Tag Archives: bread

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pocket Breads

I’ve previously written about the white bread recipe from Josey Baker Bread. While that has become one of my go-to breads when I am baking for my daughter—and each time I am thrilled with the results and simplicity of making it—it was merely a prelude, a huge tease for what was to come: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pocket Breads.

My daughter was flipping through the pages of Josey Baker Bread when her eyes glommed onto the photograph of a pocket bread that had been cut open. Melted chocolate peanut butter was oozing out, its gooeyness a hypnotic rhapsody. When she asked if I could make these, what she was really asking was when could I make them. I looked at the recipe. “This uses a sourdough starter and it has whole-wheat flour in it. You don’t like sourdough or whole wheat.” Her eyes looked like a slot machine at Vegas. Two huge chocolate peanut butter cups were staring at me. “I don’t care, dad. When could you make them?” I started mumbling about having to refresh my starter and that the pocket breads needed to rise in the refrigerator. What I didn’t let her know was that I, too, had glommed onto how much fun it would be to bake these in muffin tins. I also didn’t tell her that even though I almost never eat things like chocolate peanut butter pocket breads, I had to restrain myself from cutting out the photograph and biting into it.

My daughter had to wait impatiently before she could take her first bite. Each morning we had our ritual. She would stare at me in a pleading way and I would say, “not yet.” Of the things that my daughter doesn’t like, waiting and being teased are at the top of her list. In fairness to her, it did take three or four days, but that’s because I had to refresh my starter. As with Baker’s other recipes, you can adjust the baking schedule to fit into your day. You can even keep dough in the refrigerator for up to a week. And if sourdough isn’t your thing, you could use a recipe that is yeast-based. It did feel mischievous, chopping up peanut butter cups and adding them to the dough. It felt like I was smuggling candy into a movie theatre. These are the way to go if you’re looking to kick start your day with gooey goodness. Though they sound decadent, as with most breads with chocolate, they’re not actually sweet. My daughter did say I should use Reese’s next time instead of Trader Joes’ dark chocolate peanut butter cups and that it needed more peanut butter cups. In other words, I should use the amount called for in the recipe. I confess. It’s always hard for me to use the amount of something like chocolate that a recipe calls for but a few extra peanut butter cups would have been nice, too. Truth is, I didn’t want to buy another package of peanut butter cups.

Baker calls these “pocket breads” because they’re like bread that can fit into your pocket. He includes recipes for dark chocolate cherry, golden raisin and fennel, and bacon and sun-dried tomato pocket breads. There’s no limit to what you can throw into the dough. For now, I know the way into my daughter’s heart, even if it’s going to take more chocolate peanut butter cups.Chocolate Peanut Butter Pocket Breads

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pocket Breads (from Josey Baker Bread)

1 tablespoon (15 grams) sourdough starter
½ cup (120 grams) cool water (60°F/15°C)
¾ cup (105 grams) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (220 grams) chocolate peanut butter cups
1¼ cups (220 grams) lukewarm water (80°F/27°C)
3 cups (450 grams) bread flour
2 teaspoons (12 grams) salt

Make your sourdough pre-ferment 8 to 12 hours before you want to start mixing your dough—likely in the evening before you go to bed or in the morning. You want it to be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Put the sourdough starter, cool water, and whole-wheat flour in a big bowl. Mix it up real good. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and leave it alone for 8 to 12 hours.

Chop your peanut butter cups into roughly ¼-in/6-mm pieces.

Mix the dough. Uncover the bowl of sourdough pre-ferment, and take a big whiff. It should be putting off a pretty strong smell, nice and yummy, maybe a touch sour. Add the lukewarm water, bread flour, salt, and chocolate peanut butter cups. Mix everything together so that it’s evenly combined, just for 30 seconds to a minute. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap, and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, whatever is convenient.

Gently stretch and fold the dough. Dip your hand in a bowl of water, then reach down into the side of the dough bowl, grab a little bit of it, and pull it up and push it down on top of the dough. Rotate the bowl a little bit and do it again to another portion of the dough. Give the dough about ten stretches and folds. Cover the dough, and let it sit for ½ hour.

Stretch and fold a few more times. After ½ hour, stretch and fold the dough another ten times. Cover the dough, and leave it alone for another ½ hour or so. Do this another two times, at 15- to 30-minute intervals.

If you want to shape your pocket breads in 3 to 4 hours, let the dough sit out somewhere in your kitchen. If you want to shape your pocket breads anywhere from 12 to 48 hours later, stick it in the fridge (or just outside if it’s cool out—about 45°F/7°C).

Grease your muffin tin. Use vegetable oil or nonstick spray to coat the individual cups.

Shape your pocket breads. Flour your counter and dump out the dough. Cut the dough into ¾-cup (100 gram) pieces (to fill up your muffin tin about two-thirds of the way) and use a little bit of flour on your hands to shape them into round balls. Plop the pocket breads into your muffin tin, seam-side down. When you’re all done, put the whole thing in a plastic bag, so that the tops don’t dry out.

If you want to bake your pocket breads in 3 to 4 hours, let them sit out somewhere in your kitchen. If you want to bake them anywhere from 6 to 24 hours later, stick them in the fridge (or just outside if it’s cool out—about 45°F/7°C).

Preheat. Once your pocket breads have risen, preheat your oven to 450°F/230°C for 20 minutes. If you put the pocket breads in the fridge, take them out while the oven is preheating so that they can warm up to room temperature before you bake them.

Bake your pocket breads. Take the pans out of the plastic bag, slash the top of each pocket bread with a razor, spray their tops with water, using a spray bottle, and get them in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then quickly open the oven, spray them again, and just as quickly close the oven. Bake for another 25 minutes, and check on them. You’ll know they are done when the slashed portions are good and dark brown.

Take the breads out of the pan, and let them cool on a cooling rack.


Rye & Caraway Bread

No matter what the time of day, everyone loves a quickie. You should’ve heard my wife, “Oh, this is so good, she moaned.” I looked at her. What about our neighbors? Or our daughter. Did you forget that she’s in the next room? “Oh, this is sooooo good.” I couldn’t get her to quiet down. “More. Give me more.” There was only one thing to do. I handed her another slice of bread and then moved the loaf out of her sight.

I usually bake bread that I start mixing the day before I plan to bake it. Although waiting 18 hours to bake bread might seem inconvenient—and to some of you—downright crazy, strangely, once you get the scheduling down, there’s a convenience to it. However, some days you just need a “quickie,” which in bread hours means taking a loaf out of the oven three to four hours after you start mixing ingredients together. My new “quickie” and as you can tell, my wife’s new favorite is the recipe for rye and caraway bread that is in Bread, the 12th and latest book written by global baker and TV host Dan Brettschneider. Click here for a link to a short video of Brettschneider kneading dough.

I was looking for a loaf of bread that didn’t require a long fermentation so that we could eat it with dinner. I also thought it would be a nice change of pace from the breads that I had been baking. Brettschneider first experienced this bread when he was eating a sandwich at a Jewish deli in New York. I seriously underestimated how good this would taste. Cocoa powder produced a dark crumb color and filled my kitchen with a chocolaty aroma. In a way, it did transport me back to the streets of my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, when, on my way home from the bakery, I would keep reaching into the waxed bag containing a loaf of rye bread that I was supposed to be bringing to my family. I rarely eat pastrami or corned beef anymore but after the first bite I was ready to drive to Costco and buy kosher pastrami. Brettschnieder suggests trying it with pulled pork. Maybe, but to the Brooklyn boy in me, that just sounds sacrilegious.

I tend to favor the flavor and depth of character in breads that use very little yeast and have long rises. This bread reminds me that sometimes there’s nothing better than a “quickie.” I think my wife would agree. She’s having another slice.Rye_&Caraway_BreadRye & Caraway

Rye & Caraway Bread (from Bread by Dean Brettschneider)

Generous 2 cups (350 grams) bread flour

1½ cups (150 grams) rye flour

2 teaspoons (10 grams) salt

2 heaping teaspoons (10 grams) sugar

2½ teaspoons (7 grams) yeast

2 teaspoons olive oil

2¾ tablespoons (15 grams) cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons (10 grams) molasses

3 tablespoons (20 grams) caraway seeds

1⅓ cups water

Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add water, olive oil, and molasses, and mix together to form rough dough.

Knead for up to fifteen minutes, either by hand or in a mixer, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until double in bulk (about an hour), then stretch the dough up and over itself a few times to deflate it very gently. Cover, and leave for another half an hour.

Gently tip dough onto a floured work surface and very gently shape it into a round ball.

Allow the dough to rest for fifteen minutes or so, then flatten the dough and repeat the process. Gently place in a flour-dusted banneton (or bowl). Cover and let it rise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500°. Place dough into oven and create steam by either spritzing with water or pouring 1 cup of boiling water onto a tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate bread and reduce temperature to 400°. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Loaf should be dark golden brown in color. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.


When I was growing up in Brooklyn and the park or schoolyard gates were locked, we either climbed over the fence or cut the chain links and squeezed through the opening. Nothing was going to keep us out. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, Michael Ruhlman’s latest book, is like a wire cutter that frees you from dependence on recipes. He calls it an anti-recipe book.

Cooking, like writing, is an act of learning, finding one’s voice, cutting away the clutter, and paring down to the essentials. It is exploration and celebration. Getting from A to B to C.  Cooking is also the magic of memory. Touch.  Taste. Commemorate.

Ruhlman thinks of ratios, adding fixed proportions of ingredients, as the “truth of cooking.” While working on The Making of a Chef, his book about the basics of cooking, he interviewed  Uwe Hesnar, a dean at the Culinary Academy of America (CIA). Hesnar is like the mysterious stranger every seeker encounters on their journey. A sorcerer, he comes and goes, hiding behind the fog of cooking, the mystery of silence. As they talk about the craft of cooking and how one learns to cook, Hesnar hands Ruhlman two sheets of paper. Like the Ten Commandments handed to Moses, these are the holy foundations of cooking. They contain a chart or grid of 26 items and their ratios. This meeting is the genesis of Ratio.

What I find appealing about Ruhlman’s book is that it is instructive. He says that ratios help you to better understand cooking in general. I also think they can help you become a more confident cook. For the curious or inquisitive cook, or dare I say, obsessive cook, ratios will quickly become habit forming. You will find yourself starting your sentences with “What if I” or “How about…”

I wanted to have fun with the ratio for bread dough: 5 parts flour to 3 parts water (plus yeast and salt). My daughter was leaving for 3 weeks of sleep-away camp and I wanted to grace her with white bread as a parting gift. I knew I would be able to indulge my love of whole grain breads in her absence. I admit that I was also up for sinking my teeth into an unadulterated loaf of white bread. Her first bite yielded a big smile with a thumbs up yum of approval. Ruhlman’s aim isn’t to make the “perfect” or “best ever” bread. It’s to set a baseline. I had been downplaying my expectations so I was surprised at how good my sandwich loaf tasted. I was thrown off by the word “basic” and overlooked his other words: satisfying and delicious. I next tried the ratio with whole-wheat bread that I shaped into a boule, buckwheat rolls, and focaccia made with leftover potatoes.

The real test, however, was when I tried my hand at pie dough. I bake bread often, but baking pie is my wife’s domain—one that I always stay clear of. But now, how could I not, in the name of research, put my hands on a rolling pin. I’ve avoided making a pie since the last and only time I tried to bake one.  We needed to bring dessert to a dinner party. My wife, who was busy that day, forced me into service. “Don’t worry, “ she cautioned, “just don’t overwork the dough.” I arranged rings of strawberries and blueberries atop a pastry cream. It was picture perfect. I was a proud papa and I was whistling a happy tune on the drive over. After dinner I escorted my picture perfect pie to the table. The rumor of appreciation going around the table was interrupted by two small voices coming from twin brothers, voices that brought me to my knees. They were sawing away with their forks at this impenetrable mystery. “Daddy, can we pick it up and eat it with our hands?” I could hear a clattering of forks dropping to the table as everyone else picked up their pie. “Well, I guess it’s a little tough,” their father added politely. Though my wife tried to reassure me that it wasn’t that bad, I noticed she stopped eating her pie after just a bite.

For my attempt at Ruhlman’s recipe (3-2-1 ratio), I cut the ingredients  in half because I wasn’t looking to make a big pie. Plus, I didn’t have two sticks of butter in my test kitchen refrigerator (who do I need to talk to around here to get a bigger budget?) I mixed the dough by hand, trying my best to gently press it together.  In no time, I was able to roll out dough for 3 individual pies and 4 turnovers.

I can now puff out my chest and say these words: flaky and tender.  My pie dough was a success. I’m not just saying this because my teenage son and his friend licked every last crumb off their plates or because of their wide-eyed admiration for the turnovers that I placed in front of them the next morning. My crust easily gave way to my fork’s caress. My wife happily, very happily, ate her piece.

Ruhlman tells a story about inviting neighbors over for dinner and needing to make some kind of dessert. He knew he could rely on the ratio for pound cake and quickly assemble it when he arrived home from the grocery store. We were invited to a barbeque a few days ago and I was asked to bake rolls for burgers. Hmm??!! I looked at the clock. No problem. Thanks to Ratio, I didn’t need to spend time searching through recipes. I knew that I could easily up the quantity to ensure that I had enough rolls to bring and keep aside a few for breakfast. I mixed oat flour into my dough for a change of pace and sprinkled poppy and sesame seeds on the rolls before loading them into the oven. In case you were wondering, they were satisfying and delicious.

Ratios enable cooks to perform sleight-of-hand tricks in the kitchen. No recipe required. Bread dough, pasta dough, pie dough, cookie dough, vinaigrette, and mayonnaise are among the 33 ratios in Ruhlman’s book. They can be as easy as 1-2-3 or is it 3-2-1 or 3-1-2?

Well, You Kneadn’t

Two hands creating yeast symphonies. Two hands stretching across the keys of a piano. Listening to “Well, You Needn’t,”  got me to thinking about baker Jim Lahey and jazz musician Thelonius Monk.  Space and silence, two words often associated with Monk’s music, also capture Lahey’s no-knead method, his ballad to baking bread. Using less rather than more, Monk didn’t rely on a cascade of notes. Lahey abstains from vigorous kneading of dough. I listen to Monk and wonder about his pilgrimage between notes, from the traditions of slide piano to his harmonic innovations. Jim Lahey also tips his hat to tradition. His reverence for the ancient art of Italian baking inspired him to develop his no-knead approach.

Food writer Mark Bittman let the genie out of the bottle when he wrote about Lahey and his no-knead method a few years ago. I felt compelled to try his technique several days later, as did many others. Bittman’s article expanded like rapid-rising yeast across the web and within days a new religion was born. We were believers. We had the spirit. We testified.  It was like a great laying on of floured hands. Baking guru Rose Levy Beranbaum took the journey along with us.

I would love to say that my initial attempts were a piece of cake. But they weren’t. This is a wet, sticky dough and I added more flour than was necessary when I shaped the loaves. This is not to say that they weren’t a revelation. Each time I took a loaf out of the oven, I knew without having to taste it, that this was the real deal.  I was ready to buy 30 Dutch ovens, open a bakery, and wait for the lines to form. I still have that WOW moment every time I bake a no-knead loaf. It’s that good.

Like a loaf of bread loaded into a pre-heated oven, Lahey’s first chapter in his recently published My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, is a burst of biography leavened with inspiration. He is a thaumaturgist popping out from behind the curtain or a barker selling his magic elixir at the midway. His passion for baking bread burns with an artisanal fury. Reading his story made me feel that it was possible to achieve any pie-in-the-sky dreams that I might have.

The no-knead method is pretty much what it sounds like. Stir together flour, water, yeast, and salt.  No-kneading required. What it does require, however, is patience. Patience to let it rise.  Greater patience to let it cool off before cutting into it. The dough needs to sit 12-18 hours before it can be shaped and baked. I’ve never gone under the 12 hour mark, but I have let it sit longer than 18 hours.  I have also stuck it in the refrigerator after shaping it and baked it the next day. Similar to a jazz tune, this method has endless improvisations. I have yet to make a bad bread. They are usually downright heavenly.  Lahey begins with the master recipe or formula in the book. You should also start with the master recipe before going on to your own improvisations. His recipes for chocolate coconut bread and olive bread immediately became family favorites. One slice guarantees  overwhelming joy. The laws of the bread deities forbid me to say what will happen when you bite into a second slice. Use discretion when sharing a loaf. Yes, you want to spread the joy, but do you want everyone becoming your friend—for life? I often play around with different flours. My semolina version makes my wife swoon and causes my daughter’s eyelashes to flutter uncontrollably. Lahey’s adaptation for pizza is a great change of pace. For other no-knead versions, including video tutorials, check out Breadtopia. My favorite is the seeded sour.

Playful and inventive, Thelonius Monk danced at the piano. When I listen to his music, my feet become frisky and start tapping out a dance of their own. Lahey’s no-knead approach, like a Monk tune, is an economy of ingredients, a song of simplicity. Both hit all the right notes.

White Sandwich Loaf

White bread. It can lure atheists out of the safety of their homes, proclaiming that only in a godless world can white bread exist.  It can divide a family and drive sane parents to seek asylum in distant lands of unknown longitude and latitude. I have had to avoid certain supermarket aisles because of the fear of nostalgic seizures caused by memories of yellow American cheese, grilled with pads of butter on white bread. It can send kids into a frenzy of gluttony, down a path of hypoglycemic stupor and has even been known to lower the grades of school-aged children. Research has shown that all fast food addicts started by eating white bread. Two squishy, soft slices. That’s all it takes. Sugary sweet peanut butter and jam, the conveyers of innocence and hope, spread across pillowy-white landscapes of childhood. And then wham! It happens so quickly. One day you’re breaking open your piggy bank. The next day you’re borrowing money from your friends or looking under the couch for lost change. There’s a pusher on every corner ready to take your money. You can’t wait to give it to them and yes, you’ll take fries with that. I don’t know if I can continue to protect my kids, especially my daughter. The other day she asked, “Why can’t I be like all the other kids and eat crummy bread? ”

Of course, I’m talking about the kind of white sandwich bread that is squashed into plastic bags and left suffocating on supermarket shelves. Now, hand a loaf of homemade white bread to that same atheist and stand back. Watch him get down on his knees and repent. It’s a powerful experience.

Another powerful experience is taking the first bite of the soft white sandwich loaf from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This appreciation for the art of home baking, like their other books, shares dual citizenship between kitchen counter and coffee table top. I call it a cookie jar cookbook because I am always sticking my hand in the jar to try more recipes. You will, too.  While my wife was quickly cutting another slice, she paused to give it a “this is really good rating” (TIRG). And my daughter? Let’s just say that I checked under the couch cushions and found enough change to treat my wife to a caffé latte.

Soft White Sandwich Loaf, American Style (from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)


¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

About 2¼ cups all-purpose flour


¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

4 to 5½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

Make the biga at least 12 hours before you wish to bake the bread. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and then stir in 2 cups flour. Knead until smooth. Place in clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 12 hours to 3 days. Refrigerate if letting stand for more than 24 hours.

When ready to make the dough, turn the biga out and cut into 4 or 5 pieces.

By hand: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Then add 2 cups of flour and stir well, always in the same direction. Add the pieces of biga and mix in. Sprinkle on the salt. Add about 2 more cups flour and fold and turn the dough to blend in the flour. Turn the dough out on a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and springy (about 8 minutes).

Transfer the dough to a large clean bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand for 1 to 1½ hours, until doubled.

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Lightly grease or butter two 9 x 5 inch bread pans. Shape into sandwich loaves and place dough in pans. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 475°.

Just before placing the breads in the oven, slash each one down the middle with a razor blade or sharp knife. Place in the oven, lower the heat to 400° and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove from the oven, take out of the pans, and place in the oven for another 5 minutes or so. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and the corners should be firm when pinched. Let stand on a rack to cool and firm up for 1½ to 2 hours before slicing.

Royal Crown’s Tortano

Like any good relationship, time (19 hours with 20 minutes active work) and commitment (turning the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals) are essential ingredients in baking a tortano, a ring-shaped loaf of unearthly flavor. And like any loving relationship, sometimes a gentle nudge, a word whispered from another room, falling like an inaudible vowel can elevate the ordinary into the divine. This recipe is from Artisan Baking Across America, Maggie Glezer’s celebration of bread baking, that will transport you across fields of wheat into the world of bakers with their arms deep in dough. It is based on the tortano baked at Royal Crown, a bakery located in Brooklyn.  A small potato and 2 teaspoons of honey are the merchants of magic, the voices of enchantment from the other room, casting a spell, making me fall in love again and again and reminding me why I follow the voice of mystery every time I bake. My daughter calls me the best dad in the world when I bake it—a huge step up from being told that I am the most annoying dad in the world.

Whenever we are in New York visiting my wife’s family, I always have to make a last-minute, out-of-the-way dash to Royal Crown before heading to the airport. And though my wife asks, do we really need to go this time, she is always happy to devour the bags of bread and rolls that accompany us on the plane. But now, thanks to Maggie Glezer, whenever I have leftover potatoes, I can say that a “bread grows outside of Brooklyn.”

Royal Crown’s Tortano (from Artisan Baking Across America)


14 teaspoon yeast

1 cup warm water

3.5 ounces (23 cup) unbleached bread flour


20 ounces (3¼ cup) unbleached bread flour

14.6 ounces (1¼ cups plus 3 tablespoons) lukewarm water

All the pre-ferment

0.4 ounce (2 teaspoons) honey

2 ounces (14 cup packed) potato puree

0.5 ounce (1 tablespoon) salt

Day 1: Make the preferment.

Stir the yeast into the water in a glass measure and let it stand for 5 – 10 minutes.

Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles, about 12 hours.

Day 2: Mixing the Dough.

In the bowl of the stand mixer, stir together the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough.

Cover the bowl and let it rest 10 to 20 minutes.

Attach the dough hook.

Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and mix the dough on low speed 15 – 20 minutes, or until very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splattering back around the bowl.

This dough is almost pourably wet.

Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour.

Place it in a container at least 3 times its size, and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours.

Using plenty of dusting flour, turn and fold the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals: that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, then leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time.

Do not allow this dough to over ferment to the point of collapse, because the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, shape it into a round and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a couche, tea towel or wooden board generously with flour, and place a baking sheet under the couche / towel if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour over the center of the ball.

Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, then rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. (The bread should have about a 12 inch diameter).

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour.

Cover and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven’s second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used.

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper. (Don’t worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover in the oven as long as it is not overproofed).

Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross.

Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 – 50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake.

Let the bread cool on a rack.

Royal Crown's Tortano

Royal Crown's Tortano Sliced

Whole-Wheat Rolls: French Hand-Kneading Method

Play with abandon. These are the words on my kitchen calendar. When I need to get my “endoughphins”* going I push the playground gates wide open and start hand-kneading dough, using the traditional French method. It’s a messy, sticky hands affair. Hard hat not required, but be on the alert for pieces of dough flying across the room, hitting the ceiling, getting into your hair. As with all physical exercise, you may even want to consult with your doctor first before attempting this. My neighbors must wonder about that possessed man standing before the altar of dough: slamming, folding and turning, slamming, folding and turning—my song of laughter growing louder with each slam. A grin fest, this technique is somewhere between the grace of synchronized swimming and the slapstick of the 3 Stooges or the hysteria of The Beatles singing “All My Loving” on the

Ed Sullivan Show and a solo accordionist playing “Lady of Spain” on a street corner. I first learned this technique from the accompanying DVD to Richard Bertinet’s book, Dough. You can also watch him using this method to knead a sweet dough. Still need coaxing? Haven’t gotten your fill of French accents? Tired of your Richard Simmons workout videos? Check out Simon the French baker slapping and folding as he talks about getting strength and air into the dough.

I adapted Bertinet’s recipe for “brown” dough, adding oats, bran, a handful of sunflower seeds, and shaped it into rolls:

Adapted brown dough recipe

10½ oz. whole-wheat flour (about 213 cups)

2 oz. oats (½ cup)

7 oz. all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups)

2 tablespoons wheat bran

a couple handfuls of sunflower seeds

1½ teaspoons yeast

12½ oz. water (just over 1½ cups)

1 tablespoons molasses (optional)

1/3 oz. salt (about 2 teaspoons)

Add yeast and molasses to water. Mix the flour, wheat bran, sunflower seeds, and salt together. Stir yeast and molasses into water and add to dry ingredients. Using either your hands or wooden spoon, stir everything together until dough starts to form. Pick up dough, swing it upwards then slap it down away from you. Stretch the front of the dough towards you. Lift it back over itself. Keep repeating this until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in bowl, cover in plastic and let it rise until it doubles (about an hour). Turn the dough out and divide into 8 to 12 pieces. Mold each into a ball. Cover with a dishtowel and let it sit for 5 minutes. After resting, shape into balls again. Place on a baking sheet and let rise for 45 minutes (until nearly doubled in volume).

Preheat oven to 475°.  Using a razor blade or sharp knife, make one long-cut lengthwise (or an x in the middle). Open the preheated oven and mist with a water spray. Quickly put rolls in oven, reduce heat to 450° and bake for 10 minutes.

Proceed with caution. There is a rumor that I have channeled Fred Astaire, singing and dancing to George and Ira Gershwin’s “Slap That Bass.”

Slap that bass

Slap it till it’s dizzy

Slap that bass

Keep the rhythm busy

Crank up the music and let the fun begin. You never know what might happen.

*Endoughphins: A sense of well-being derived from the act of hand-kneading dough.