Monthly Archives: March 2010

#35. Confessions of a Bulk Food Store Snacker and Sunflower Seed Bread.


This is the last bread in the sourdough section of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Book.  I will be a little sad to say goodbye to the sourdoughs.  Baking them has been a new and thrilling experience for me.  I must admit, sunflower seed bread did not really sound like a loaf you want to go out on a bang with.  No offence but sunflower seeds are not exactly exciting.  Well that is until I remembered that I had honey roasted sunflower seeds in my freezer.  I had bought them a few months ago to make a Crunchy Coleslaw recipe from my friend Lanie. 

When I went to the bulk food store to buy the ingredients, I saw that right next to the bin of regular shelled sunfloweer seeds was a bin of honey roasted sunflower seeds.


 Of course I had to taste them.  I don’t believe that those “NO SNACKING” signs really apply to me anyways. 


Besides, I put on one of those plastic gloves they supply before sticking my hand in, so it’s okay, (isn’t it?)  I was blown away by the sweet and salty crunch of these little seeds.  They made a wonderful addition to the coleslaw and I thought they’d really wake up this sleepy little bread.

The day before making this bread you mix up a “soaker” containing pumpernickel grind rye flour and water.  This is left to sit out on the counter overnight. 

We are also instructed to make a “firm starter”, which just means adding some bread flour and a touch of water to some of the sourdough starter (barm) you have in fridge.  I only just discovered that there are firm and wet starters.  My starter (Phyl) is a wet starter.  I have not quite learned all the differences and advantages of one type over another (that topic could cover several volumes according to what I have uncovered in my rudimentary research!).  Suffice it to say that Peter Reinhart assured me I could substitute my wet starter (which he calls a Barm) for the firm starter and just use less water in the final dough.  That’s what I decided to do. 

Day 2 I mixed the soaker with my wet starter and the other dry ingredients (high gluten bread flour, a touch of instant yeast and salt).  No addditional water was needed.  I was careful when kneading this dough as overworking it could cause the rye flour to go gummy.  After about 4 minutes the sunflower seeds were kneaded in .  Another 2 minutes of hand kneading and the dough was ready for proofing.

After about 90 minutes, the dough was ready for shaping.  The dough is divided into two and each piece is shaped into a boule. 

Then you poke your thumb through each boule and stretch it out into a big bagel shape. Unfortunately the video does not show the stretching process as my video skills need some work!

Finally, a chopstick is used to create indentations in the dough to form a design.

Into a hot oven for about 15 minutes and they were done.  Gloriously brown on top.

And beautifully browned and crisp on the bottom:

I was not prepared for how much I would love this bread.  It was chewy and slightly sweet from the honey roasted sunflower seeds.  I will be visiting this one again very soon.

Lanie’s Crunchy Coleslaw


My friend Lanie served this delicious salad to me, last summer.  The original recipe comes from Susie Fishbein’s book, “Kosher by Design”. This is my adaptation.  The recipe makes more dressing and crunch mixture than you will need.  Extra dressing keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks.  The extra crunch mixture will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature.

Crunch mixture
1 package of Ramen noodle soup (discard spice packet)
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup honey roasted sunflower seeds

1 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¾ cup sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

½ purple cabbage, thinly sliced
½ Savoy or Napa green cabbage
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
½ cup dried cherries

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Break the Ramen noodles into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  Add sesame seeds and slivered almonds  to bowl and toss to mix.  Transfer contents of bowl to a large baking sheet and bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool mix in the honey roasted sunflower seeds.

 2.  Place ingredients for dressing in a large jar and shake well to combine.

 3.  Place cabbages, green onion, celery and dried cherries in a large serving bowl.  Toss to combine.  Just before serving, add about ¼ cup dressing and 1 cup of crunch mixture to coleslaw.  Toss well to combine.  Taste and add additional dressing, salt and pepper, if desired.

#34. Memories of Open Window Bakery


 The 34th bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is Pumpernickel Bread.  I just love saying “Pumpernickel”. The word always makes me smile .  It makes me remember Saturday night dinners when I was growing up.  We would have sliced Pumpernickel Bread from Open Window Bakery (in Toronto),  creamed cottage cheese and several different types of smoked fish (which I never would eat).  My mom would have a big platter of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, a bowl of tuna salad and sliced cantelope.  I would eat one slice of pumpernickel with tuna, cucumber and tomato and a second with creamed cottage cheese and jam.  Sometimes she would get the Pumpernickel rye rolls which I really loved.  Oh my!! I haven’t thought of those pumpernickel rolls in years.  I just did a google search to see if they still make them and YES, they do.  They also make a light rye roll that is killer with butter and jam.  Here is a picture of both of them. 

I just want to get in that car right now and drive to Toronto to buy some.  But it’s a 4 1/2 hour drive from Ottawa and probably by the time I got there my craving would be gone, or possibly, even worse, I’d eat too many and go into a bread coma. 

Peter Reinhart’s pumpernickel bread begins with a rye starter, made up of some of my sourdough starter, pumpernickel grind rye flour flour and water.  This is mixed up and left out on the counter for several hours until bubbly.  Then into the fridge for an overnight rest.  The addition of the rye flour to the starter creates an acidic environment which helps to make the final bread more flavourful and more easily digested.

One of the ingredients called for in this recipe is bread crumbs made from rye bread.  Kind of an unusual thing to add to a bread dough.  Peter Reinhart promised that it adds wonderful texture to the final bread.  I had some rye bread in the freezer so I defrosted a few slices and put them into the food processor to produce rye bread crumbs.

Next all the dry ingredients are dumped into a big bowl.  These include clear flour, brown sugar, caramel powder, salt, instant yeast and rye bread crumbs.  In case you were wondering, clear flour is not transparent flour.  This is the flour that clears the first sifting (to separate out the bran and germ), still retains some of the finer bran fiber from the outer endosperm of the wheat berry and is thus coarser and contains higher levels of ash. This is the flour New York City bakers have always used for their signature Jewish-style rye breads.   The caramel powder gives the bread it’s dark brown characteristic colour.  It looks a bit like like instant coffee granules.

The rye starter, vegetable oil and water are added to the dry ingredients and mixed up to make a tacky but not sticky dough.  As with all doughs that contain rye flour, great care has to be taken not to overmix or else the dough will get gummy.  The dough was dumped out of the bowl onto the counter and then hand kneaded for about 5 minutes until the dough was smooth and supple.

After that the dough is left to rest in an oiled container for about 2 hours until doubled in size.

Once the dough is doubled, it is divided in half and formed into 2 boules.  They are covered and left for about 90 minutes for the final proofing. 

 Then I scored them.  I think I got the timing just perfect for the scoring as there was almost no drag to the lame (scoring tool).  It was very smooth!

  Into a hot oven they went.  I baked them on a preheated baking stone and had a pan of water below the breads to create steam in the oven.   

Fresh out of the oven:

We had the bread for dinner that night.  I have to admit that while the flavour was great, the texture was not what I was expecting.  It was a little light and fluffy.  I was hoping for a denser, chewier bread, like what I remember from my childhood. Looks like a trip to Toronto is in order!

#33. Poilâne-Style Miche

This week in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge we tackle Poilâine-Style Miche.  When it comes to artisan bread, the name Poilâine is synonomous with excellence.  Bread freaks from all over the world travel to Paris to purchase bread from the Poilâne family.  Pierre Poilâne started a baking business in 1932 in Paris, creating bread using stone-ground flour, natural fermentation and a wood-fired oven. His son, Lionel took over the bakery in 1970, continuing the traditional methods.  Sadly, Lionel died in a plane crash in 2001.  His daughter, Apollonia now runs the business.  Lionel’s brother, Max, branched out on his own and opened his own bakery.  As in all families, there are squabbles about whose bread reigns supreme. 

Poilâine’s most famous bread is a 2 kilogram (about 4.4 pounds) round country sourdough loaf, called Pain Poilâine.  Lionel simply called it a miche.  The bread is made from a sourdough starter, grey stone-ground flour (whole wheat flour with about 10-20% of the bran removed) , water and sea salt from Guérande.  There are about 20 trained bread artisans baking at the family factory in Bievres, outside of Paris.  Although the dough is now machine kneaded, all other aspects of creating the bread are done by hand in the time honored method established by Pierre Poilâne. 

Peter Reinhart gives a wonderful detailed description, in his book, on how the bread is created.  It is indeed a labour of love.  The amazing thing about this bread is that is keeps for about a week, at room temperature.  It is a dense and chewy bread and as Peter Reinhart says, “the flavours change in the mouth with each chew.”  The Poilâne family says that the flavour peaks on day 3. 

If you can’t get to Paris, they will ship you a loaf.  I went to their web site , created an account for myself and put 1 loaf into my shopping basket.  For 37.10 Euros ($52.30 Canadian Dollars) they will send me my very own loaf!  I have not yet clicked on confirm order but I am thinking about it.    If I do go through with it then I really will classify for “Bread Freak ” status.  I’ll keep you posted.

So, onto my attempt at creating this magical miche.  Day 1 we make the firm starter, mixing up some whole wheat flour, some of our sourdough starter and water.  This gets refrigerated overnight.

On Day 2, the final dough is made.  In order to replicate the “grey flour” used at Poilane, Peter Reinhart suggests we put our whole wheat flour through a sieve to extract some of the bran. 

I was very excited to finally open up the jar of Grey Sea salt that has been sitting in my cupboard for over a year now.  I’m not quite sure why I hadn’t used it yet, but here was the perfect opportunity.

 The starter is mixed up with the sifted whole wheat flour, grey sea salt and more water.  This is a big mass of dough, way too big for the Kitchenaid, so hand kneading was necessary.  Here is the dough just after I began mixing.

After about 15 minutes of hand kneading, I had a beautiful supple silky dough.

Once the dough is kneaded, it gets placed in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap and ferments at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about 4 hours.  At this point it is formed into a boule and placed into a linen towel lined bowl.  So that the dough will not stick, the towel is sprayed with a bit of oil and then dusted with flour.  The boule should be placed seam side up, then covered with the towel and refrigerated overnight. 

As you can see from the photo below, I screwed up and placed the dough into the bowl, seam side down, so that the smooth side was on top.  You might say, big deal, so what?  The big deal is that the bottom of the dough (where the seam is) becomes the top of the loaf and then your seam turns into some unsightly cracks.


The next morning the dough is removed from the fridge and allowed to sit at room temperature for about 4 hours.  Then the dough is gently turned out onto a baking peel, lined with cornmeal and is scored.  At the Poilaine bakery they score it with the letter P in a gorgeous font.  I wanted to score mine with S&S (for Salt and Serenity) but my fine motor skills are sorely lacking for artistry of that caliber!  I decided to go with a square design with an X in the center.  Unfortunately, I also had the cracks from the seam of the boule to contend with so it looks a bit strange artistic.  But that’s the wonderful thing about Artisan bread – each loaf is hand made and no two are identical. 

The bread goes onto a baking stone in a hot oven and is baked for about 45 minutes.  Here is is my loaf on and below it the Poilâne loaf.  I can’t tell the difference, can you? (Can you say denial?)

I sliced into the bread after about 2 hours.  I thought the taste was good but a little “whole wheaty”.  I closed my eyes to see if the taste changed with every chew, as Peter Reinhart promised, but I don’t think my palate is that highly developed.   I did notice that I liked the bread a little better on day 2.  It seemed a bit more mellow, and not as earthy.  It lasted very well in a paper bag for almost 5 days and then we sliced what was left and froze it for toast.

I will try this one again, next time using a recipe for Whole Grain Sourdough  passed on to me by Sally of Bewitching Kitchen.  It uses whole wheat flour only in the starter and a mixture of white bread flour, rye flour and spelt in the remainder of the dough.  Sally promises that it is more like the real Poilâne.