I posted a comment to this site but it hasn’t appeared. What happened?

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If you don’t find the answer to your bread questions on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) tab, we encourage you to post into any of our “Comments” fields by clicking on the line that says “Leave a Comment” or “X Comments” just under the date of each post.

But please remember, our blog/website is moderated.  That means that your comment doesn’t appear on our website until it has been approved, especially if you’ve never posted to our site before.  That could take up to 24 hours.  Here are some guidelines for comments that we are not willing to approve for our site:

  1. References to commercial sites or endorsements for products, especially if the Authors haven’t used or otherwise can’t vouch for the product.  In particular, we’re not likely to approve website addresses (URLs) in this situation. The converse is also true– if you say that you dislike a product, we may remove or edit your comment unless we’ve had the same experience with it.
  2. Health claims: The science behind health claims made by products and about ingredients is often murky and controversial.  We’re happy to answer questions about the health of ingredients or techniques in our books,  but please don’t make complex health claims here on the website–in particular, claims about weight loss or disease prevention/control related to food ingredients. Like product endorsements, we’re likely to remove those kinds of comments.
  3. Offensive or rude remarks: Usual manners apply!  (Thank you)
  4. Pingbacks: Please don’t set up your own blog to insert Pingbacks into our site.

Pretty much everything else is fair game.  One other thing— very rarely, we simply miss someone’s comment.  It’s just an oversight; if we haven’t answered you within 48 hours and you met the guidelines above, please “comment” again.

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Gluten-Free Baguettes (Egg-Free!)

Many of you who are baking the gluten-free breads from our book have asked about making the dough without eggs. I had heard that using ground flax as a replacer was an option, but honestly I doubted it would work. Well, I am happy to report that I was wrong. I’m not sure yet about the science behind this substitution, but it works and provides a wonderful alternatives for those with egg sensitivities.

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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Underbaked! My loaf didn’t bake through to the center. What am I doing wrong?

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When we talk with people with a loaf-center that won’t bake through, it’s almost always one of these explanations:

  1. The oven temperature is off: Usually it’s running too hot, and the outside looks brown before the center is baked through.  But a low oven temperature can fool you too– you think you’ve baked long enough, but it’s actually running 50 degrees too cool.  Home ovens can be off by 50 to 75 degrees F, so check with an inexpensive oven thermometer like this one on Amazon.
  2. Inadequate oven and stone pre-heat: This can be an issue for really large ovens and thick baking stones. Some professional-style ovens (Wolf and Viking, for example) may need up to an hour of pre-heating. If you are using a thick baking stone, it may also need up to an hour of pre-heat. Even thin stones will benefit from a longer preheat.
  3. Measuring flour incorrectly: The most common mistake is that someone isn’t measuring the way we describe in our books.  We use the standard scoop-and-sweep method.  See our video on this for proper technique.  Do not spoon the flour into the measuring cup before sweeping– if you do, the cup will be too-lightly filled, and the dough will be too wet, leaving you with a center that won’t bake through.  Consider weighing flour if you want to get away from the uncertainty of volume measurement, see the post…

If you’re really struggling with underbaking, you can try an instant-read thermometer.  For lean breads (no eggs), the temperature at the center of the loaf should be 205 to 210 degrees F (96 to 99 degrees Celsius).  For egg-enriched doughs, the temperature should be about 185 degrees F (85 degrees Celsius).

One other thing– thanks for a great review of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day on Mary Hunt’s EverydayCheapskate.com, click to view.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Left the dough on the counter overnight! Can I still use it?

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After mixing the dough, our recipes only require two hours at room temperature for their initial rise (assuming you’ve used lukewarm water); then the container goes into the refrigerator where it can be stored for up to two weeks (depending on the recipe). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the answer to this question depends on whether or not there were eggs in the recipe. Their website says that eggs should be refrigerated after two hours at room temperature (see their website, scroll down to relevant section).

For our doughs without eggs, when we’ve occasionally forgotten a batch and left it on the counter overnight, we’ve found that this has little effect on the final result, maybe just shortens the batch life by a day or two.

So, what would USDA recommend if you’re doing a long rise with dough containing eggs? Sounds like the first two hours are safe at room temperature, then into the refrigerator to complete the rising. We leave it to our readers to decide about how to handle egg doughs in light of USDA’s recommendation.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Mother’s Day Danish Braid

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This weekend I over did it. Not with buckets of dough, but in my garden. I am determined to recreate the organic urban farm I had last year, but this time I am doing it without the aid of a professional farmer. Just me, a bunch of compost/manure and my dad, who happens to be a long time green thumb. I spent 12 hours prepping the beds and getting in some seeds. At the end of the day my right hand (the hand I write with) was so swollen I couldn’t move my fingers, tendonitis. The Dr. says not to use it for 2 weeks ~ 2 WEEKS! (I am typing this with one hand.) In order to do this post I enlisted my friend Jen to help make a Danish Braid. She is a great sport and it turns out quite skilled at modeling/braiding/baking.

The braid is made with the Brioche from ABin5, but you can do this same thing with any of the enriched doughs from that book or HBin5. We’ve done this same technique with savory fillings, so let your imagination go wild and let us know what you come up with.

Happy Mother’s Day! Continue reading

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

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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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Traditional recipes: How can they be converted to the ABin5 method?

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People sometimes ask us for simple formulas for converting traditional bread recipes to our stored-dough method.  Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to the question.  Developing recipes for our books takes lots (and lots) of trial and error.

If we put our our testing methods and approaches up here on the web, our publisher would kill us!  If you want to try to convert a traditional recipe to our high-moisture, stored-dough method, read through the two books to get a sense of the moisture level that’s needed, then check out the rest of the FAQs here on the website.  Pay attention to our “videos” tab as well.  It may take a bit of work, but you should be able to transform your existing repertoire.

Happy experimenting! More details on our method in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Teaching in Upstate NY, come join me!

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Just a quick announcement about some classes coming up in Upstate NY next week. I’m headed to visit my dear friends Suvir Saran and Charlie Burd at their farm American Masala. They have carved out a small piece of heaven in Battenkill county, where they raise hundreds of animals and create the most exquisit foods from the books Suvir has written Indian Home Cooking and American Masala. While I am there I’ll be teaching two classes based on ABin5 and HBin5 at the Battenkill Kitchen on April 23rd and 24th. I would love to have you join me. If you live in the area, or are close enough to drive over for the evening, please come and bake with me.

Some items on the menu: Master Boule, Epi, pita, sticky buns, beignets, pizzas and much much more!

To sign up visit the Battenkill Kitchen website.

Hope to see you there and bring your friends! Zoë Continue reading

Shaping Hot Dog Buns

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Once Little League starts its season I consider it the official Hot Dog opener. I don’t eat many of them, but that is shear will power, because I absolutely love a good dog. My husband and I once stood in like at Hot Doug’s in Chicago for 2 hours just to see what all the hype was about. You know what, I’d do it again, they were fantastic! I’m not a purist either, I like them loaded up with all kinds of business. One of my all time favorites is the really-bad-for-you chili dog we get at the Lake Harriet Band Shell in the summer, complete with fake cheese sauce and salty canned chili. It is just one of my weaknesses!

When I make hot dog or hamburger buns I like to use the Brioche dough from ABin5 or some other enriched white dough that make up a lighter bun. I made these with the whole wheat version and I found them a tad on the dense side, but as you can tell from my confession above, I love a junk food hot dog experience. ;) Use any dough that you like and form it just as I have below. Continue reading