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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Baking in Tuscany, without any of my equipment!

Jeff and I are always wanting to convey how simple and forgiving these recipes are, not to mention delicious. During my stay in Tuscany this summer I rented an apartment just outside of San Gimignano. The foundation of the house was built around 500AD, but thankfully the kitchen had been updated in this century. It seemed a must for me to bake bread during my week there. I went to the store and bought flour, salt and yeast. Got back to the apartment and realized I had none of the equipment I usually count on in my kitchen. There were no measuring cups or spoons, no pizza stone, no peel and the oven was in celsius, not fahrenheit. No matter, I still dumped everything in a bowl, mixed it up, hoped for the best and ended up with a gorgeous dough. Over the next few days I baked rolls in the house and pizzas in a wood fired oven outside my door.

Jeff and I are teaching in Edina, MN this weekend and we’d love to have you in class! See end of post for details…

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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

Breads from Istanbul to Naples!

For the past month I have been traveling with my family in Turkey, Greece and Italy. Our goal was to eat as much bread, pizza, pita, pastries and gelato as we possibly could. We succeeded on all fronts and here is a quick look at some of the breads we devoured on our way.

Istanbul, Turkey. On our first day in Istanbul we were introduced to simit, which is as ubiquitous on the streets there as soft pretzels are in NYC. Not all of the vendors wear them on their heads, but they all have a personal flare to attract attention. 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

How this whole adventure started!

… it all started with a question for Lynne Rossetto Kasper on The Splendid Table NPR radio show, on April 4, 2000 (see video below), and then a publisher heard the call-in interview and made a book offer.

We can’t vouch for this as a way of getting a cookbook idea noticed– it was a bit of dumb luck:


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…

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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)
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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.

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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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