Sourdough Crackers: Lavash and Grissini

sourdough lavash

Crackers are a popular food in our house. My kids love them. They’d probably eat crackers for dinner if they could (or anything else labelled “snacks” for that matter). So while everyone else is whipping out their royal icing and cookie stamps, here I am over here making sourdough crackers.

Don’t get me wrong — there will be plenty of cookies happening in our house too. But right now, I’m just having a little too much fun with crackers! They are actually quite fun to make with kids, too. The dough is easy to handle and roll, and my son never gets tired of adding “sprinkles” to things (even if they’re sesame seeds instead of sugar).

sourdough grissini

This sourdough cracker formula can be used to make either lavash crackers (a crisp flatbread) or grissini (thin, crunchy breadsticks). Leave them plain with just a sprinkling of flaky salt, or add seeds / spices to add texture and additional flavor! (Just be careful with dried herbs and spices as a tiny bit goes a long way.) You can even sprinkle on some grated cheese or knead some into the dough. My favorite cracker flavor combo is smoked paprika, garlic flakes, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper, and a little flaky salt. Yum!

These sourdough crackers are tasty on their own, but also make a great addition to a nosh or charcuterie plate. They keep well, so make a few batches now to have on hand for your holiday entertaining needs!

sourdough crackers plate

sourdough crackers plate 2

A couple of notes:

  • This is a flexible formula for sourdough crackers that you can easily scale depending on the amount of discard you have. I usually save discard in the fridge for a few days, then bake off a large batch. The easiest way to scale this recipe is as follows:
    • Weigh the amount of starter you have
    • Add half that weight in flour (so if you have 200 grams of starter, add 100 grams flour)
    • Figure out how much flour you have total, including the flour in your starter (100 grams from the starter + 100 grams added = 200 grams total flour)
    • Add 2% of the total flour weight in salt (2% of 200 = 4 g)
    • Add 10% of the total flour weight in honey (10% of 200 = 20g)

    (I tried writing this out in baker’s percentages; but since there’s a bit of disparity over how to express starter in a formula, it ended up being more confusing than helpful. So there you go. Mathing for the day over.)

  • The baking temperatures and timing on these crackers are just a guideline and may vary considerably depending on your oven and how thinly you roll or cut your dough. If you like your lavash more like a flatbread (softer), pull it out sooner. If the edges are crisp but the middle needs more time, take out the sheet and carefully trim off the edges, then return the sheet to the oven finish crisping the rest. For grissini, you want more of a “low and slow” approach — you’re basically trying to dry the dough out without the breadsticks burning, so you need a lower temperature + longer bake. Experiment and find out what works best for your oven!
  • For more baking with sourdough discard ideas, see this post.
  • For a DIY Raincoast Crisp recipe, see this post (you can sub in 1 cup of starter for 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup buttermilk if you want!).

Sourdough Crackers: Lavash and Grissini

Makes about one baking sheet’s worth of crackers

Ingredients:

  • 100g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 50g flour (I like a mix of bread and wholegrain)
  • 10g olive oil
  • 10g honey
  • 2g salt
  • Assorted seeds (poppy, sesame), spices, and/or flaky salt for topping, if desired

Method:

  1. Stir together the starter, oil, and honey until combined. Add the flour and salt and mix with a spatula until a rough dough forms. Knead for 3-5 minutes, or until the ingredients are well combined and the dough is smooth. It should be a medium-firm consistency and not sticky. (If it is sticky, add flour a tsp at a time until smooth, If it is dry, add water a tsp at a time until hydrated.) Transfer to an oiled container.
  2. Ferment the dough at room temperature until it is doubled in size, about 3-4 hours. (Note: you can also refrigerate the dough for a few hours at this point if you aren’t ready to bake yet. Not sure how long it will hold, but I’ve held mine for about 8 hours and it probably could last longer. No need to bring to room temp before proceeding.)

For lavash crackers:

  1. When the dough is nearly ready, preheat the oven to 400F (with a baking stone if you have one). Turn the dough onto a Silpat or piece of parchment paper cut to fit a baking sheet.
  2. Roll the dough into a rectangle as thinly and evenly as possible. It should be almost paper thin. (Alternatively, you can divide the dough into portions and use a pasta machine to roll them out. I like to get them down to the 2nd-thinnest setting.)
  3. Transfer the dough, still on the Silpat or parchment, to a baking sheet. Dock the surface all over with a fork to keep it from puffing in the oven. Mist with water and sprinkle seeds / spices / flaky salt if desired.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking, until browned and crisp. Cool on a wire rack, then break into shards and serve. Keeps well in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

For grissini:

  1. When the dough is nearly ready, preheat the oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. If you’d like to coat your grissini with seeds, place the seeds on a plate or small baking sheet.
  2. On a nonstick mat or lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle between 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick. Cut dough into even strips into desired thickness (I like 1/8″ – 1/4″ inch). Roll them one by one in the bed of seeds, if desired, then transfer to the prepared sheet. If you like, you can hold one end of dough while twisting the other to get a corkscrew effect.
  3. Bake until dry and crisp, about 30-40 minutes (but can vary wildly depending on the size of your grissini). Cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container or jar.

Malted Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

malted cinnamon roll breakfast scene

This post was created in partnership with East Fork Pottery. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Happy Fall! Despite a bit of a heatwave this past week, I’m ready to fully embrace the change of seasons. Apple picking, pumpkin spice, chunky sweaters — bring it all on!

I’m so excited to share these malted sourdough cinnamon rolls with you today, in partnership with East Fork Pottery. Inspired by East Fork’s new malt glaze, I added the toasty notes of malt to these classic breakfast treats by subtly weaving it into the dough, filling, and frosting. I honestly don’t think I’ll make cinnamon rolls any other way now! Plus, these rolls just look extra inviting on that beautiful bread & butter plate, don’t you think?

hands on plate

malted cinnamon roll on east fork pottery plate

A few notes:

  • The base dough for these rolls is the sourdough Hokkaido milk bread that I’ve used several times on this site before. If you haven’t tried this style of bread before, I highly recommend reading through those posts for more tips and tricks.
  • To add the malt flavor I use both barley malt syrup malted milk powder (Ovaltine is easiest for me to find, but you can use Milo/Horlicks/Carnation/whatever is available in your local supermarket — just make sure it’s classic malted milk powder and not chocolate malt).
  • To have these rolls ready to bake in the morning, I recommend mixing the dough 24 hours before you plan to bake (build the levain the night before). Shape the dough right before going to sleep, proof at room temperature overnight, and bake first thing in the morning. It takes a little planning ahead, but the actual hands-on time is fairly minimal.
  • I highly recommend baking the rolls in an 8×8 or 9×9 square cake pan (square cake pan). They seem to bake most evenly in this kind of pan — ceramic dishes take too long to heat up and the tops dry out before the bottom is cooked.

Malted Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 9 rolls

Ingredients

For the levain

  • 18g starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour
  • Mix and ferment at room temperature until ripe (mine is usually ready in 6-8 hours, but it depends on the ambient temperature and strength of your starter). When ready it should be more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed. You should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

For the final dough:

  • 284g bread/AP flour (I use half and half)
  • 35g barley malt syrup
  • 21g malted milk powder
  • 53g egg (about 1 large)
  • 100g milk
  • 80g cream
  • All of the levain
  • 6g salt
  • 52g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

For the filling:

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 15g malted milk powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • One egg, whisked with a bit of water or milk

For the malted cream cheese frosting:

  • 90g cream cheese, softened
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 20g malted milk powder
  • 75g icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough (with the dough hook attachment if using a stand mixer) until gluten is moderately developed (I use speed 3-4 on a KA mixer). 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 butter about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours, and up to 24).
  4. When ready to shape, mix together the filling ingredients and prepare the egg wash. Lightly grease a 8×8 square baking pan. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle about 10″ x 14″, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.
  5. Brush the rectangle with an even coat of egg wash and sprinkle on the malted cinnamon-sugar mixture. Go all the way to the edges and gently press to adhere.
  6. Starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Cut into 9 even pieces (~1.5 in. thick) using a sharp knife or dental floss (my preferred method). Transfer the rolls to the prepared pan, leaving space between each.
  7. Gently brush the rolls with a coat of egg wash (this keeps it from drying out) and cover with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature until the dough is very puffy and roughly doubled. This usually takes me ~8 hours, or overnight.
  8. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, rotating about halfway between. When finished, the rolls should be golden brown and register 195-200F in the center.
  9. While the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting. Beat the cream cheese, butter, and salt together on medium until smooth. Add the malted milk powder and about half the icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 1-2 minutes until fluffy.
  10. Allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before spreading with frosting. Serve warm.

Einkorn Rye Sourdough and Copper Chef Giveaway!

einkorn rye sourdough bloom
This post is sponsored by Copper Chef. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

Happy September! It seems like summer disappeared in the blink of an eye, but honestly I’m always happy to see fall arrive — the changing colors and warm spices signal my favorite time of the year. Plus, the cooler temperatures make me even more excited than normal to bake fresh loaves of sourdough bread. There’s something so comforting about the warmth of the oven and the aroma of fresh bread on a crisp fall day!

einkorn rye sourdough flatlay

This einkorn and rye sourdough loaf is a new favorite around these parts. If you’ve never tried einkorn flour, you’re in for a treat. It has a wonderful nutty/grassy aroma and gives dough a silky smooth feel. Einkorn is relatively low in gluten, which can make it challenging to incorporate in large percentages. Here I’ve kept it to 20% — enough to impart its unique flavor without making the dough too unruly.

einkorn rye sourdough crumb shot

Baking this loaf was easier than ever using my new Copper Chef Wonder Cooker. Many home bakers like to bake their hearth style loaves in preheated dutch ovens, which trap steam and retain heat similar to professional steam-injected ovens. Because I tend to shape my loaves as batards (ovals), I usually have to use a more complicated setup create steam in my home oven. The Wonder Cooker, though, can function as a dutch oven; and its oblong shape and 9-quart capacity easily fits my standard 1.5 – 2 pound batards — hooray!

Another of the Wonder Cooker’s winning features is the ability to configure it so that the shallow pan is on the bottom — I simply have to slide the prepared loaf onto the preheated pan rather than worry about dropping it into a deep (and blazing hot) pot. I definitely see myself baking a lot more loaves in the Wonder Cooker — it’s so easy, and the results are top notch.

einkorn rye sourdough on wonder cooker

I’m happy to announce that Copper Chef is graciously offering a free Wonder Cooker to one of my readers! I’ve enjoyed this versatile cookware not only for baking bread but also frying donuts; and I’m looking forward to testing out more of its 14 cooking functions in the very near future. Follow this link to enter the Wonder Cooker giveaway! Giveaway runs through September 18, 2018, and is open to residents of the lower 48 states.

Notes:

Einkorn Rye Sourdough

Makes one large loaf

Ingredients:

  • 150g AP flour (37.5%)
  • 130g bread flour (32.5%)
  • 80g whole einkorn flour (30%)
  • 40g whole rye flour (10%)
  • 70g 100% hydration ripe sourdough starter (17.5%)
  • 320g water, divided (80%)
  • 9g sea salt (2.25%)

Method:

  1. Mix together the flours and water (reserve 50g for mixing later) and autolyse (rest) for 2-4 hours, covered with a tea towel.
  2. Add the mature starter and about half the reserved water and mix until the starter is incorporated. Rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and pinch in. If the dough feels like it can handle it, add in the remaining reserved water and mix to combine. If you did a long autolyse, the dough should be decently strong at this point and you shouldn’t need to mix too much (maybe 1-2 minutes). If it feels weak, do a couple minutes of stretch and fold or slap and fold so the dough is moderately developed. It will continue to strengthen through bulk so it doesn’t need to be smooth at this point. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly oiled container and cover with a clean tea towel.
  4. Bulk ferment in a warm place, folding every half hour for the first 1-2 hours and hourly after that. Bulk fermentation is done when the dough has increased by 30-50%, you can see fermentation bubbles along the bottom and sides of the container, and the edges are domed where the dough meets the container. For me, with the dough kept around 74-76F, this took about 4.75 hours.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently preshape into a round. Let rest uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
    Prepare your basket (or other proofing vessel) by lining with a lint-free linen/cotton tea towel or lightly dusting with rice flour. Lightly flour your work surface and the rested round. Flip your preshaped round and shape as desired (boule or batard). Transfer to the prepared proofing container and cover with plastic. Proof at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 12-14 hours (or overnight).
  6. An hour before baking, preheat your oven to 500F (550 if it goes that high). You can bake this loaf in a Wonder Cooker (which you should preheat with the oven, covered with the shallow side down), or use your preferred method of steaming. While the oven is preheating, I also like to uncover my loaf (i.e. remove the plastic, but keep it refrigerated). This dries out the surface a little which I find makes scoring easier.
  7. When the oven is ready, invert your loaf onto a piece of parchment on a pizza peel. Score as desired, then transfer to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 500F. If using a Wonder Cooker, carefully remove the preheated pan, remove the cover, and gently slide the scored loaf (still on the parchment) onto the shallow side of the pan. Place a few ice cubes around the edge of the pan (not touching the loaf — optional, but I think it provides an extra burst of steam) and immediately cover the loaf with the deep side of the pan and return to the oven.
  8. Bake with steam (or covered) at 500F for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 450F, remove the cover and bake for another 20 minutes at 450F or until your desired doneness, rotating a couple times for even baking. When finished, the crust should be nicely browned and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before cutting.

einkorn rye sourdough half crumb shot

Soft sourdough sandwich bread

sourdough sandwich bread

There are many variations of this soft sourdough bread already on this site, but not one for good old white sourdough sandwich bread. This recipe makes a wonderfully soft loaf that my kids gladly eat plain, but it makes a mean sandwich and french toast as well. Using sourdough adds depth of flavor and keeps it fresh for multiple days! You can see me mix a similar style of dough in my Instagram story highlights (“Swirl Bread”), and there are lots of tips in previous posts on how to successfully make this style of bread. In summary, a thorough kneading, proper shaping, and full proofing are key to getting the right “shreddable” texture. It takes a little practice but I think it’s well worth the effort!

sourdough sandwich bread loaf

sourdough sandwich bread slice shred[contact-form][contact-field label=

Soft Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf (I absolutely love using my Pullman Pan for this!)
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients

For the levain:

  • 18g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 30g milk
  • 56g bread flour

Mix together and let ripen at room temperature until mature.

Final dough:

  • 276g flour (I use half AP/half bread)
  • 34g sugar
  • 34g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg (~50g)
  • 6g salt
  • 134g milk
  • 20g milk powder
  • All of the levain

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 3 or 4 equal parts and lightly shape each into a ball. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into an oval and roll up (like a jelly roll). Rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece into an oval again, along the seam, and re-roll as tightly as possible. Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise about 6 hours at room temperature. The dough should be well risen, puffy, and fill the pan about 80% (if using a Pullman Pan).
  6. About 1 hour before baking, preheat oven to 400F. After the dough has finished proofing, transfer to oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for 15-20 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 turn it onto a rack. Brush melted butter over the top and sides while the loaf is still warm, if desired. Allow to cool before slicing.

sourdough sandwich bread slice

Baking with Discard Sourdough Starter

sourdough scones

I feed my sourdough starter twice daily most of the time, which means I end up with a fair amount of “discard” starter. Now, I’m not the most ambitious discard user out there (i.e. I don’t mind composting it), but lately I’ve been trying to incorporate it more often into some of my “normal” (read: non-sourdough) baking. So if you’re looking to up your discard game, here are some ideas to get you started. If you have any favorite discard recipes to share, please leave them in the comments — I’m always interested in more ideas!

Adding Sourdough to Quick Bread Recipes

sourdough banana bread
Replacing some of the flour and liquids in quick bread (including scone and pancake) recipes is one of the easiest ways to use up discard starter. You don’t even need a specific “sourdough” recipe. Since starter is, essentially, flour and water, all you have to do is measure out the amount of starter you want to use and subtract that amount in flour/liquid called for in your recipe.

Say, for example, you have 100g of starter you want to use up, and your recipe calls for 225g of flour and 100g of water. If your starter is 100% hydration (equal parts flour and water), simply subtract 50g of flour and 50g of water (100g total) from your recipe and use starter in its place (I typically whisk it in with the wet ingredients). This is definitely easiest to do if you are baking by weight, which I highly recommend (this OXO digital scale is definitely my most frequently used kitchen appliance).

If your recipe doesn’t call for water you can replace another liquid instead — say milk, juice, or even oil. Just keep in mind that these ingredients contribute more than just hydration to the final product (i.e. sweetness, flavor, fat) so you may not want to replace all of it.

Note: When I use sourdough in these situations it’s purely for “less waste” reasons — not for leavening. I still keep the chemical leaveners (baking soda/powder) in. My starter is refreshed pretty often and is quite mild, so I don’t really detect any “sourdough tang” in the final product (maybe a little in pancakes). But if your starter has been sitting in the fridge for awhile or is especially acidic you might have different results. Finally, you’ll also need to experiment with the amount of starter you can sub in for your individual recipes. For quick bread loaves I usually sub around ~20-25% of the flour weight; higher percentages tend to lend a bit of a “spongy” texture in my experience, but it really varies with the recipe.

Here are a few recipes on CTD in which I’ve successfully used discard starter:

Sourdough Granola

sourdough granola

Making granola one of my current favorite ways to use up discard because it’s so easy and and flexible! This formula/guideline is largely inspired by my Instagram friend Fumi. The starter basically acts as a binder so you end up with a nice crunchy, clumpy granola (my favorite kind!) without having to add too much sweetener or fat.

Preferment:

  • 100g sourdough starter (100% hydration; can be straight from the fridge)
  • 30g water
  • 30g brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 30g flour (AP or whole grain)

Mix and ferment for 3-8 hours. (Fermenting isn’t necessary but I typically let mine ferment for at least 3 hours.)

Final mix:

  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 160g rolled oats (not instant)
  • 70g raw, unsalted nuts (roughly chopped if large)
  • 50g mixed seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, millet, sesame…)
  • 20g honey or maple syrup
  • 15-30g neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
  • Mix-ins: Dried fruit, cacao nibs, crystallized ginger

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients except for the mix-ins in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients (honey/maple syrup and oil) into the preferment, then pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix to combine.
  3. Spread the mixture thinly on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for ~45 min, rotating pan halfway through. If the granola is browning quickly, turn the oven down to 275 or 250 halfway through baking. Turn oven off and allow to cool for ~30 minutes, then break the granola into pieces and return to the turned-off oven to cool completely. Add mix-ins once completely cool and store in an airtight container.

Other recipe ideas

Here are some other recipe/resource ideas for using up sourdough starter discard:

Sourdough Matcha and Black Sesame Swirl Bread

matcha black sesame swirl bread

Hello friends! Many of you have been asking about this matcha and black sesame variation of swirl bread since I posted my first test on Instagram. I was hoping it would be as easy as subbing in some black sesame spread for the cinnamon sugar, but alas — the spread was delicious but too wet, resulting in too much steam (and, consequently, unsightly gaps) during the baking process. (It does taste good, though, so if you don’t really care so much about the swirl it’s an option. Or maybe try shaping your loaf this way.

But if you are swirl-obsessed, you’ll want to go the extra step to make some black sesame sugar. This is a recipe I first saw on Lady and Pups and it works a charm. I can find roasted sesame seeds very easily at my local Asian supermarket; but if you don’t have those you can roast your own via Mandy’s instructions.

Also, a word about matcha. The next time I make this, I’m going to try adding a bit more because I personally like a strong matcha flavor. I suspect there will be other tweaks that will need to come in play, though, because I find too much matcha powder tends to dry out baked goods (a 1:1 swap with some of the flour didn’t work for me; I had to keep the original amount of flour to create a strong enough dough). The intensity of your matcha flavor will also very much depend on the quality of your powder — a culinary grade one works best for baking. So all that to say, experiment with quantities to your taste, but you’ll likely need to adjust the liquid/flour level to compensate.

Lastly, if you follow me on Instagram, I have a story highlight called “Swirl Bread” that goes through the entire process (it’s the cinnamon swirl version, but the method is the same. This will hopefully give you some visual cues as to how your dough should look at each stage.

Enjoy!

Sourdough Matcha and Black Sesame Swirl Bread

Makes one loaf (I highly prefer a 9x4x4 Pullman Pan for the nicest shape, but a regular 9×5 loaf pan works too)

Ingredients

For the levain

  • 18g starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour
  • Mix and ferment at room temperature until ripe (mine is usually ready in 4-6 hours, but it depends on the strength of your starter). When ready it should be more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed. You should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

For the final dough:

  • 284g bread/AP flour (I use half and half)
  • 46g sugar
  • 21g milk powder
  • 12g matcha powder, preferably culinary grade
  • 53g egg (about 1 large)
  • 104g milk
  • 88g cream
  • All of the levain
  • 6g salt
  • 52g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

For the black sesame sugar filling:

  • 50g brown sugar
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 50g roasted black sesame seeds
  • One egg, whisked with a bit of water or milk

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough (with the dough hook attachment if using a stand mixer) until gluten is moderately developed (I use speed 3-4 on a KA mixer). 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 butter about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours, and up to 24).
  4. To prepare the filling, combine the sugars and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Pulse about half of the mixture in a food processor until it resembles cornmeal (this took about 20 pulses for me). Transfer to an airtight container and repeat with the other half. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This is done in two portions to avoid over-processing the ingredients, which will result in sesame butter…)
  5. When ready to shape, prepare the egg wash. Line a loaf pan (I prefer a Pullman pan) with parchment and lightly grease. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle about 10″ x 15″, doing your best to maintain an even thickness (the more accurate your shape, the better your swirl will look at the end).
  6. Brush the rectangle with an even coat of egg wash and sprinkle on a generous and even layer of black sesame sugar. Go all the way to the edges and gently press to adhere.
  7. Fold in the long edges so they meet at the middle, like you are closing the shutters on a window. You should have a long, skinny rectangle about 15″ x 5″. Repeat the egg wash and black sesame sugar process, again going all the way to the edges.
  8. Starting with the short end closest to you, roll the rectangle into a tight log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared pan.
  9. Brush the loaf with a coat of egg wash (this keeps it from drying out) and cover with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature until the dough is puffed and roughly doubled (if you’re using a pullman pan, the dough should fill the length of the pan and be about an inch from the top). This usually takes me ~8 hours, or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the egg wash; you’ll use it again later.
  10. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. When the oven is preheated, gently brush the loaf with another coat of egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F, rotate the pan, and bake for another 20-30 minutes. (If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of tinfoil over the top.) When finished, the loaf should be well browned and register at least 195F in the center.
  11. Gently remove the loaf from the pan and cool on its side (this helps the loaf retain its shape and keeps the bottom from getting soggy). Resist the urge to cut before the loaf has cooled; otherwise the texture will be gummy. Leftovers keep well at room temperature for a few days, well wrapped; it also makes excellent French toast.

matcha black sesame swirl bread 2

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

stacked swirl bread
I’m pretty excited about this recipe. I have a soft spot for raisin toast, having grown up on that red-packaged Sunmaid Raisin Bread (so good with butter…); and have been wanting to make a sourdough raisin loaf for quite awhile now. But not just a plain raisin loaf: a cinnamon-swirled raisin loaf, because what’s better than slowly unraveling and eating a piece of swirly carbs for breakfast? Well, maybe French toasting said swirly carb, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

So anyways, this loaf took me a few tries to get right. At first I used a cinnamon-butter paste for the swirl, but this left me with gaps (I think the butter generated too much steam during baking) and the texture was too heavy. Egg wash turned out to be a much better solution. The folding technique I first saw on Bake Street, and I love it! The swirl is encased within the loaf and makes for a really striking presentation. I had to try a couple times to work out the proper dimensions for my pan, but in the end I’m really happy with the result.

A few notes:

  • There’s no beating around the bush: this loaf takes time. I like having this loaf for breakfast, so I will make the levain when I get up in the morning, mix the dough early afternoon, shape the bread right before going to bed, and bake first thing the next morning. Keep in mind that the health of your starter and your environment play a big part in fermentation times, so always “watch the dough and not the clock.” If you follow me on Instagram, I have a story highlight called “Swirl Bread” that goes through the entire process. This will hopefully give you some visual cues as to how your dough should look at each stage.
  • The base dough for this bread is the sourdough Hokkaido milk bread that I’ve used a few times on this site before. If you haven’t tried this style of bread before, I highly recommend reading through those posts for more tips and tricks.

uncut swirl bread

cut swirl bread

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Makes one loaf (I highly prefer a 9x4x4 Pullman Pan for the nicest shape, but a regular 9×5 loaf pan works too)

Ingredients

For the levain

  • 18g starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour
  • Mix and ferment at room temperature until ripe (mine is usually ready in 4-6 hours, but it depends on the strength of your starter). When ready it should be more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed. You should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

For the final dough:

  • 284g bread/AP flour (I use half and half)
  • 46g sugar
  • 21g milk powder
  • 53g egg (about 1 large)
  • 104g milk
  • 88g cream
  • All of the levain
  • 6g salt
  • 52g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 100g raisins

For the filling:

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • One egg, whisked with a bit of water or milk

Method

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt, butter, and raisins until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough (with the dough hook attachment if using a stand mixer) until gluten is moderately developed (I use speed 3-4 on a KA mixer). 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 butter about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day! Mix in the raisins just until incorporated.
  3. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours, and up to 24).
  4. When ready to shape, mix together the filling ingredients and prepare the egg wash. Line a loaf pan (I prefer a Pullman pan) with parchment and lightly grease. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle about 10″ x 15″, doing your best to maintain an even thickness (the more accurate your shape, the better your swirl will look at the end).
  5. Brush the rectangle with an even coat of egg wash and sprinkle on about half the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Go all the way to the edges and gently press to adhere.
  6. Fold in the long edges so they meet at the middle, like you are closing the shutters on a window. You should have a long, skinny rectangle about 15″ x 5″. Repeat the egg wash and cinnamon-sugar process, again going all the way to the edges.
  7. Starting with the short end closest to you, roll the rectangle into a tight log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared pan.
  8. Brush the loaf with a coat of egg wash (this keeps it from drying out) and cover with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature until the dough is puffed and roughly doubled (if you’re using a pullman pan, the dough should fill the length of the pan and be about an inch from the top). This usually takes me ~8 hours, or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the egg wash; you’ll use it again later.
  9. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. When the oven is preheated, gently brush the loaf with another coat of egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F, rotate the pan, and bake for another 20-30 minutes. (If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of tinfoil over the top.) When finished, the loaf should be well browned and register at least 195F in the center.
  10. Gently remove the loaf from the pan and cool on its side (this helps the loaf retain its shape and keeps the bottom from getting soggy). Resist the urge to cut before the loaf has cooled; otherwise the texture will be gummy. Leftovers keep well at room temperature for a few days, well wrapped; it also makes excellent French toast.

side by side swirl bread

Soft and Chewy Sourdough Pretzels

I have a soft spot for pretzels. I don’t know how it started; it’s not like we ate pretzels that often growing up. But every time I see pretzels on a menu there’s a good chance I’ll order them; and if I attend a baseball game I’m more likely to get a pretzel than a hot dog. What can I say? I have a weakness for warm, chewy carbs.

Making sourdough pretzels has been on my to-do list for awhile; and after quite a few batches I’ve finally come up with a version that I’m pretty pleased with. For awhile I was tinkering with an authentic pretzel recipe, which produces a more chewy and dense product. Call me inauthentic, but I like my pretzels a bit softer — so the recipe here reflects that. If you prefer a denser pretzel, you can use the ingredients below but skip the bulk rise — divide right after mixing, let the dough rest for 45 minutes, shape the pretzels, and refrigerate overnight. Then proceed with baking as directed below.

One final thing — I would love to try making lye-dipped pretzels because I hear it’s the bee’s knees, but I can’t find a reasonably priced source for food grade lye in Toronto (ordering online will cost me about $70). One day I’ll find a way to do it, but for now baked baking soda is my dip of choice. Just spread out a box of baking soda on a baking sheet at bake at 250F for an hour, then store in an airtight container to use whenever your pretzel cravings hit.

Soft and Chewy Sourdough Pretzels

Makes 8 | Adapted from various sources, including Tasting Table and The Fresh Loaf

For the dough:

  • 175g Pilsner-style beer (room temperature is fine)
  • 120g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 14g barley malt syrup (or honey)
  • 30g lard (or softened butter)
  • 360g flour (I use half bread, half all purpose)
  • 8g sea salt

To finish:

  • 1/4 c baked baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp milk/water (for egg wash)
  • Pretzel salt / flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

Day 1:

  1. Combine the beer, starter, barley malt syrup, and lard in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the liquid mixture and stir to combine with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Knead, by hand or with the dough hook in a stand mixer, until the dough is smooth and the gluten is well developed (about 10 minutes with a mixer, longer if by hand). The dough is fairly stiff and should be slightly tacky, but not sticky.
  3. Transfer the dough to an clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, folding once an hour. Refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours).

Day 2:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with a rack in the center and oil a large sheet pan.
  2. On a clean work surface, divide and round the dough into 8 equal portions, about 85g each.
  3. To shape, flatten a round into a rough rectangle about 3″ x 5″. Starting from a long edge, roll the rectangle up into a tight log and pinch to seal the seam. Roll the log out to about 12 inches and set aside to relax while you repeat the process with the remaining rounds.
  4. Once all the rounds have been initially rolled out, return to the first log and continue rolling it out into a rope roughly 26 inches long, tapering the ends slightly. If you’re having trouble getting enough traction, lightly mist your work surface with water (you don’t want to use flour, which will actually make it harder to roll out the dough).
  5. Form the rope into a “U” shape. Holding the ends, twist together twice about 3-inches from the ends, then fold the ends down and press them into the “U” at about 4 and 8 o’clock. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  6. When all the pretzels are formed, fill a large pot with 8 cups of water (I like to use the leftovers from the can of beer used to make the dough, plus enough water to equal 8 cups). Stir in the baked baking soda, then bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the baking soda is dissolved.
  7. Once the liquid is simmering, turn the heat down to medium to maintain a gentle simmer. Use a slotted spoon to dip the pretzels in one or two at a time for about 20 seconds each. Remove the dipped pretzels from the liquid, drain, and return to the baking sheet, spacing at least an inch apart.
  8. Brush the pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, make about a 1-inch long slash at the thickest part of each pretzel (the bottom of the “U”).
  9. Bake for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, or until pretzels are well browned. Transfer pretzels to a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before serving. Pretzels taste best within an hour of baking, but leftovers can be wrapped tightly with plastic and frozen for up to a month. Reheat for about 10 minutes in a 350F oven.

Scoring bread

One of my favorite parts of baking bread is scoring. It’s like a baker’s signature — a special touch showing the loaf was made with love by hand. But it goes beyond just looks — proper scoring controls the way bread expands in the oven. Basically, you’re creating weak spots in the dough where the steam will escape (otherwise it’ll just burst out of any weak spots created during shaping). An unscored loaf that’s allowed to burst at will has a certain rustic loveliness, but usually I opt to do a little playing with sharp objects because it’s just so fun!

Like every other part of bread baking, scoring takes practice and it can take awhile to get comfortable with it — especially when you just get maybe one or two chances to try it each week. I’m certainly no scoring expert, but I’ve definitely seen my designs improve after learning a few tricks over the months.

Start with cold dough

It is much easier to score dough that is well chilled. The surface is firmer and less fragile. I typically proof my loaves overnight, so this isn’t a problem. If you’re proofing at room temperature, try sticking your loaf in the fridge (I’ve heard some folks use the freezer too) when it’s nearly ready for at least half an hour. Additionally, I like to uncover my loaves (and keep them in the fridge) while the oven is preheating. This dries out the surface just a little, which also helps make cleaner cuts.

Always use a sharp blade

There are several different tools you can use to score, but my favorite by far is the traditional lame. I like this Mure & Peyrot lame because it’s inexpensive and you can easily rotate and change out the razor blade. I usually flip or switch out the blade every few loaves so I’m always working with a really sharp razor. If you use a dull razor your blade is more likely to snag and you won’t get a nice, sharp design. Additionally, I like to dip my blade in water right before scoring as this seems to help the blade move more smoothly as well. If I’m doing a lot of cuts, I’ll dip every line or so just to clean off any flour or residue that the blade might pick up.

Dust with rice flour

This is optional, but if you’d like your design to stand out, use a small sieve to dust your loaf evenly with a thin layer of rice flour before scoring. This will create contrast, and rice flour has a high burning point so your loaf won’t taste like burnt flour. You can see an example of me dusting a loaf (and doing a single score) in this Instagram video.

Score according to the dough

I don’t usually plan my scores out ahead of time; instead, I try to judge what type of score will best suit the dough. For example, if I have a lot of add-ins like nuts and dried fruit, I’ll usually opt for a simple score like a single slash. Same thing if the dough feels especially weak — perhaps due to high hydration or overproofing (too many cuts can cause these loaves to collapse and spread).

If the dough is well developed and proofed, it can handle more intricate scoring. While I don’t have a signature score yet, I tend to favor a large slash with some type of leaf pattern. I like the contrast of the large and small cuts, and I love the way the leaf pattern blooms in the oven. This Instagram video shows me doing both a large slash and some leaf pattern work.

Know your angle

If you’re trying to get ears, hold the blade at a shallow angle (about 40-45 degrees) to the dough and score about 1/4″ deep. If you’re not, hold the blade perpendicular to the dough. The amount of steam you can generate in your oven coupled with the development of your dough will also affect how well your cuts bloom.

Move decisively

My scores turn out best when I move quickly and, honestly, don’t think about it too much. Trust me, the dough can sense your fear and if you are tentative with your cuts your blade is more likely to snag. Try to keep your wrist still as you move the blade, and think in terms of long lines rather than individual cuts when scoring things like leaf patterns. When you’re first starting out, it’s helpful to hold the lame closer to the blade (like choking up on a bat) as you’ll have better control. As you get more used to scoring you’ll figure out a position that’s comfortable for you.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Confession: I’ve never had a “real” hot cross bun. The only hot cross buns I grew up with were the ones mentioned in the children’s song. My husband, on the other hand, has bad memories of overly-spiced, dense hot cross buns riddled with candied peel and wasn’t very enthusiastic when I mentioned I wanted to make some. Mission: make a sourdough hot cross bun my husband would eat happily, not just because he’s married to an experimental baker.

I started out trying to stay true to the idea of a traditional HCB: spiced dough with a hint of citrus (but no peel, please and thank you). I soaked dried figs and raisins in warmed orange juice and added some orange zest and my two favorite spices: cinnamon and cardamom. Personally I loved this combo — for my tastes, this was the perfect amount of spice and touch of citrus. However, DH is more of a raisins-only kind of guy; so I’ve included adjustments if you / your family prefers less spice in their bun. Of course, feel free to play around with your own favorite mix-ins. I think cranberries or dried sour cherries would be lovely, as would some toasted walnuts or pecans!

The base recipe for these buns is my trusty sourdough Hokkaido milk bread dough. When mixed properly, this dough produces beautifully fluffy, soft bread and is mild enough to adapt to many flavor combinations. I’ve been experimenting a tad with this recipe, and here are a few tips for handling this versatile dough:

  • When using a stiff starter you have some leeway in when you can use it (the peak/ripe stage is longer than with a liquid levain), but when making a sweet bread I like to use it as soon as it has reached peak and has just started to flatten (for me this is about 5-6 hours). I find there is no discernible sourdough tang in the final product, provided the seed starter is fresh. I’ve used the starter 10-12 hours after making and it’s still fine, but I do notice more of a tang.
  • In the past I’ve mixed this dough by hand, but recently I’ve had the use of the stand mixer and have been testing it out with this dough. Bottom line: it’s much faster and neater to mix this in a stand mixer (I’ve included some approximate timings below). However, it’s definitely helpful to know how to mix enriched doughs like this by hand, and it can teach you a lot about dough development. (It’s also oddly therapeutic.) So if you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t let it stop you — try it by hand!
  • The final proof time is long, no getting around it. Typically it takes me a minimum of 5 hours, more often 6+, at normal room temperature. Don’t rush this step or your bread will not be as fluffy as it could be, trust me! (Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever over-proofed this dough…) However, the long final proof actually works out pretty well for shaping before bed and baking off fresh buns in the morning — just put your shaped buns in a cooler area of your house if you’re going to be leaving them for more than 6 hours.

If you want to make these to bake off Easter (or any other) morning, I recommend the following schedule:

Day One:

  • 7:00am: Mix stiff starter
  • 1:00pm: Start mixing final dough
  • 4:30pm: Put dough in fridge to finish bulk proofing
  • 10:30pm: Remove dough from fridge, shape, give first coat of egg wash; proof at room temperature overnight

Day Two:

  • 6:30am: Preheat oven, make topping
  • 7:00am: Egg wash buns again, pipe topping, bake
  • 7:05am: Watch 24 hours of work get devoured in 2 minutes

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12

Levain

  • 18g starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour
  • Mix and ferment at room temperature for about 6 hours, or until puffed and with a slightly flattened dome. You should see large bubbles if you pull back the top. When using a stiff starter you have a bit more leeway in when you can use it (the peak stage is longer than with a liquid levain), but when making a sweet bread I like to use it as soon as it has reached peak and has just started to flatten. I find there is no discernible sourdough tang in the final product, provided the seed starter is fresh.

Final dough

  • All of the starter
  • 284g bread/AP flour
  • 46g sugar
  • 52g butter, room temperature
  • 21g milk powder
  • 53g egg (about 1 large), room temperature
  • 7g salt
  • 104g milk, room temperature
  • 88g cream, room temperature
  • 90g raisins and/or figs, soaked for at least one hour in the juice of one orange OR hot water + 1 tsp vanilla, drained, and patted dry
  • Zest of one orange (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional, preferably freshly ground) or freshly grated nutmeg

Topping

  • 53g cake flour
  • 60g butter, room temperature
  • 30 gm caster sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked with a splash of milk
  • Simple syrup or warm honey, for glazing

Method:

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt, butter, fruit, zest, and spices until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed (3-5 minutes on speed 3 in a stand mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter a tablespoon at a time, making sure each tablespoon is incorporated before adding the next. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand (it generally takes about 10-15 minutes at speed 3 in a stand mixer). Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Gently fold in the dried fruit, zest (if using), and spices until just incorporated (I prefer to do this by hand, even if mixing the dough with a stand mixer).
  4. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 6 hours).
  5. Take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces (roughly 70g each) and rest for about 30 minutes, covered by lightly oiled plastic, to take off the chill.
  6. Shape into buns. You can form each piece into a tight round; or use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll each piece into an oval shape, roll up like a jelly roll, then roll along the seam and roll up again like a jelly roll (I prefer the latter method). Place formed buns on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet about an inch apart. (It’s fine if they grow into each other slightly as this will make piping the crosses easier.) Brush the buns lightly with egg wash, then cover the pan with lightly oiled plastic and allow to rise at room temperature until puffed and about doubled in size (this usually takes 5-8 hours, depending on the temperature — see notes above).
  7. When the buns are almost done proofing, preheat the oven to 400F. Prepare the topping by mixing together the beating together the butter and sugar until well combined, then sifting in the cake flour and mixing until it forms a paste. Transfer to a piping bag or small Ziplock bag with the tip snipped off.
  8. Brush the top of each bun with a second coat of egg wash. Pipe crosses on the top of each bun (if they’ve grown into each other, just pipe long lines instead of individual crosses).
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway, or until nicely browned and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. About 5 minutes before the buns are done, brush with a coat of simple syrup or warmed honey; then return to the oven until finished. Brush with a second coat of glaze once the buns are finished but still warm.