Bradley Benn’s Beer Bread video and the winners of the RED STAR YEAST giveaway!

I met Bradley Benn at a pottery class many years ago. He is a master of his craft and a kind and patient teacher to those of us who dabble in clay. Little did I know that he was also a skilled baker, until he showed up in a classic MG with a loaf of fabulous bread. One of the hazards of this career of mine is that people rarely, if ever, bake for me, so this was an especially cherished loaf. He shared not only the bread, but also the recipe. When I decided to put it into Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I adapted his recipe to 100% whole grains. The dough is made with beer, which gives it a jump start on the sourdough flavors we usually wait for. Then we wrap the dough around sauteed onions, rosemary and walnuts. Together they create a bread with so much character and flavor you can eat it alone, but I love it with sharp cheese, grainy mustard and some sweet ham.

Below you will find my first attempt at a video and the recipe for BBBB. I will show you exactly how to roll the dough and prepare it in the pan so that you get onions in every bite. (This same technique can be used to create the raisin bread from last week’s post)

*at the bottom of the post I will announce the 6 lucky winners of last weeks RED STAR YEAST giveaway. Continue reading

Got camping stove? Got flatbread! Plus, bread in the shape of Minnesota…


This Labor Day weekend is summer’s last hurrah for those of us in Minnesota (more on that in a minute).  I’m just back from a fantastic camping trip, and as always, we did our flatbread in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet, right on the camping stove (I’ve always used the Coleman).  You can use any lean dough, either from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Your skillet must have a cover, but that’s about all the equipment you’ll need.  This is pretty similar to the naan we do in Artisan Bread, and at this link here on the website.

We Minnesotans pride ourselves on taking winter in stride.  The other thing we seem to have pride in is the shape of our state– it seems to work its way into road signs and even macaroni and cheese pasta shapes.  So with great delight, I reveal to you:  grilled bread in THE SHAPE OF MINNESOTA:

OK, it was an accident. My wife claims that this does not really resemble the state:

Well, use a little poetic license, especially for the Arrowhead region? Other posts on grilled or summer breads are at: Continue reading

Crisp thin crackers– outside on the grill, NEW VIDEO

First off, sorry for the loud cricket sounds– couldn’t do anything about that, because…

It’s still summer, and I’m still grilling bread, but I wanted to show how to roll dough exceptionally thin for crackers use the outdoor grill as an oven.  The key with crackers is to prevent them from getting scorched.  In Artisan Bread in Five and Healthy Bread in Five we talk about doing crackers at in the 375 – 400 degree F. range (190 – 200 C), and that definitely helps prevent scorching.  You can also use oil on the crackers, and that helps too.  But oil does increase the baking time– my crackers took 20 to 30 minutes to get crisp. And that range depends on whether you get them truly paper-thin.  The thicker ones take a little longer.  So be more patient than I am and get it to less than 1/16-inch thickness– you should almost be able to see through it.

Equipment links:  To temper the grill’s heat (adjust the burners to yield a 375 to 400), I used a baking stone and also a thick commercial-grade aluminum baking sheet.  Recently, I switched to a thin non-handled rolling pin– the French milled style pin, and I feel that it’s easier to control, especially when you’re rolling very thinly.

One other tip: If you bake large flat crackers and don’t cut them before baking, “dock” (puncture) them with a fork before baking or they might puff, which you don’t want with pita.

The idea of crackers has always to have a crisp dried result that stored well– as you can see in the video, these didn’t last long enough to test the theory.  And remember:  serious bakers wear closed-toe footwear!

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Buns for Hot Dogs or Bratwurst, Baked Outside on the Gas Grill!

The heat wave isn’t nearly as bad in Minnesota as it is in on the East coast, but I can’t say that I’m itching to fire up the oven and bake fresh buns for hot dogs or bratwurst.  It’s a cinch to do it on the same grill that you use for your hot dogs or bratwurst, and this video shows you how.  Use any lean dough from either of our books, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If anything in the video’s unclear, just visit back and post a question into the “Comments” field.

One word of caution:  I can’t vouch for the durability of baking stones placed on a gas grill.  I haven’t had any trouble with my half-inch thick stone but the thin ones crack at the drop of a hat.  My guess is that if you call any stone manufacturer, they will tell you not to do this.  None of them warrant stones against cracking (one company did in the past, but they’ve withdrawn that).   I haven’t been listening.

This summer, the son of one of our book’s first testers started a bread business and is delivering bread door to door, by bicycle, right here in Minneapolis.  Check out Bicycle Bread… They were recently featured in the Southwest Journal and were on TV, on Fox9 News (click here to view).

Another interesting little home-town business is the Gourmet Girls, who are making fresh breads using our books as the recipe resource.  Send an e-mail to inquire about homemade artisan bread via local delivery (southern Westchester County, NY).

Click here if you’d like to see the list of past postings on summer grill-breads again… Continue reading

100% Whole Wheat Honey Pita on the Gas Grill (NEW VIDEO)– Michelle Obama’s LetsMove.gov initiative

As a doctor, I’m constantly being asked whether you can eat bread without gaining weight.  The evidence suggests that you can maintain a healthy weight by limiting your energy intake, whether your diet’s low-carb, low-fat, or has a balanced limitation of calories.  There’s no evidence that limiting calories from carbohydrates (like bread) is better than limiting it in fat or anywhere else.  I bake and eat lots of bread, and I don’t gain weight, even though I spend lots of time testing bread recipes for our books and website.  There’s some evidence that whole grain breads, like this 100% Whole Wheat Pita with Honey, are a better choice than refined white breads.

So I’ve been following Michelle Obama’s initiative to tackle childhood obesity: LetsMove.gov.  I keep hoping she’ll answer my e-mail about getting kids to bake the whole-grain breads for their families.  I may have to keep waiting on that one.  About this recipe… Continue reading

NEW VIDEO on how to roll fruit and butter into lean dough

In case you have one of our lean doughs in the fridge (no enrichment or sweetener), but you want to bake up a morning bread or other sweet buttery thing, hope is not lost.  I started with our basic light whole wheat recipe, and rolled some delicious things into it.

More about rolling in the fruit, brown sugar, and butter…

Continue reading

Cast iron pot-baked peasant loaf: outside, on the grill! NEW VIDEO

It’s basically summer, even here in Minnesota, and I’m baking loaves outside on the grill already.  Last summer, we did a lot of grilled flatbreads (and there’ll be more to come), but a few days ago I baked a peasant loaf in a closed cast iron pot, right on the gas grill.  We’ve had lots to say about baking in a closed vessel, which works great indoors.  Well, it works great outdoors too.  Use any lean dough you like; try our regular white recipe, from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or the whole-grain version, from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  After you view the video, come see the finished product (picture at the end of this post).

In the video above, I’m not entirely clear on baking times.  You bake with the lid on the pot for the first two-thirds of baking, then remove it so the top crust can complete its browning for the last third of baking.  If the loaf takes 30 minutes, then the first 20 are covered.  Play with your grill to get the temperature stabilized around the level called for in our recipe (you need a grill with a thermometer), but be aware that you may need a lower temp than what’s called for– in some gas grills the bottom will scorch at full temp.

If you don’t have a cast-iron pot, you can use any oven-proof lidded vessel, including a cloche, but simple inexpensive things work as well.  For cast-iron, you can use an enameled pot as in this post, or simple un-enameled black cast-iron.

If you do go for the Le Creuset enameled cast-iron pans (here’s a two-quart version on Amazon), they’re terrific, but you might need to replace the standard composite lid-knob with this metal one for high-heat baking, on the grill or otherwise.  The composite degrades at temperatures above 375F or so, though some seem to say otherwise in the product literature.  Check with the company if you’re in doubt.

If you use the 1-quart pan, that’s about exactly right for a 1-pound loaf, and will contain sideways spread.  But… larger pans also work beautifully– the pan will be larger than the loaf and won’t contain sideways spread.  You’ll see what I mean…

But here’s what the final result looks like (yes I’ve switched pots on you here, this is from a different baking session–the slashing on this loaf was parallel cuts rather than the cross I did in the video):

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How we measure our flour using the “scoop-and-sweep” method

Return to FAQs

When people write to tell us that their dough seems “too wet,” the first question I ask is: how are you measuring?  Because we measured with the “scoop-and-sweep” method, not the “spoon-and-sweep” method.–view the video to see exactly how we do it.

American recipes usually are based on volumes, measured with standardized measuring cups.  If you press down into the flour bin (use a flour bin, not the flour’s bag), you’ll compress and get too much flour.  If you use the “spoon-and-sweep” method, where a spoon is used to gently fill the measuring cup before sweeping, you’ll get too little flour into the cup.  Likewise, don’t “aerate” the flour by mixing it or whisking before measuring; that will lighten the cup.

If you do it the way we tested it (and use flours like the standard ones we tested with), you’ll get results like you see in our photos and videos.  You can also consider weighing flour, using the weight equivalents in “Healthy Bread in Five…” We go through the use of the digital scales (we like the Escali or the Salter) in this post from last year.

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My favorite rye isn’t in our books–here’s how to slash it (careful, it’s sticky)

The rye flour available in supermarkets is delicious, but it’s whole-grain, and that’s not what we grew up with as kids.  Those rye breads from yesteryear were made from “medium” rye (bran and germ-depleted), and the result was lighter.  Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mills rye flours make great breads, but you have to go light with them to re-create what we used to get years ago.

We figured that wasn’t what people were looking for in our books, so we went a little heavier in the recipes we published in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and of course, with much more whole grain in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  In this video, I’m talking about using relatively little of the Bob’s or the Hodgson product.  Follow the recipe at our Back to Basics post, but subsitute 1/2 cup of rye flour (Bob’s or Hodgson Mills) for 1/2 cup of unbleached all-pupose (in the book, the swap is for a full cup). Then, add 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds to the initial mix.  Everything else is the same (in Artisan Bread in Five, we used a whole cup of rye flour, and it’s also a great result– just different).

To clarify a couple of things from the video:  I said to turn and shape the loaf pulling around on three sides– I meant “on four sides;” turn the loaf in quadrants and pull the top around to the bottom to create a “cloak.”  And of course, rest the loaf on on cornmeal or parchment, not on the board where you shaped it or you’d have to lift the fully proofed loaf, which isn’t a good idea.

20 to 30 minutes before baking time, preheat a baking stone to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), with a metal broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread (do not use glass for this purpose or it will shatter).  Using a pastry brush, paint the loaf with water and sprinkle with more caraway seeds.

Slash at least 1/4-inch deep with a serrated bread knife, making perpendicular, not angled cuts, as in the video. Slide loaf onto the baking stone and pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before slicing, and enjoy!

New Video: Shaping the ball from a very wet dough

A number of people wrote in about my February 16th video, wondering whether that whole grain dough may have been a little drier than usual.  It was made using a non-commercial whole wheat flour, so it’s possible.  Just so everyone’s clear that you can successfully shape a nice cohesive ball using stuff that’s on the wetter side, I used a batch that was nearing the end of its 14-day storage period (our dough gets wetter as it stores in the fridge.  The stuff in this video is pretty wet– it’s the Master recipe for white dough, but swapping out 1 cup of whole-grain rye instead of unbleached all-purpose.  Despite this dough’s moisture, I had no trouble forming a ball, and then rolling it out with a rolling pin, my hands, and a dough scraper.  Use enough flour, but don’t work it in (OK, I know I forgot to use the dough scraper in this video– but it’s often nice if the dough is sticking to your work surface).

This dough round was used to make pita bread (see older posts on this: regular pita, and  Turkish Pita.