May 14, 2006


New batch on the go. This time, lots of rye flakes that I ground in my coffee grinder so it is more like meal, than flour, same with flax, plus hemp. So this loaf really will be like eating steak. Added gluten flour and whole wheat, and lots of caraway. Will line the hot cast iron pan with sesame seeds.

Posted by BKG at 8:21 PM

May 2, 2006


Sign that semester is coming to an end and period of writing at home is about to start. Sourdough in the oven. All out of rye flour, so this one is a mix of rye and lots of whole wheat, with lots of altus. Have to leave the house at 9:30 this morning, so started the oven at around 6:30 and the loaf is looking good. Sprouted mung beans. Steel cut oats in the rice cooker. Made brown basmati rice, filling the loft with a lovely nutty aroma, and black bean chili.

Posted by BKG at 7:41 AM

February 12, 2006

One bite and I almost swoon...

Oi, Barbara

This bread!! One bite and I almost swoon, really--it is the bread of my childhood. This special sourness and the color of the flour are amazing. I could not stop taking small bites of this precious bread--my Proustian madeleine. Mark is my witness and could barely believe his eyes and now he does not dare take a bite, it's all mine. So, now, I am going to beg you to let me know when is the next time you will do it and let me come and watch and do it with you. I would love to see a recipe in the meantime... love to you both, Greta

Posted by BKG at 2:32 PM

November 25, 2005


Haven't posted for a while. Just too busy. But I have been baking sourdough, a sign of winter. The starter is nice and bubbly, liveliest yet, and the bread is pucker sour, just the way Shawna and I love it.

Posted by BKG at 11:22 AM

June 1, 2005

Sourdough #11

This time, the starter is a tad looser and bubbles beautifully. I brought the starter to room temperature in a few hours, rather than overnight, and then mixed up the dough: rye four, lots of soaked altus, soaked barley grits (excellent GI rating), cup each of hemp, oat bran, and of flax and rye flakes that I ground myself, caraway, salt, gluten flour, and whole wheat flour. Had I planned further ahead (Tamar, Jacob, Brenda, Walter, and Julie will come for dinner tonight and I wanted to have a new loaf from then even though the old one is still going), I would have sprouted grains. Got a nice springy dough, about 7.5 lbs! Sprinkled sesame seeds on the bottom of my cast iron pot, floured the ball of dough so it would not stick, and placed it in the pot, scored it with a razor, dusted it with flour, then put the cover on the pot and tucked the pot into the insulation box overnight. This morning the dough rose to top of pan and a bit higher. Into a 450F oven, spritzed a few times with water for steam. Some over spring, but nothing like the volcanic eruptions I get when I tip the dough into a hot cast iron pan and bake with lid in a very hot oven on for first 20 minutes. Rye produced a nice crust in any case, so we'll see how this does. Last loaf was excellent--very dense, even crumb, moist.

Posted by BKG at 7:34 AM

May 25, 2005

Sourdough #10

This time I let the dough rise in the cast iron pot and baked it at 450F. Looking good--nice rise, nice shape, and no gaping crevices on the top. I left the lid on for about 20 minutes and sprayed water into the oven a few times for some steam after that.

Next time, I will try:

I understand that a factor in the crust is the kind of flour, such that flour with more protein (white flour) forms a thinner crust and flour with less protein (rye flour) forms a thicker crust. I get a very thick crust. We'll see how this loaf does.

Posted by BKG at 2:01 PM

May 19, 2005

Soudough #9 cont'd

A lead heavy crusty bread. Maillard reaction in spades! My biggest challenge is getting the loaf into the very hot cast iron pan. I am going to try another method next time: let the dough rise in the cast iron pan, with the lid on, and once the dough is nice and high, put the whole lot into a very hot oven. I have a feeling I will get better results--more rise and still a good crust, maybe not quite so thick. This loaf is dense, moist, tart, and delicious.

Posted by BKG at 7:57 AM

May 18, 2005

Sourdough #9

Did not blog sourdough #8, which I made after Passover. Ran out of rye flour, so made a whole wheat loaf. Delicious. I now have #9 on the go, this time with the addition of a cup each of sprouted oats, hemp seeds, and ground flax, plus 2 cups of rye flakes that I ground into a coarse flour in the food processor, 2 cups gluten flour, and some wholewheat. Otherwise, the normal recipe. Worked up into a firm dough. We'll see how it goes.

Posted by BKG at 10:22 AM

May 12, 2005

Marshall's sourdough

A message from Joelle today:
"Also, since our visit with you a couple of months ago, Marshall has started the business of rye bread baking. He made a "starter" just before Passover (good timing when we were supposed to clean the house from any chometz..!.). And so far he made 2 loaves, and they were delicious. We put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven..., as you suggested. Last week, he took a piece of dough from his last loaf and put it in the fridge as a starter for the next loaf. And since he used a small jar, the starter actually rose in the fridge and has popped the lid out and got out of the jar!!! I noticed this today. Bread is a living creature..."
I ran out of rye flour this week so baked a 100% whole wheat (stoneground, organic) sourdough loaf and it is delicious.

Posted by BKG at 3:50 AM

March 28, 2005

Soudough--moment of truth

Wonderful! Really sour. Excellent crust, but slices more easily, and beautiful crumb--moist and flavorful. And, without cavernous cracks. Key seems to be turning down the heat from an initial 550F to 450F and pretty much keeping it there for at least 90 minutes, for what was a smaller loaf in any case, about 5.5. lbs.

Posted by BKG at 10:15 AM

Sourdough report

Well, I got great extensibility, but lost some of the elasticity because we went to a movie, Downfall, three hours about Hitler's last days, and had to leave the dough in the proofbox longer than planned, almost six hours more! The dough stuck to the towel and I had to scrape it off. But the loaf is looking good and the moment of truth will be tomorrow when I slice it. I was wanting a really sour loaf and one that was a little lighter. I've been putting different grains in the bottom of the cast iron pot, this time sesame seeds, in the past sunflower seeds, bran, or cornmeal.

Posted by BKG at 12:52 AM

March 27, 2005

Sourdough #7

This time I followed the recipe more closely, but added 2/3 cup flax, which I ground myself, 1 cup of rye berries, which I sprouted, and a little more than a cup of althus. Ever in search of the right balance of elasticity and extensibility, keeping in mind that rye doughs are sticky and as little flour as possible should be added when handling it, aiming for a crisp crust, but not one requiring a chain saw, wanting to avoid cavernous cracks in the crust, and looking for a nice moist dense interior, but wanting it properly baked with as much rise as can be reasonably expected.... This dough feels right. Now, I will slash the tops a little more deeply (1/2"), be more careful with the oven and watch the oven thermometer more closely (the temperature can get up to 600F), keep the lid on 10-15 minutes, rather than 20 minutes, and reduce the heat at intervals, with a bake time of about 90 minutes. Wrapped in a thick linen tea towel, after sitting for 24 hours (I may shorten this time to 12 hours), the bread lasts beautifully for more than a week.

Posted by BKG at 10:06 AM

March 18, 2005

Sourdough #6

DSCN9200_Shawna_j.jpgShawna is here. Yesterday she shadowed Eric at Bellevue and today she shadows Jay at Columbia Presbyterian. She is totally excited about medical school. Last night we finished off my Moroccan chickpea stew and the celery root, fennel, and fava beans, as well as the salad that I never got round to serving the night before. Then we dashed off to my office, got my mail, returned a library book, and made it just in time to see Born into Brothels, which we liked a lot.

She loves the bread. We finished that off too and yesterday morning I got another batch going. First I bring the starter from the fridge to room temperature or a bit warmer, in the proofing box. Then, I whip it up with water and rye flour to make the starter I will use for baking, let it sit in the proofing box all day until it is nice and bubbly, and then reserving half for next time. To the half for baking I add more water and rye flour, salt, a cup of whole flax soaked, 1/2 cup caraway seeds (what an aroma!) and more than a cup of altus (crumbs from the last loaf, soaked in water), as well as 2 cups of sprouted rye berries. This made for a really sticky dough, so I am hoping that I did not add too much whole wheat flour. The result was a rather tight dough, not as loose as on other occasions.

In any case, I formed a round loaf--7 plus pounds (heavy rye doughs are best baked as a big round loaf because they form a very thick crust and this shape and size reduces the ratio of crust to crumb)--and let it sit overnight. This morning I punched it down, formed a big round loaf, and let it proof in a floured linen towel for about 5 hours. Heated the oven and cast iron pot to the max, sprinkled oat bran on the bottom of the pot (corn grits are better as they do not brown as quickly), and tipped the loaf into the hot pot. No scoring or docking this time. We'll see how it does. Covered the pot with the hot lid and placed back in the oven. Baked covered at 470 for ten minutes, removed the lid, and turned the oven down to 420 for the next hour.

So far looks like nice oven spring, some random and deep cracking of the crust, but not too bad, and the crust is not browning too quickly. This being such a big loaf, will bake it for a second hour at around 380. Need to be sure that the internal temperature of the loaf gets to at least 190F, but do not want the bread to dry out or the crust to get too thick--and I do mean thick.

Posted by BKG at 2:20 PM

March 13, 2005

Soudough #5

This time, I added sprouted barley (1 cup of barley sprouted made about 2 cups of sprouts) and a cup of flax, which I ground. I baked the bread to an internal temperature of 190F. Got nice oven spring, though less than last time, perhaps because of the 2 cups of sprouted grain. The bread is wonderfully dense, moist, and sour, with a killer crust that even my new bread knife had a hard time cracking when tackling the loaf for the first time. The trick now is how to bring the dough to an internal temperature closer to 200F without drying out the dough near the crust, while insuring that the center is completely baked. Am now sprouting rye berries for the next batch, as I want a loaf on hand so I can give some away Wednesday when Joelle is here. The sprouted grains hold moisture, so I suspect that the loaf will keep better. Greta and Mark will love this bread. So northern / eastern European. Hardy winter grains that flourish under adverse conditions. Dense nourishment.

Posted by BKG at 9:19 AM

March 1, 2005


I'm not sure if this is sourdough #4 or #5. But, it is gorgeous. Terrific oven spring this time. I added ground flax and althus and used a little more white flour. The bread is in the oven, it is late at night. Max is sleeping. He leaves for San Francisco first thing in the morning for his exhibition. I'm finishing the endnotes on an article. And, nursing a cold with rooibus tea.

Posted by BKG at 10:58 PM

February 22, 2005


Altus, "according to George Greenstein's 'Secrets of a Jewish Baker' the secret of good rye bread. Altus is left-over ground-up rye bread, soaked in water. To make altus, cut the crusts from a loaf of bread, soak it in water for several hours, or overnight, under refrigeration. It will keep several weeks under refrigeration. Use small amounts in bread dough, pressing water out of it. This will intensify the taste of the rye bread, make it a moister bread. You will have to adjust the hydration of your dough when you use altus, probably adding a bit more flour."

Posted by BKG at 4:44 PM

Sourdough, a success!

Well. what a loaf! I left the baked loaf out overnight to cool. Next morning I wrapped the bread in a linen towel and let it sit for 24 hours to let the crumb form properly. Great crust, crumb, and flavor. Just wonderful. So, I've started another batch. This time I'm soaking Red River cereal (lovely small rye and wheat grits plus whole flax seed) with crumbs from the loaf I just made (altus) and I ground up about a cup of flax, which I will add too. I will also experiment with other coarse grains--polenta, millet, fine kasha, steel cut oats, rice grits, and multigrain hot cereals that I can buy in bulk. The proofing box is working just fine.

Oh, and served the lads, as Max calls them, eggplant adobo, brown rice, and chana dal left from yesterday, plus salad for lunch. Excellent! Max will eat what is left for his dinner.

Posted by BKG at 4:37 PM

February 21, 2005

Sourdough report

Went to see Vera Drake last night. Reminded Max of his family in New Zealand in the forties and fifties. Came home and heated up the oven. It is a self-cleaning oven, so therefore extremely well insulated and the door seals tight. Heated it up to its max, with cast iron pot inside, and it got to 600F (according to two oven thermometers). Dusted and scored the dough (need to find the best way to score the loaf, maybe even dock it when there is such a high percentage of rye). Baked the loaf (1 big round 4 lb dense loaf) at the highest temperature for 20 minutes, with the lid on, then took the lid off and reduced the temperature to 425 for another 30 minutes, and about 45 minutes more at 350F. Took the temperature and removed the loaf when the internal temperature of the bread was about 205F. The highest it can get is 210F.

Posted by BKG at 9:47 AM

February 20, 2005

Sourdough proofing box

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It is often cold in the loft, in the sixties, and sourdough needs to be at 78F and even 85F for rye doughs, which I make. So, I have been eager to make an insulation box for weeks. Finally assembled all the parts:

* styrofoam cooler (chilly box in New Zealand), which proved very difficult to find in Manhattan. None of the supermarkets had one. I finally found what I was looking for at the 24-hour Korean grocer down the road, but it was not cheap ($11.00, when it should be more like $2.50), but that's Manhattan

* light bulb attached to fixture that does not get hot, an electrical cord and plug. The lighting store up the road had everything I needed and the Chinese salesperson helped me find the various components. He told me what to do to assemble them, which I did. My fixture is plastic. Ceramic would be better, as a hot bulb can melt the styofoam.

* Insta-read thermometer--The 25 watt flametip bulb I bought is way too hot, with the temperature in the box getting as high as 140F, so my "themostat" is opening the lid, more or less, to regulate the temperature. I used a plastic funnel, which opened the box just enough to to maintain 80F. I'll try either a 15 watt bulb or the GE 25 watt flametip auradescent bulb that Ed Wood swears by. I did buy a little switch, which can cut the wattage in half, so if I can figure out how to install it, I will give that a try--just did (Anthony came in this morning and added the switch to the wire in a jiffy and 12.5 watts is perfect! Maintaining 85 degrees. And, hopefully, the cooler bulb will not melt the styrofoam.) I've lined the hole with tin foil so the socket fits more snugly and will not fall out when I open the lid--need to be careful about that in any case.

Last night I got my starter out of the fridge--it had been there three weeks without any attention--and brought it to room temperature, before refreshing it overnight. This was the first time I used the scale to weigh ingredients. I made the dough today, this time adding whole flax, which I soaked in cold water, and whole rye berries, which I soaked in boiling water and then pulsed in the food processor to make a kind of gruel. Plus caraway--the caraway I bought at Integral Yoga was so fresh the aroma exploded when I opened the jar. it brought back memories of picking up hot rye bread at Sherman's bakery on the way home for lunch when I was in primary school and eating the crunchy heel of the bread on the way. Triple kimmel rye is a still a favorite in my parents' home.

I could not find anything but rye flour and whole rye berries -- actually, in a moment of desperation, I looked for millers in Nebraska, Minnesota, and Saskatchewan who sell organic stone ground flour and considered ordering 25 lb bags. I also checked out home grain mills. Thank goodness I discovered that Integral Yoga sells organic rye flour in bulk. But, I really would like coarse rye flour, rye meal, chopped rye... Next batch of sourdough, I'll add a cup of Red River cereal, a combination of rye, wheat, and flax--I like the nice small size of the chopped grain. I brought three boxes of it back with me from Toronto and make hot cereal in the rice cooker each week. The company is located in Manitoba and has been in business since 1924.

Posted by BKG at 4:18 PM

January 31, 2005

Classic sourdough

Just returned from Toronto. My 6 lb rye sourdough was a big hit with Mayer, though we needed a chain saw to slice it! It is a meal in itself. Ed Wood's Classic Sourdoughs arrived from Overstock while I was gone. Great bedtime reading! Will now make a proofing box and try flax, bulgar, cornmeal, mixed grains (Red River Cereal for starters--brought home 3 boxes from Toronto), and spelt, following his recipes, and will see if my Romertopf might sub as a clay cloche (domed baking dish). Will get an insta-read thermometer (Wood recommends a Taylor Model 9840 digital thermometer) and an oven thermometer. Also, sharp single edged razor blades for slashing the top of the loaf before baking. If I can find an inexpensive basket for rising the dough, I'll give it a shot. Also, various techniques for simulating a hearth oven. Above all, I think I will stick with cast iron: I have a covered enamelled cast iron terrine and various covered cast iron pots, with and without enamel and in various shapes and sizes. What are the differences in the quality of heat between clay and cast iron? I suspect that there will be differences in how high the heat, heat retention, humidity, and the like.

Posted by BKG at 9:13 AM

January 17, 2005

Sourdough in cast iron pot

DSCN8011_s.jpg Chava told me about her breadbaking and I decided to give it a try. So I made the chef, as it is called, over a four-day period, from organic rye flour and spring water. From the chef, I made the starter, and today, finally, the bread. Finding spots in the loft the right temperature, 78 F, was no mean feat. My goal was crust. And, I got it! I baked the bread in a very hot cast iron pot with the lid on and the result was spectacular.
I made one 6 lb loaf from the entire batch of dough, following this recipe (I did not have bran flour, so I used whole wheat bread flour, a little all purpose white, and whole barley that I soaked and let start germinate) and I baked the entire batch of dough in a very hot cast iron pot with the lid on as follows.
Form the loaf and place for the final rise in a floured linen tea towel in a bowl or basket. Place cast iron pot and lid in oven and preheat to 450F (45 minutes recommended). When ready to bake, cover top of dough with oat bran, corn meal, or oat meal. With floured hands, ease dough away from sides of bowl. Remove hot cast iron pot from oven and place on heatproof surface. Tip the bread into the hot pot, so bran side is down and loaf is in center of pot. Lightly dust the top of the loaf with flour using a sieve. With razor, slash the top a few times with cuts 1/2 inch deep and about two inches long. Cover with hot lid, place in oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake. For such a big loaf, I think it wise to reduce the heat to 400 or even 350 and to bake for longer than the 15 minutes recommended for smaller loaves. I am buying an insta-read thermometer to be sure the dough is cooked all the way through. Berley says the internal temperature should be 210 F. Others say less. Will try and see.

Here is the recipe for the chef, starter, and bread itself:
Sourdough Rye with Caraway Seeds: This recipe made one round 6 lb loaf. I got the cast iron pot (dutch oven) technique from Peter Berley, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and he learned it from Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Bakery, which is around the corner from us and makes the best bread in town.

To maintain starter: Assuming you have 2 cups of starter in the fridge, let it come to room temperature. Remove 1 cup for the recipe or toss out or give away. To the remaining cup, add 1 c flour and 1 c spring water. In other words, equal parts starter, flour, and water. Some say leave a cup of starter in the jar and feed with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Or, feed with 1/2 c water and 2/3 c rye flour. Apparently, loose starter produces a more sour dough, as opposed to thick starter, which also produces a different crumb.

Sensible sourdough tips
Starters using grapes and other sources of wild yeast

Posted by BKG at 5:07 PM