Ultra-soft sourdough sandwich bread (sourdough shokupan)

Introducing: the “fast” and ultra-soft version of my soft sourdough sandwich bread! Enriched with milk, milk powder, cream, egg, and butter, this sourdough shokupan style loaf boasts a smooth, bouncy crumb and mildly sweet taste. It’s perfect for sandwiches, grilled cheese, or the best ever French toast.

Compared to previous versions of this bread, I’ve upped the amount of starter in this bread so the bulk fermentation and rising is all done in one day. You will need to build a sweet stiff levain, which I do the night before I plan to mix the dough. While I’ll still continue to use my older formulas (especially when I want to do an overnight proof), I love this new recipe for its speed!

sourdough shokupan crumb

Thanks to the warm fermentation and sweet starter, this bread is very mild with a hint of sweetness, even with a large amount of prefermented flour. I’m happy to add this formula to my arsenal and excited for you to try it!

Tips for sourdough shokupan success:

Sweet stiff levain: For all my enriched sourdough breads I prefer to use a stiff levain — this just means that there is a higher proportion of flour to water in the starter. I don’t maintain a separate stiff starter — whenever I want to make an enriched bread, I just prepare a stiff levain using my 100% hydration starter. In this particular loaf, I add a little sugar to the starter as well to tame the acidity.

Thorough kneading: For best rise and texture, the dough should be fully kneaded to windowpane stage. I first knead the dough without butter until the dough is smooth and the gluten is well-developed; then add the butter slowly and continue kneading until the dough is very strong, smooth, and supple. Please note that the exact timings will vary depending on your flour and mixer; and it is possible to overknead this dough. I suggest checking the dough every couple minutes after all the butter has been added so you get a feel for how the dough is changing and developing.

Warm fermenatation: I keep this dough warm throughout bulk fermentation and proofing, about 80-82F. Because of the high percentage of starter the dough should rise fairly steadily; if not, it may come down to strength of starter, under/over-kneading, or too cool an environment.

Degassing during shaping: For the tightest, bounciest crumb, the dough should be very well degassed at the shaping stage. I also keep the bench rest and shaping times short, as this dough ferments fairly quickly. If you start getting air bubbles under the skin while the dough is resting, it is harder to get a really smooth, even crumb. When rolling the dough, use quick and firm movements with the pin and try to push all the bubbles out from the dough. You shouldn’t need any flour for shaping.

fully fermented sourdough shokupan

Sourdough shokupan (ultra-soft sourdough sandwich bread)

Makes one 9x4x4 pullman loaf or 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:

For the sweet stiff levain:

  • 35g active, ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 58g milk
  • 13g granulated sugar
  • 105g bread flour

For the final dough:

  • 114g bread flour
  • 114 all-purpose flour
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 21g milk powder
  • 75g milk, cold
  • 81g heavy cream, cold
  • 50g egg (about 1 large), cold
  • 7g salt
  • 46g unsalted butter, at room temperature

To finish:

  • Milk, for brushing
  • Melted butter, for brushing (optional))

Method:

  1. Make the sweet stiff levain: In a medium bowl, mix the starter, milk, sugar and flour together to form a stiff dough. Cover the bowl and ferment the levain at warm room temperature until more than doubled in volume and puffy, about 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Autolyse the dough: In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Mix the dough: Add salt, and knead dough on low until gluten is moderately developed, about 5-7 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel smooth and stretchy. Add the butter in three batches batches, mixing in the first portion completely before adding the second. Continue kneading on low/medium-low until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test. Timing will depend on your flours and mixer, but usually takes about 5-10 minutes after the butter has been added. The dough should be smooth and supple. Desired dough temperature is ~75-76F.
  4. Bulk fermentation: Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at warm room temperature (80-82F) for 2 hours, or until roughly doubled.
  5. Shape the dough: Transfer dough to a clean surface. Divide into 3 parts, shape into balls, and rest for 5 minutes, covered by lightly oiled plastic. Using a rolling pin, roll the first ball into an oval about 9″ x 5″, doing your best to degas the dough. (Roll from the center out, which should push the air bubbles to the edges. Pop any air bubble you see; this will help create a tight and smooth crumb.) Fold the two long edges to the center, slightly overlapping. Roll to a rectangle about 10″ x 4″, again doing your best to fully degas the dough, then roll up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. Repeat with other two portions. (See photos above for visual cues.)
  6. Proof the dough: Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise at warm room temperature (~80-82F) until dough roughly triples in volume and nearly fills the tin (if using a Pullman Pan; in a 9×5 pan it should rise about 1″ above the rim), about 3.5-4 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven and bake the loaf: About 45-60 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. After the dough has finished proofing, brush lightly with milk, transfer to oven, and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is at least 195F. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top to keep from burning. When the loaf is finished, immediately remove from the pan and turn onto a wire rack. Brush melted butter over the top and sides while the loaf is still warm, if desired (this helps create a soft crust). Allow to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag.

Related recipes and links:

side view sourdough shokupan

Orange and Honey Frangipane Soft Sourdough Sweet Rolls

orange and honey frangipane rolls

A few days ago, I wandered around a grocery store for the first time in what feels like forever. It’s funny the things we take for granted — I used to drag my kids to do grocery shopping regularly. For a truly gold star outing we’d visit a store with “special carts” — you know, the ones resembling fire engines or tractors complete with mini steering wheels. Yes, it would take us longer to get dressed and in the car than actually shop; but these grocery store trips were a needed diversion during the week, often fueling ideas for the week’s meals and recipes for this blog. I’ve missed it.

Anyways. I managed to snatch a few blood oranges on aforementioned trip, because if you don’t make something with blood oranges are you even a food blogger? Some of my bounty went towards these frangipane sourdough sweet rolls, a variation on my favorite sourdough cinnamon rolls.

These soft, lightly sweet breakfast rolls swap traditional cinnamon-sugar filling for nutty frangipane. Frangipane is truly one of my favorite baking components — whether piped into a tart or spread between layers of dough, it adds rich flavor and a bit of bakery pizazz to any treat (though it couldn’t be simpler to make). Frangipane is also easy to customize: swap the almonds for another ground nut, switch out the sugars, add some spices. Here I opted for fragrant honey rather than regular sugar and added a bit of blood orange zest for extra punch.

These rolls aren’t too sweet, which means you should definitely not hold back on the citrus glaze. Sadly my blood oranges weren’t particularly pink inside so I didn’t achieve that perfectly hued glaze. No big deal. Still delicious.

Baker’s notes:

  • If you don’t have einkorn/spelt/whole wheat flour, you can omit it and increase both the bread and all-purpose flours to 142g (284g total) in the final dough ingredients.
  • If you want to have these rolls ready to bake on, say, a Saturday morning, I suggest the building your stiff levain Thursday night, mixing the dough and doing the 2-hour room temp proof on Friday morning, and shaping the rolls right before going to sleep that night. Leave them out on the counter to proof overnight. Then preheat the oven and bake first thing when you get up in the morning. Note that you need a ripe, active 100% hydration starter to build the levain, so make sure your starter is nice and happy by giving it a feeding or two beforehand.
  • Just for fun, I baked a few of these rolls off in my Nordicware giant popover pan. The rolls turned out cute but this method was messier than I’d like; so next time if I want individual rolls I’ll just use a regular muffin tin. If you do want to try the popover pan, I’d recommend cutting the individual rolls a little smaller (into 10 or 11 pieces rather than 9) and tucking the tail underneath before placing in the pan. Also, make sure to grease the pan well before filling.

Orange and Honey Frangipane Soft Sourdough Sweet Rolls

Makes 9 rolls | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:

  • 18g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour

For the final dough:

  • 125 g bread flour
  • 125 g all-purpose flour
  • 34 g einkorn, spelt, or whole wheat flour
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 21g milk powder
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 100g milk, cold
  • 80g heavy cream, cold
  • All the levain
  • 7g kosher salt
  • 45g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the honey frangipane filling:

  • 45g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 70g honey
  • Zest of one small orange (about 2 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 75g almond flour
  • 12g all-purpose flour

For the orange glaze:

  • 90g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ~1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (as needed)

Method:

  1. Make the levain: In a medium bowl, mix the starter, milk, and flour together to form a stiff dough. Cover the bowl and ferment the levain at warm room temperature until more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed, about 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Autolyse and mix the final dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together flours, sugar, milk powder, egg, milk, cream, and levain until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and knead on medium-low speed until the gluten is moderately developed, about 5 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add the butter about 1 tbsp at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up to medium-low and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly oiled container.
  4. Bulk fermentation: Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Stretch and fold the dough, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours.
  5. Make the honey frangipane: In a small bowl, mix together the butter, honey, zest, spices, and salt (I just use a spatula). Add the egg and mix until smooth. Fold in the almond and all-purpose flour.
  6. Shape and proof the rolls: When ready to shape, lightly grease a 9 x 9–inch (23 x 23–cm) baking pan or a 9- or 10-inch (23- or 25-cm) round cake pan (preferably aluminum).
  7. Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14-inch (36-cm) square, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.
  8. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the dough, going all the way to the edges. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Turn the roll so the seam side is down.
  9. Cut into nine even pieces using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss (my preferred method).
  10. Transfer the rolls, cut side up, to the prepared pan, leaving space between each (they will grow into each other during proofing).
  11. Cover the rolls with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature, about 74-76F, until the dough is very puffy and roughly doubled, about 8 hours or overnight.
  12. Preheat the oven and bake the rolls: About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Bake until the rolls are lightly golden and register 195 – 200F in the center, about 20 minutes. (Tent with foil partway through baking if browning too quickly.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the glaze.
  13. Prepare the orange glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar and salt. Whisk in the orange juice a teaspoon time until you get a thick glaze that drizzles easily off the whisk (I used the full 1 Tbsp). Drizzle glaze over the rolls and serve immediately.

Bye 2020

top 9 instagram rushyama

No one is trying to hang on to 2020 any longer than is absolutely necessary. But even at the end of this strange, strange year I wanted to take a moment to remember a few bright spots. More than ever this year, I got messages, comments, and emails about how recipes on this site helped you to pass time, to find comfort, to learn a new skill. As a food blogger I can’t ask for anything more, so thank you for making this little hobby of mine even more rewarding through your kind words and recipe remakes. See you in 2021!


I wrote a cookbook!

baked to order

I didn’t publish any recipes on the blog until April because I was fully immersed in finishing my cookbook, Baked to Order: 60 Sweet and Savory Recipes with Variations for Every Craving. Writing a cookbook was an opportunity I never imagined would come my way, but I’m forever grateful it did. It connected me with a wonderful photographer, Diana Muresan; and many of you helped test the recipes to ensure they would work in kitchens other than my own.

While it was a notoriously challenging year to release a book (ingredient shortages, printing and mailing delays, no in-person events or book signings), I smile every time I see Baked to Order in another kitchen somewhere in the world. Thank you for supporting me by supporting Baked to Order — I am truly humbled by your kindness, and I look forward to seeing more of your bakes from it in the new year.


Sourdough Recipes

Remember when flour and yeast was scarce and everyone made a sourdough starter? Yeah, me neither. But while the intense sourdough craze of spring 2020 has cooled, your love for sourdough hasn’t. My sourdough discard post was the most popular page on the blog in 2020, and I published a few new sourdough recipes this year:


So! Many! Cookies!

Cookies were my ideal 2020 baked good: perfect for socially-distanced drop-offs and easy to freeze for later. I published more cookie recipes this year than ever before, because I made more cookies this year than ever before!


Small Batch Recipes

This year, we all looked for ways to celebrate in scaled-down fashion. I absolutely cannot wait for the day I can make and share a big old layer cake with my friends, but will enjoy these small-batch treats for years to come.

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread with Maple and Oats

whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread

Making a 100% whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread has been on my baking bucket list for a long time. With cookbook recipe testing finished, the time was finally right! Although this loaf took many, many trials, I am pleased with how wholesomely delicious it turned out!

While I often replace about 30% of the flour in my go-to soft sourdough sandwich bread with whole grains, I knew making a completely whole wheat loaf would require some adjustments. One adjustment was amount of dough — because whole wheat does not rise as much as white flour, I had to increase the amount of dough in the tin to end up with slices that I considered tall enough.

Another adjustment was fermentation timetable. There is less “wiggle room” when it comes to whole wheat — the added nutrients cause fermentation to move quickly, which can cause the dough to overproof if you aren’t paying attention. Overproofing whole wheat doughs can lead to unpleasant sourness and a rougher crumb. For these reasons, I make this loaf all in one day (minus building the levain and soaker, which I prepare the night before). I experimented with refrigerating the dough partway through bulk fermentation (which I often do with other enriched doughs), but even with my fairly cold fridge the dough rose more than I expected and I ended up with overly sour loaves.

In addition to whole wheat flour, I decided to include an oatmeal soaker — I love the nutty tenderness oats add! Oats also hold on to moisture, helping this bread stay soft for days (though I especially enjoy this bread toasted)! I also used milk powder, maple syrup, and oil for additional softness and subtle sweetness. You can omit the milk powder if you want to keep this bread completely vegan, or try substituting a non-dairy milk powder. All in all, this loaf is nutty, wholesome, and just subtly sweet — — perfect for sandwiches and toast!

A few additional notes:

  • If you’ve made any of the enriched sourdough loaves on this site, you may remember that two keys to a soft crumb and good rise are thorough mixing and full proofing. This is still the case with this loaf. However, it is easy to overknead whole wheat dough, especially using a stand mixer; go slowly and check the dough often for the windowpane. (Alternatively, you can knead this dough by hand.)
  • If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I worked quite a bit on trying to eliminate some small dense areas that can show up on the bottom and sides of pan loaves, particularly when using a 9x4x4 pullman loaf tin. After talking to some other bakers, a lot of reading, and additional tests, I’ve concluded that provided your fermentation is on point, this probably happens because the dough is being compressed as it rises and bakes. I don’t notice this issue in a standard 9×5 loaf tin (see comparison photos below), which has tapered sides (allowing the loaf to relax outwards). To me, this is an aesthetic issue — I don’t notice these areas when I eat the bread. Personally, I am willing to sacrifice a “perfect” crumb for a nice, tall slice; so I will continue to happily use my Pullman pan for this loaf! Keep in mind that there may be other reasons for dense spots — underfermentation or underbaking being the main ones.
  • There are many different ways to shape a sandwich loaf; I describe one I like below. It is similar to how I shape my soft sourdough sandwich bread; but instead of dividing the dough into three pieces, I keep it in one piece — the dough seems to compress a little less this way.
  • It’s important to bake and cool this loaf fully. Make sure the very center of the loaf registers 205F — there’s a lot of moisture in this loaf with the oat soaker, and if you underbake the insides will turn out gummy and the sides may cave in. Additionally, wait for the loaf to cool fully before slicing so the crumb can fully set — I like to give it at least 3 hours.
  • As with all recipes but especially sourdough ones, the times listed below are for guidance/general ballpark. Exact timings will vary depending on the strength of your starter, how fresh your flour is, and the temperature of your environment. Paying attention to the physical cues — the appearance and feel of the dough and amount of rise — is much more important than sticking to a strict timetable!

ww sandwich loaf proofing
ww sandwich loaves two tins
ww sandwich loaf crumb comparison

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread with Maple and Oats

Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:

For the stiff sweet levain:

  • 24g ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 39g water, at room temperature
  • 72g whole wheat flour
  • 11g sugar (I used brown sugar)

For the oatmeal soaker:

  • 60g rolled oats (regular, not quick)
  • 150g boiling water 

For the final dough:

  • 177g water, at room temperature 
  • 34g neutral vegetable or olive oil
  • 45g maple syrup 
  • All of the stiff sweet levain
  • 336g whole wheat flour (I used half organic hard whole wheat and half Flourist sifted red spring wheat)
  • 30g milk powder
  • 9g salt
  • All of the oatmeal soaker

To finish:

  • Additional rolled oats, for garnish (optional)
  • 14g / 1 Tbsp melted butter (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the stiff sweet levain (Day 1, evening): In a medium bowl, mix together the starter, water, whole wheat flour, and sugar until well combined. It should resemble a stiff dough. Cover and ferment at room temperature (74-76F) until tripled in volume and the top is starting to flatten, about 10-12 hours.
  2. Make the oatmeal soaker (Day 1, evening): Place the oats in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir to make sure all the oats are hydrated. Cover and let sit until you are ready to mix the dough. (I do this at the same time I mix the levain.)
  3. Autolyse the dough (Day 2, morning): In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, oil, and maple syrup. Tear the ripe stiff levain into several pieces and add it to the liquid. Stir with a flexible spatula to disperse and break up the levain. Add the whole wheat flour and milk powder. Stir just until all the flour is hydrated and there are no dry spots. The dough should be fairly stiff at this point. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  4. Mix the dough: Add the salt to the autolysed dough. Mix on low (speed 1 on a KitchenAid) until the salt is evenly dispersed and the dough begins to smooth out, about 3-4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium low (speed 2-3 on a KitchenAid) and mix until the dough is very smooth and supple and reaches windowpane stage, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the dough hook a couple of times during this process to make sure the dough is evenly mixed. (Alternatively, you can knead by hand — it will take longer, but this dough is easy to handle.)
  5. Add the oatmeal soaker: Add the oatmeal soaker and use your hands to squish it into the dough, folding the dough over onto itself several times to disperse the soaker evenly. Mix on low for one minute to make sure the dough is evenly mixed — do not overmix, or the gluten may start to break down. The dough may be a little sticky, but still strong and smooth and hold together easily. Transfer to a large oiled bowl or container for bulk fermentation. Desired dough temperature is 76-79F.
  6. Bulk fermentation: Let the dough rise at room temperature until it has risen 60-75%, about 2-3 hours at 75-77F. Because the dough was well-developed during mixing, there’s no need to do any stretches and folds (though you can if you want to). When ready to shape, the dough should feel airy and puffy, but still strong — do not push the bulk too far as the high whole-grain percentage can cause the dough to overferment quickly.
  7. Shape: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. To create a very tight, even crumb (my preference for sandwich breads), use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 9 x 13. Starting with a short edge, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Let rest 10 minutes, uncovered. Roll into a rectangle again, along the seam, and re-roll like a jelly roll as tightly as possible. (Try to get the short edge as close to 9″ as possible, but a little under is fine — the dough will relax to fill the tin.)
  8. Coat: Lightly grease a 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf pan. If you want to coat your loaf with oats, lay down a clean, lint-free tea towel and sprinkle with a thin, even layer of rolled oats. Lightly spritz the shaped loaf with water, then carefully flip the loaf onto the towel, seam side up. Use your hands to rock the loaf back and forth a few times so that the oats stick to the loaf. Transfer the loaf to the prepared pan, seam side down. Cover with lightly oiled plastic.
  9. Proof: Proof the loaf at room temperature until it has doubled in size and passes the “poke test” — when you gently poke the loaf with a floured finger, the indentation should fill back very slowly. In a 9x4x4 pan, the dough should have risen about 1 inch above the rim in the center (in a standard 9×5 pan, about 2 1/2 inches). This typically takes me about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours; but exact timing will depend on the warmth of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
  10. Preheat the oven: About 45 minutes before you anticipate your loaf being ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425F with a rack in the middle and a rack below (for steaming, optional). About 10-20 minutes before baking, place a few small dishtowels (preferably ratty ones) in a roasting pan. Pour enough very hot or boiling water over the towels to fully saturate them. Place the roasting pan in the oven on the lower rack. (This is optional but helps create steam in the oven. I find this gives the loaf a better rise and shiny crust without needing to use an egg wash.)
  11. Bake and cool: Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then remove the roasting pan. Turn the oven temperature down to 400F and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the internal temperature of the very center of the loaf reaches 205F. (If the loaf is taking on too much color for your liking, tent it with foil midway through baking.) Once the center has reached 205F, remove loaf from the tin and return to the oven to bake for 1-2 more minutes (optional, for more color on the sides/bottom). Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and brush melted butter over the top and sides — this optional finish helps keep the crust soft and flavorful. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting, at least 3 hours. Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag for 4 to 5 days, or freeze for longer storage.
WW sandwich loaf pullman profile

Sourdough Epi Wreath

sourdough epi wreath with ribbon

Just popping in to share this simple, festive bread idea for your holiday baking inspiration! A bread wreath is perfect as a dinner table centerpiece (just put a bowl of good salted butter in the middle!) or edible gift. You can also use this technique with larger or smaller pieces of dough (the bake time might change slightly), though I like the crust-to-crumb ratio of this size plus the fact that it’s the size of an actual wreath! This would also work well with any lean bread dough that’s not too slack (hydrated).

Sourdough Epi Wreath

Makes 1 medium wreath

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a loose round. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina / cornmeal. (Note: I like to double up on baking sheets for these wreaths to keep the bottom from scorching.)
  2. Degas and shape into a tight, smooth boule (round). Lightly flour your hands and use your thumbs to poke a hole in the center. Gently stretch the dough to widen the circle. The wreath should be about 10 inches across and the hole in the center at least 4 inches (it’ll shrink back a bit when you put it down).
  3. Place the wreath on a prepared sheet, seam side down. Lightly mist with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until the wreath is puffy and has increased by about 50% (this takes me about 1.5-2 hours). About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the center rack and sheet tray on the bottom of the oven.
  4. When the wreath is ready to bake, have ready a measuring glass with hot water and a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. Dust the top of the wreath with rice flour. Use the kitchen scissors to cut the dough at a sharp angle (30-45 degrees) almost all the way through the dough. After snipping, pull the point away from the center (towards you). Repeat all the way around the wreath.
  5. Transfer the wreath to the oven and carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the sheet tray on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 450F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the wreath is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
sourdough epi wreath

Sourdough Challah

sourdough challah six strand

Finding a solid sourdough challah recipe has been on my bread baking list for awhile. While I have a sourdough enriched sandwich bread recipe that I love, the appeal of challah to me is that it’s dairy free and the dough is easy to shape into beautiful braids — perfect for holiday celebrations! Leftover challah also makes excellent French toast, bread pudding, bostock…basically, I’m never sad to have a few extra slices!

After trying a few different recipes/methods, I’ve finally landed on one I like. The dough handles beautifully; and so long as you use fresh starter, there is barely, if any, a hint of sourdough tang. The formula is based on Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah recipe, with a few adaptations to the flour mix and fermentation times. I’ve also been experimenting with add-ins and substitutions, so stay tuned for more challah-based recipes soon!

pumpkin challah
A few notes:
  • As with all bread recipes, proper fermentation is key to success. Although I’ve provided general timings which work in my kitchen, keep in mind they may vary greatly depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the strength of your starter. I’ve tried to provide visual cues to help you along — as they say, watch the dough and not the clock!
  • The original recipe called for all bread dough, but I prefer a mix of bread, all purpose, and whole grain for a balance of softness, chew, and flavor.
  • There are many ways to shape challah; I particularly like the 6-strand braid, 4-strand braid, and round challah. For best results, weigh out the dough into even portions for the most even-looking braid.
  • To make pumpkin challah, replace the 60g warm water in the final dough ingredients with 75g pumpkin puree. I like to use maple syrup as the sweetener in this variation. Pumpkin provides more color than flavor in this variation (see photo below), though for extra “pumpkin spice” you can spread the filling from this sourdough cinnamon raisin bread on the rolled out dough before shaping the dough into logs (replace the cinnamon with pumpkin spice). Make sure to firmly seal the seam and ends or liquefied sugar will leak out of the braid!
  • Like other enriched sourdough recipes, this recipe takes time — though most of it is hands-off. I like to break the work into the following 3-day schedule:
    • Day 1, right before bedtime: prepare stiff levain.
    • Day 2, morning: mix dough and ferment until doubled. Refrigerate dough once doubled.
    • Day 2, right before bedtime: shape challah and let proof at room temperature overnight.
    • Day 3, first thing in the morning: bake challah.
    • Note: If you want to mix and bake all in one day, you could shape and proof the dough right after the dough has doubled. Proof time will likely be a little shorter since the dough doesn’t have to warm back up to room temperature. I personally prefer the above schedule because I find cold dough easier to shape and I like having the bread freshly baked in the morning.
sourdough pumpkin challah cut

Sourdough Challah

Makes one large loaf (or two smaller loaves, or many buns) | Adapted from Maggie Glezer via The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:
  • 40g very active, fully fermented 100% hydration sourdough starter, refreshed 8 to 12 hours earlier
  • 52g warm water
  • 108g bread flour

Mix all ingredients together to form a stiff dough. Allow to ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or until ripe (it should triple in volume).

For final dough:
  • 60g warm water
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 55g olive oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 65g honey or maple syrup
  • 250g bread flour
  • 100g AP flour
  • 50g whole grain flour
  • All of the levain
  • Sesame / poppy seeds or pearl sugar, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together all ingredients from water through honey/maple syrup until combined.
  2. Add the flour and levain (torn into several pieces to make it easier to incorporate). Use a silicone spatula or your hands to mix until ingredients are roughly combined.
  3. Mix the dough on a low-medium speed (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 5 minutes. You can also do this by hand, which should take 8-10 minutes. The dough should be on the firm side but still easy to knead. If your dough is overly sticky and doesn’t hold together after kneading, add additional bread flour 1 tbsp at a time until the dough holds together. Avoid adding too much flour as this may make your loaf dry and overly dense.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Ferment at warm room temperature until doubled. This took me about 4 hours, but will depend on the temperature of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
  5. Fold the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 12.
  6. When you are ready to shape, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide equally into the number of pieces desired on a lightly floured surface. (I like to do 6 pieces for a 6-strand braid or 4 for a round challah.) Loosely round, then cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Also, whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for the egg wash.
  7. Working one at a time, roll each piece into a thin sheet (about 1/8″ thick) — the shape isn’t important, but aim for an even thickness. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Repeat with other pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into ropes of even lengths (I aim for 24-26″), tapering the ends. Braid as desired (see notes above).
  9. Transfer shaped loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the entire surface with a coat of egg wash, then cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg wash; you will need it later.
  10. Allow the loaf to proof at room temperature until at least doubled and very puffy (but still defined). This takes me 8-10 hours at cool room temperature. About half an hour to 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Right after preheating the oven, uncover the loaf and brush with another coat of egg wash.
  11. When the oven is ready, brush the loaf with a final coat of egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame/poppy seeds or pearl sugar, if desired.
  12. Bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking, or until the top is well browned and the loaf registers 200F. (Tent with foil if the loaf is browning too quickly). Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Sourdough Italian Rolls

sourdough italian rolls with tomatoes

Every so often my kids and I will walk down to our neighborhood Italian bakery. I usually let them pick a treat for the road, and my son almost always walks past the cookies and pastries and chooses a plain, white Italian roll. (Once he did ask for a rum ball. Good thing I asked the cashier what it was before agreeing.) And he absolutely has no problem demolishing the whole thing (they’re probably 6-7 inches long!) in one sitting.

As an avid bread baker, I was determined to make something similar that would garner the same enthusiasm. And this is it! Simple rolls that are crusty-but-not-too-crusty and a soft but chewy crumb. They are naturally leavened, but are very mild and slightly sweet in flavor.

Also, these rolls are a lot of fun to make. The dough is easy to handle, and you can either make them in one day or retard the dough overnight (I’ve noted in the method when to refrigerate the dough if desired.) They are the perfect all-purpose roll: use them for sandwiches, as an accompaniment for soups and stews, or just eat them plain, like my kid. Personally, I like them slightly warm from the oven with some good salted butter.

(By the way, I asked my son why he liked this particular recipe so much, and he explained that it was because the rolls were oval. What can I say? That being said, you can shape this dough any way you want — baking time may need to be adjusted.)

sourdough italian rolls

Sourdough Italian Rolls

Makes 8 medium rolls | Adapted from Wild Yeast Blog

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:
  • 64g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 128g bread flour 
  • 128g AP flour
  • 192g water

Combine all ingredients and mix together until smooth. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature until ripe, 8-12 hours (it should at least double).

For the final dough:
  • 224g bread flour
  • 64g AP flour
  • 32g semolina flour
  • 170 g water
  • 12g salt
  • 14g sugar
  • 28g olive oil
  • All of the levain

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low to combine, then raise the speed to low-medium (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid). Continue mixing until the gluten is moderately developed. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.
  2. Transfer the dough to an oiled container. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled, folding every 30 minutes for the first hour. The time it will take to double will depend on how active your starter is and the temperature of your room; mine took about 2.5-3 hours. (Note: if you’d like, you can retard the dough overnight after it’s almost doubled. When you’re ready to bake, allow the dough to rest and come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes after dividing.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces, about 130g each, and shape into loose rounds. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a large sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina / cornmeal. (Note: I like to double up on baking sheets for these rolls to keep the bottoms from scorching.)
  4. Shape each round into a batard (oval) and transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. For these rolls I like to degas fairly well and shape tightly for a nice, even crumb.
  5. Lightly mist the rolls with oil and cover. Allow to rise at room temperature until the rolls have increased by about 50% (this takes me about 1.5-2 hours). About an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the center rack and sheet tray on the bottom of the oven.
  6. When the rolls are ready to bake, have ready a measuring glass with hot water. Lightly dust the tops of the rolls with rice flour, if desired, and slash the top of each roll down the center with a sharp blade (I like a curved lame for this).
  7. Transfer the rolls to the oven and carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the sheet tray on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Homemade ricotta and blistered tomato toasts

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Have you ever tried making cheese? If not, ricotta is a great place to start — it’s one of the simplest cheeses you can make at home and honestly tastes so much better from what you find in the supermarket. And all you need is some milk and an acid!

Although you can make ricotta on the stovetop, this time I used the Paderno 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Using a slow cooker offers a couple advantages. First, it allows for a more gentle heating of the milk (which you can stretch to a few hours if you are busy with other things). Second, it helps maintain a constant temperature once the acid is added.

While most ricotta recipes instruct you to let the acidified milk sit for 5-10 minutes before straining, I learned from a Serious Eats article that the yield and taste of homemade ricotta is vastly improved if you keep the mixture at a higher temperature for 20 minutes. On the stovetop, this means constant heat adjustments and pan babysitting. But thanks to the heat retention of the enamel crock and the precise temperature settings of the slow cooker, this part of the ricotta-making process is simple. Just hit a button and let the slow cooker do the work for you!

My favorite way to enjoy fresh ricotta is on fresh bread; and for these toasts, I baked a loaf of sourdough bread in the Paderno Dutch Oven. Baking bread in a dutch oven is a simple way to mimic the steam ovens commercial bakeries use. The thick walls and tight cover of the dutch oven seal in moisture and heat, allowing the loaf rise to its potential and develop a shiny, crackly crust!

Sometimes I top ricotta toasts with a drizzle of honey or swirl of jam. But during the summer (aka tomato season) you can’t beat blistered cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. I could honestly eat this any meal of the day — simple perfection!

A few notes:

  • This ricotta recipe is easily doubled; just note that it may take a bit more time initially for the milk to reach temperature.
  • To bake a loaf of bread in a dutch oven, put the dutch oven (with the cover) in the oven while the oven is preheating. Turn your unbaked bread dough onto a piece of parchment and score as desired. Carefully remove the preheated dutch oven and take off the lid. Transfer the dough, still on the parchment, to the dutch oven and replace the lid. Return the dutch oven to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (or roughly half the baking time); then remove the lid and continue baking the bread until finished.

Homemade ricotta and blistered cherry tomato toasts

Ingredients:

For the homemade ricotta:
  • 4 c whole milk (substitute up to 1/2 c heavy cream if desired)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 ml) distilled white vinegar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt (to taste)
For the blistered cherry tomatoes:
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
To finish:
  • 4 thick slices sourdough or country-style bread, homemade or store-bought
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. For the homemade ricotta: Pour the milk into the slow cooker. Heat, partially covered, until a digital thermometer reaches 185F. This can be done over a few hours on the low or medium setting, or in 30-60 minutes on the high setting. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the sides.
  2. Once the milk reaches 185F, turn off the slow cooker. Add the vinegar and gently stir for about 10 seconds to distribute. Turn the slow cooker back on to the low setting and maintain a temperature of 175-190F for twenty minutes without stirring. Meanwhile, line a strainer with cheesecloth and suspend over a large measuring glass or bowl.
  3. After twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the lined strainer. Allow to stand until the excess liquid has liquid has drained off, or until you reach desired texture (less time for a softer ricotta and more for drier). Add salt to the curds and gently stir to distribute. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
  4. For the blistered cherry tomatoes: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and saute until blistered, about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste.
  5. Assemble the toasts: toast bread if desired. Spread on ricotta and top with blistered tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and fresh basil leaves.


Toast and Jam Ice Cream

toast and jam ice cream in a bucket


One of the questions I hear often is, “What do you do with all the bread you bake?” Truthfully, we normally don’t have a ton of leftovers; and if I know a loaf won’t be finished within a couple days I’ll usually freeze pre-cut slices. But every so often I wind up with a hunk of bread that’s just a little too stale for the freezer.

Sure, that bread could make some pretty fine croutons or breadcrumbs. Or it could be tossed in brown butter and sugar, baked until deliciously golden and nutty, and spun into a quart of homemade ice cream. Add a swirl of jam, and you’ve got breakfast for dessert? Dessert for breakfast? Either way — delicious.

This toast and jam ice cream starts with a creamy and slightly tangy buttermilk custard base. Once done churning, simply alternate layers of ice cream, brown butter crumbs and jam and freeze until firm. If you like toasty bits in every bite you can add the brown butter crumbs during the last minute of churning for more even distribution. You may not use all the crumbs, but save extras for sprinkling on top…if you can resist snacking on them beforehand!


toast and jam ice cream

Toast and Jam Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart / Inspired by Salt & Straw and Tartine

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk ice cream base:
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp / 125g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp / 40g light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the caramelized bread crumbs:
  • 168g (~2 slices) day-old bread (I used sourdough)
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) butter
  • 67g (1/3 c) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of kosher salt
To finish:
  • ~1/2 storebought or homemade jam

Method:

  1. Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
  2. Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
  4. Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
  5. Make the caramelized bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  6. Crumble the bread into small, corn kernel-sized bits.
  7. In a skillet, heat the butter until it melts, then continue to cook until it starts to brown. Remove from heat and stir in the bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  8. Spread on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the bread bits are well-toasted and a deep, dark brown.
  9. Cool completely then store in an air-tight container until ready to use. (They can be made a few days in advance and stored at room temperature.)
  10. Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of jam and generous sprinklings of bread crumbs. (If you prefer, you can add the desired amount of bread crumbs during the last minute of churning.) Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.
toast and jam ice cream scoop

Sourdough Focaccia

carapelli focaccia
This post is sponsored by Carapelli Olive Oil. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

While I love a hearty whole-grain sourdough loaf, nothing hits the spot like a fresh piece of focaccia fresh out of the oven. With a salted top, chewy interior, and crisp bottom, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew. But it’s also a pretty tasty snack on its own, dipped in some good olive oil.

Focaccia is also one of the simplest breads to make, so it’s great for beginners or for days when you don’t have the time to babysit your dough. You don’t have to do much shaping or kneading for this bread — just mix, let it double, fold and let double again (this gives an extra airy, even texture); then gently turn into an oiled pan and let it rise some more before topping and baking. I’ve found that the key to really good focaccia is patience — really give it time to double twice for the best texture and flavor, and don’t be in a hurry to push it out to the edges of your pan.

For this sourdough focaccia, I used Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to create a flavorful bread with a crisp bottom and luscious, chewy interior. It’s especially delicious served with Carapelli Founders Edition Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a fresh and well-balanced blend with notes of wildflower and citrus. While you can top your focaccia with anything you want, I like to keep it simple with flaky salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of herbs and parmesan to let the flavor of the bread and olive oil really shine.

A few notes:
  • I typically mix and bake focaccia in the same day, but you can retard the dough overnight too. You can refrigerate the dough either after the first doubling (fold, then put in the fridge to double again, then proceed as written); or you can refrigerate the dough after it’s been turned out into the oiled pan.
  • If you’re baking for a crowd, you can double this recipe and bake it in two 8-inch pans or in one 9×13 pan.
crumb shot focaccia
focaccia olive oil pour

Sourdough Focaccia

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

  • 95g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 156g water
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for coating the pan and drizzling)
  • 213g bread flour
  • 10g rye flour
  • 5g sea salt
  • Flaky salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and grated parmesan

Method:

  1. Mix together all ingredients from starter through sea salt until smooth. Transfer to a well oiled container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
  2. Let dough rise until doubled (this can take 3-6 hours, depending on the temperature and the strength of your starter). Fold, then let double again.
  3. Pour a couple Tbsp of olive oil into 8×8 pan and tilt to cover the entire bottom.
  4. Carefully turn dough into the oiled pan, doing your best not to let it deflate. Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes, then gently press from the center out to fill the corners. (If the dough resists at all, let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.) Let rise, covered, until very puffy and airy (in my 2-inch high pan, the dough comes up halfway). This usually takes me 2-3 hours (longer if the dough has been refrigerated overnight — see notes above). About 30-60 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack and baking stone (if you have one) in the middle.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, drizzle the focaccia with olive oil and dimple the top with your fingers. Sprinkle with flaky salt, black pepper, and thyme leaves, if desired.
  6. Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned and risen. Sprinkle on some parmesan during the last 10 minutes of baking, if you’d like.
  7. Let the focaccia cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It’s best served fresh out of the oven, but leftovers can be wrapped in foil and re-warmed in a low oven the next couple of days.


hannah poking focaccia