I tested the Sassafras brand “La Cloche” product, and I’m very impressed with the crust I’m getting –take a look at the picture above; this crust is thin and shatters when broken (the burned bits are perfect in artisan loaves; that’s how you know you’ve baked long enough).  Keep in mind that these crust results are hard to re-create with loaves very high in whole wheat (because of oils in the wheat’s germ).  The bread above is about 15% whole grains– it’s a light version of the Peasant Loaf on page 46 of the book.  Whole grain breads perform beautifully in “La Cloche,” but the crust tends to be softer and thicker.

For crust aficionados, I think the ”La Cloche” results are a little better than what I get inside closed cast-iron.  We didn’t put these two methods in our first book, because we wanted to keep things as simple as possible.  But with results like these, they’re going into he second one (publication date is 10/13/09)! Continue reading