Spiced Rye Sourdough

I love the sweet and spicy bouquet of holiday baking, but after a while, all the butter and sugar that typically go along with it can be hard to take. I made this spiced rye sourdough bread hoping to perfume my kitchen with those heady and nostalgic aromas while producing a gift-worthy bread that is also easy on the calorie count. I think it worked.

It’s sour, yes, but the spiciness of the rye itself compliments the other spices nicely. It could go with either a sweet accompaniment like lingonberry jam (now I don’t know why I thought of that; I haven’t had lingonberry jam in years, but it just seems like it would go well), as well as with meat or cheese. And although, like most ryes, it keeps very well, its life can be extended even further by making some of it into crostini.

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Bread Crumb Sourdough

Using old bread to make new bread is certainly nothing new. The practice of adding an “old bread soaker” to dough has been used in Europe, especially Germany, for hundreds of years. In Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, Jeffrey Hamelman writes, “The practice of soaking old bread and then adding it into a new batch not only makes economic sense, it also gives a rich depth of flavor to the new breads. Far from being expended, the old bread contains much that is still fermentable…”

This sourdough bread uses old bread in a slightly different way. Instead of soaking it, I wanted to find out what would happen if I turned some week-old Norwich Sourdough (crust and all) into fine bread crumbs and simply let the crumbs stand in for a portion of the flour in a new batch of dough.

I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result. Not only is the flavor rich and toasty, and the crumb pleasantly speckled with brown flecks, but this must be one of the longest shelf-lives I’ve ever seen with any of my loaves. I’ve gone through about 2/3 of a one-kilogram loaf in a week, and I am still able to cut, chew, and enjoy it.

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Soft Semolina Sourdough


When my daughter and I visited son/brother in Oregon this summer, we had lunch in a cafe whose salads were accompanied by a soft, moist, seed-encrusted bread that inspired M to ask “Why can’t you make bread like this?”

“I can.”

“Well, make some, then. Your bread is always too crusty.”

When I offered this to M yesterday, I imagined she might throw her arms around me and pronounce me the best baker-mom a girl could hope for.

Not even close. She gave the crumb an offhand squeeze and pronounced brightly, without taking a bite, “Yeah, that’s it. I’m not hungry. Good job, though!” I’m not entirely sure, but I think she might have given me a little pat on the head at this point.

M, you are so lucky that I love you unconditionally.

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Ginger-Pecan Sourdough Biscotti

Sourdough biscotti have been on my mind for a while, but they posed a bit of a challenge: with sourdough starter comes water, and extra water is not something that we usually want in any cookie dough, never mind biscotti. For these “twice-baked” cookies, the dough is formed into a log and partially baked, then sliced and baked again until dry. Extra water is just not helpful here.

The solution I came to, in addition to using a stiff (50%-hydration) starter, is to cut down on the sugar, which behaves very much like a liquid ingredient in a dough. (If you don’t believe me, try taking a basic unsweetened dough and mixing in a bunch of sugar; you’ll swear you just dumped a bucket of water in there.) So these have about 30% less sugar than you’ll see in many biscotti recipes, but interestingly, they taste plenty sweet to me. I would not market them as “diet biscotti.” They’re definitely dessert.

The dough is still plenty wet, and log-forming is a little tricky. I found a plastic dough scraper helpful to scrape up and shape and smooth the sides once the dough is on the parchment-lined pan. But even if you make your log nice and compact, it’s going to start flattening out before it even hits the oven, and after a few minutes in there will look like a praline on a hot New Orleans sidewalk. Don’t panic. It will rise (a little) and have a pretty good biscotti shape by the time it’s done.

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Fruit and Nut Sourdough

Okay, I know this is not a very appealing photograph. I do like it, though, because it illustrates a few things.

See the ultra-shiny crust? This illustrates what happens when you steam your bread too much. It’s like shellac. Not really the effect I was going for.

See how dark the crust is? This illustrates what happens when you don’t really remember how to operate your oven (this would be your occasional oven, not your most-of-the-time oven) and the oven display is broken so you have no visual clue that you’re operating it incorrectly, and you haven’t really turned the temperature down when you think you have. The very learned Raymond Calvel said it is nearly impossible to overbake bread. Maybe I should gain some satisfaction in knowing I nearly accomplished the near-impossible. (I say nearly because the crust did not burn. It’s just very very dark. Again, not the effect I was going for; merely very dark would have sufficed.)

See how the resolution of the photo is not very good? This illustrates what happens when you do something brainless, the details of which you’d rather not get into at the moment, and end up wrecking your DSLR camera, and have to use your little point-and-shoot (and then have to crop the photo so the really dark parts of the loaves are conveniently omitted).

Okay, lessons learned: Don’t pour too much water into the steam pan. Read The Fine Manual (and better yet, call the oven repair guy). And don’t be stupid. Simple enough.

Now consider this photograph:

I like this one because it illustrates that even when a few things go wrong, you can still end up with a pretty nice, 50%-whole-grain, fruit-and-nut-laden, pleasantly-dense-and-chewy, thinly-sliceable, great-on-its-own-or-with-soft-cheese kind of loaf.

So there.

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Sourdough Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but around here it’s getting pretty warm, and that means grilling. And that means you’ll be needing some buns.

I already have a great bun recipe, but I wanted some that are sourdough-leavened (since my starter has been feeling a bit neglected lately) and that contain a hefty portion (about 84%) of whole wheat. These were an experiment that turned out rather well. They are definitely soft (from the honey and the butter), but a bit denser — and more flavorful, if you ask me — than your average hamburger bun.

In case your grill is still buried under a foot of snow (I’m so sorry!), the buns are good for sloppy joes, too.

These go to Zorra (1x umrühren bitte) and Rachel (Tangerine’s Kitchen) for BreadBakingDay #28, Buns.
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