• Sourdough Sesame Ramp Pancakes

    This recipe is a remake of a remake. It was originally written as Extra-Flaky Scallion Pancakes by Kenji Lopez-Alt for Serious Eats.

    A sourdough component was added by Melissa Johnson at Breadtopia: Scallion Pancakes with Sourdough Discard.

    My alteration was to use wild ramps in place of scallions. The key to the flakiness is to laminate the dough with repeated schmears of toasted sesame oil, rolling and pressing the dough multiple times before adding the ramps.

    The result is exceptional.

    Flaky sourdough ramp pancakes with fiddleheads and morel mushrooms.
    Mother’s Day Feast. Clockwise from far left: Asian dipping sauce for the ramp pancakes, barbecued lamb, fiddlehead ferns and morels with lemon zest, sourdough ramp pancakes, flaky sea salt, and white wine-reduced mustard sauce for the fiddleheads and morels.

  • Bake for Ukraine

    The week that Russia invaded Ukraine I called my friends who baked and asked them to join me in #BakeforUkraine.

    We gave ourselves three days to bake, find a venue, and publicize. At that time we never imagined a war stretching on for weeks.

    Baked goods kept arriving.
    And arriving.
    Helpers (Anna, Sasha, Rachael, and Claudia) worked very hard.
    Patrons could take as much as they wanted and donated as much as they could.

    In 90 minutes we raised $1,200 to donate to three Ukrainian aid organizations: World Central Kitchen, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee.

    We knew we wouldn’t end the war, but as Russia’s atrocities continue to mount, we stand by our commitment to offer aid where and how we could.

  • Oven Spring

    When a baker times his or her bake correctly, the dough will have risen to what appears to be its maximum capacity. The general instruction is that a finger gently pushed into the dough will leave an indentation, but not too much of one. It is a vague description and it takes practice (and making several mistakes) to get an eye for.

    But if done correctly, something magical happens in the oven. The dough expands once more. Bakers call it oven spring because the dough goes in one size and exits much larger.

    A boule made with Einkhorn flour accompanied by arugula-pea pesto and black bean tapenade with pomegranate molasses.

    The secret of oven spring lies in the crumb. Look at the air bubbles above. Those were smaller pockets of carbon dioxide and water vapor when they went into the oven. The heat imparted by a 500-degree oven, and a heated baking stone, expand the gases and drive them upward. You can see the bubbles aiming toward the surface. The gluten network made when the bread was kneaded keep the bubbles from escaping. Steam in the oven allows the crust to remain soft so the loaf can expand.

    BOING. Oven spring.

  • Sourdough Ryes

    Sourdough Rye Pumpernickel

    Rye flour, as I’ve noted before, can be tricky to work with. Rye dough is sticky. It doesn’t rise like wheat flour, but it’s flavor is distinctly sweet and rich. And like all things kitchen, practice (and a willingness to analyze flops and failures) can result in improvements.

    Pumpernickel is simply rye bread that is darkened with some kind of caramel coloring. In this loaf I used molasses and a teaspoon of instant coffee. The soaked raisins are sparsely distributed, but such a nice surprise when each one lands.

    This rye baguette was covered in cumin (not caraway) seeds and flaky sea salt.

    Definitely on the curious end of the spectrum, Susan really wanted to try this rye bread from Vilnius (below.) It had 5 teaspoons of cumin and plum jelly in the dough. The result: spicy, sweet, but otherwise pretty normal rye bead.

    My new 7-Quart Kitchen Aide is a dream. Click here to see my Kitchen Aide and grain mill work together at 6:30 AM.

  • Sammies

    My son Isaac is the King of Sandwich (he calls Sandwiches “Sammies,” as only an aficionado can). Isaac can pre-taste a combination of breads, proteins, veggies, and condiments (many he creates on the spot to serve the required purpose) to devise stackings that delight the eye as much as the stomach.

    The day after Thanksgiving, I made a coupe of rye baguettes with caraway and nigella seeds.

    Isaac made cole slaw (with fresh cranberries), a Thousand Island dressing with at least half a dozen ingredients, fried sweet potato steaks, laid out sliced turkey, several hard, soft, ripened, and flavored cheeses, and turkey and took orders from everyone in the house for personal creations.


  • The Sourdoughs of Thanksgiving

    My hat is off to The Perfect Loaf. Maurizio Leo’s recipes are original, consistently creative, and successful.

    Just prior to Thanksgiving, Leo emailed his followers a baking schedule for the Thanksgiving holiday and with one substitution, and only one failure, I prepped his collection.

    For the night before Thanksgiving to fuel the workers, I made focaccia, and my son Isaac decorated them.

    Three days before Thanksgiving, I made a 50:50 whole wheat-white flour loaf that became some of the best mushroom, leek stuffing we ever had.

    For Thanksgiving dinner, I made a large miche from an ancient wheat called Einkhorn, which looked great.

    But proved to be my one disaster. I think I maybe over-proofed it.

    But I redeemed myself with these sourdough pumpkin buns. PLAY VIDEO.

    And to make up for my Einkhorn disaster I whipped together a couple of rye baguettes to support turkey sandwiches (a subsequent blog post.)

  • Bread from Bread

    One technique for adding long-lasting moisture and richness to homemade bread is to recycle old bread. It was a technique apparently used regularly in Eastern Europe. Stale rye bread was soaked in water and then added as a mash to a new sourdough bread.

    Rye from rye

    But why not try other kinds of stale breads soaked in something other than water? The boule below includes a leftover wholewheat loaf soaked in my homemade soy and rice milk. It is leavened with my Meadville white flour starter and also has a cup of spelt flour.

    Multigrain, multibread, bread.

  • Good and Bad Bakes

    So Sue and I purchased a new oven and the oven and I are getting to know one another.
    My first bakes turned out a lot of breads that didn’t brown very well.  This everything bagel (sesame, poppy, salt, and toasted garlic) tasted great.  They were very chewy and were really authentic, but alas, a little flat and pale.


    This fancy recipe pumpkin sourdough looked fine enough, but there was a problem.  My longtime Cripple Creek sourdough (1893) had caught an infection.  Don’t ask: little filamentous things growing on top and cheesy smell.  I tossed it and in reviving a dried sample I had in storage I failed to wait a sufficient number of days before trying to bake with it.  The result was a pumpkin bread that looked good, but didn’t rise.



    And these two loaves which also looked good but never cooked in the middle.  The same insufficiently mature sourdough meant the bread didn’t really spring in the oven. I was getting closer, however, to figuring out how to get the breads to brown in the new oven.



    In the interim, Isaac and Delaney made sauerkraut (left) and kimchi (right), both natural fermentations, and both very tasty.









    I got one bread to cook well in a cast iron pot.  Here you see it with a naturally cracked surface and a beautiful open crumb (those are all the holes you see inside the bread.)

    And finally, the oven and I have begun coming to agreement.  Check out the ears on the cuts of this spelt-rye baguette.  When professional bakers score their breads they aim for a cut that peels back in the oven and toasts just a bit as it rises above the loaf.  My first success.


  • Rye

    One of the best souvenirs I brought back from the United Kingdom was a rye sourdough starter.  I got it from Andrew Whitley in Scotland who back in 1960 obtained a sample when he was studying production of rye bread in the former Soviet Union.  The factory he took it from was enormous: more than a million loaves of baked sourdough rye emerged every day.  In 1960 America we were changing food to fit into our machinery.  American doughs were doped with extensibility agents so they could withstand the spinning arms of huge kneading machines.  In contrast, Russian factories — just as vast as America’s — were comprised of hundreds of small bakeries.  Women in babushkas made rye breads in small ovens and placed them by the thousands on conveyor belts.  The Soviets distributed more than were needed.  Thousands of uneaten breads returned to the factory where they were soaked and boiled and returned to the production line.  Soaked rye breads were joined by fresh rye flour and rye sourdough to produce new loaves.

    Making rye bread is difficult because rye does not have much gluten.  That means its dough is terribly slippery and very sticky.  It does not rise much, but I learned some rye techniques in Scotland and have been practicing for months.  The rectangular loaf in front is 95% rye flour with just a few oats and a little molasses added.  It baked in a covered square-sided pan for well over an hour to begin removing some of the moisture.  After coming out of the oven a nearly 100 percent rye must sit uneaten for at least a day while additional moisture is released from its interior.  The result is a tangy, almost zesty, rye bread that can be sliced more thinly than the piece of cheese you put on top.  Moreover, the bread stays fresh for more than a week.

    The round loaf with the concentric imprint of the boule where it sat just before baking (it is behind the rye) was made with a white flour starter, rather than the rye starter.  It was supplemented with half a dozen mashed, baby potatoes and enough wholemeal rye flour to give the loaf some meatiness.

    These baguettes (there were four) also began with the Russian rye starter.  I added a cup of buttermilk and then adjusted the ratio of white flour to rye until it was approximately a 50:50 mix.  The rye gave it color and taste, the white flour enough gluten for a beautiful rise, and the buttermilk mellowed the crumb to the softness of a ripe peach.